Willard S. Boothby Jr., who led Eastman Dillon Union Securities Co. in its merger with Blyth & Co. to form what was then Wall Street’s third-largest investment firm, has died. He was 92.
He died on March 22 at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, according to his son, Willard Boothby III, known as Sandy. The cause was complications from a fall on March 17 at his home in Hobe Sound, Florida.
Boothby’s career was shaped by two deals that demonstrated the finance industry’s merger frenzy in the 1970s, as business boomed and firms sought economies of scale.
The first, in 1972, created New York-based Blyth Eastman Dillon & Co., with Boothby as its president and chief executive officer. The firm had $90 million in capital, behind only Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. and Bache & Co., the New York Times reported at the time.
Boothby became chairman in 1974, a role he kept as Alvin V. Shoemaker succeeded him as CEO in 1978.
During Boothby’s tenure, insurance company INA Corp. became majority owner of Blyth Eastman Dillon, with a stake that reached 67 percent in 1979. That year, Paine Webber Inc. bought Blyth Eastman Dillon and turned it into a wholly owned unit, Blyth Eastman Dillon Paine Webber Inc.
Paine Webber, under CEOs James Davant and Donald Marron, was seeking to merge its way into the top tier of Wall Street firms. The acquisition of Blyth Eastman Dillon proved more of a headache, as Paine Webber couldn’t keep up with the increased flow of paperwork, had to suspend bond and over-the-counter trading, and was censured by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Boothby stayed for the transition, though not much longer.
“He had a title of managing director, an office and a secretary, but he was done,” recalled Sandy Boothby, who retired in 2004 as a vice chairman in the investment banking division of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
“My father could be seen as representative of the old school,” he said, while Marron represented “a hard-charging new school.”
Paine Webber was acquired by UBS AG, based in Zurich, in 2000.
In retirement, Boothby was a civic leader in his native Philadelphia, serving eight years as president of the Academy of Music and leading the finance committee of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Willard Sands Boothby Jr. was born on Nov. 11, 1921, in Philadelphia, where his father, Willard, worked at a brokerage firm. His mother was the former Mabel Edgar.
He began college at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, then spent two years with the U.S. Army during World War II, serving as an ordinance inspector, his son said. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1946.
He took business courses at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School while working his first job at the Philadelphia investment house Drexel & Co., which would later become Drexel Firestone and then Drexel Burnham Lambert.
He joined Eastman Dillon in Philadelphia in 1950 and kept his home there, in the city’s Chestnut Hill section, even after his work moved to the firm’s New York City office and he would wake at 5 a.m. to commute on Amtrak’s Metroliner.
Eventually the firm got him an apartment in Manhattan, “but even then he was only in New York one or two nights a week, if he had a late meeting,” said another son, Richard Boothby.
In 1979, he became chairman of the Securities Industry Association, a trade group now called the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or SIFMA, located in New York and Washington.
In addition to his sons, survivors include his wife of 68 years, the former Florence Clifford, known as Gigi; a daughter, Ann Boothby LeBreton; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.