Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Roy Neuberger, a co-founder of money manager Neuberger Berman who traded stocks until he was 101 and was a collector of such American artists as Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Hopper, has died. He was 107.
He died of natural causes today at his New York home, said his son, Jim Neuberger.
“He got to Wall Street in 1929, a few months before the crash. He was 25,” his son said. “He worked every day until he was 99.”
Neuberger bought about 1,000 works of art over the years. Unlike stocks, which he traded for seven decades, Neuberger said he never sold any art.
“It would be a criminal act for me to sell,” he told Bloomberg News in 2003, the year he turned 100. “In art I buy because I love the work.”
Rather than sell, Neuberger donated works to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, and to dozens of other U.S. museums. Most of his collection is at the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, New York, in Westchester County, north of New York City. The museum opened in 1974.
“In the beginning, I collected art for a purpose -- to help support living artists,” Neuberger wrote in “So Far, So Good: The First 94 Years,” his 1997 memoir. “Now I am simply a lover of art.”
The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Neuberger a National Medal of Arts in 2007. “His support of the visual arts has served as a model for private philanthropy,” the NEA said.
‘Loved His Life’
Neuberger moved in 1991 to a seven-room apartment in the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue that he decorated with works by Alexander Calder, Adolph Gottlieb and Milton Avery, among others.
“He loved his life, enjoying both his vocation and avocation,” said his son. “I think he loved the fact that he supported living artists.”
Roy Rothschild Neuberger was born on July 21, 1903, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the third child in a Jewish family of German ancestry. (Neuberger disclaimed organized religion, which he said was the cause of wars. He was involved with the humanist Ethical Culture movement.)
Orphaned at 12, Neuberger was raised by his older sister. He dropped out of New York University after a year, worked three years at a department store, then dipped into a $30,000 inheritance and sailed for Paris in 1925.
He lived there four years, working for a decorating firm. Visiting the Louvre three days a week confirmed his belief that “I had a good eye” for art.
Then Neuberger read a biography of Vincent Van Gogh that he said changed his life by relating how the great Dutch painter struggled, yet sold only a few pictures in his own lifetime.
Neuberger said he became determined to make a “fortune” to buy art and support little-known artists. Returning to the U.S., he got a job on Wall Street at the brokerage firm Halle & Stieglitz in 1929, months before the stock market crashed.
He survived the plunge, correctly betting that Radio Corp. of America would dive, and counted Joseph Kennedy and Bernard Baruch among his early clients.
In 1939, Neuberger started his money-management firm with Robert Berman, who had been his colleague for a decade at Halle & Stieglitz. (Berman died of leukemia in 1954, at 44.) The firm was one of the first to offer mutual funds without transaction fees.
Neuberger became a serious collector in 1939 when he bought “Boy from the Plains” by Peter Hurd, a New Mexico artist known for stark Western landscapes. (Hurd’s portrait of Lyndon Johnson was later called “the ugliest thing I ever saw” by the U.S. president, who refused to hang it in the White House.)
Neuberger went to his office almost every day until he was 99, when back surgery confined him to his Pierre Hotel apartment, said Gloria Silverman, his assistant since 1996 and a Neuberger Berman employee for about 30 years.
He retired officially a few months after Neuberger Berman went public in October 1999, she said, and sold 23,000 shares for $688,399. He controlled an additional 170,000 shares.
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bought the money manager for $2.63 billion in 2003. After Lehman went bankrupt in 2008, an employee-led buyout made Neuberger Berman an independent firm.
As an active stock trader, Neuberger estimated he was right 70 percent of the time about the markets. “I enjoy it and I’m pretty good at it,” he said on his 100th birthday, “but I make lots of mistakes.”
He is survived by two sons, Roy S. and Jim, a daughter, Ann Aceves, and eight grandchildren. His wife, Marie, to whom he was married for 65 years, died in 1997.
Services are scheduled for Dec. 26 at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York.
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