Josiah O. Low III, an investment banker with deep New York City roots and a cowboy heart who helped build the corporate finance department at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, has died. He was 75.
He died on June 20 at his home in Riverside, Connecticut, according to his wife, Penny. He was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, said Joe Roby, a former chief executive officer at DLJ.
Low joined DLJ in 1985, a year after its acquisition by Equitable Life Assurance Society, and led the New York-based firm’s corporate finance department as a managing director for about 15 years.
“We were just getting into investment banking, so we had to recruit some veteran bankers and Joe was one of them,” Richard Jenrette, DLJ’s co-founder and longtime chairman, said yesterday in an interview. “I knew him quite well. He was a lovely person and knew everybody.”
Low was with DLJ through its acquisition by Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG in 2000. Roby, who helped recruit Low to DLJ, stayed on to lead Credit Suisse’s investment-banking arm, Credit Suisse First Boston. He said Low stood out on Wall Street for his Western cowboy tastes.
Though born in Michigan, Low spent part of his youth on a Wyoming ranch and loved riding horses, singing cowboy songs and collecting tractors.
While at Merrill Lynch & Co., where he was a founding managing director of the Capital Markets Group, he began taking a few dozen colleagues and clients to the A Bar A Guest Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming, for a week of horses and hikes and campfires. The trip became an annual tradition at DLJ.
“It was great to get a bunch of corporate types from the East on horses in Wyoming,” Roby said.
Most recently Low was a senior adviser to Catterton Partners, the Greenwich, Connecticut-based private-equity firm that manages about $4 billion and has owned Noodles & Co., Restoration Hardware Inc. and Breyers Yogurt Co.
Low’s roots in New York City extended to Seth Low, his great-great uncle, who was president of Columbia University from 1890 to 1901 and mayor of New York in 1902 to 1904. Seth Low financed construction of Columbia’s Low Memorial Library in honor of his father, Abiel Abbot Low, a New Yorker who had made a fortune through trade with China in the mid-19th century.
DLJ’s extensive collection of American art included portraits of Seth Low and Abiel Abbot Low, purchased from the New York Chamber of Commerce when it moved to smaller offices. Soon after Josiah Low joined DLJ, the firm hung those two works outside his office.
“All of a sudden I come in one morning, and there they are,” Low said in 1990, according to Investment Dealers’ Digest.
Josiah Orne Low III was born on June 5, 1939, in Detroit, to Josiah Low Jr. and his wife, Katherine. He grew up working at his family’s guest ranch in Wyoming’s Platte River Valley.
At Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, he played football and was a member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, graduating in 1961. He joined Merrill Lynch’s training program right out of school, Roby said.
Roby and Low met when Merrill Lynch and DLJ worked together on an equity transaction for T. Boone Pickens’s Mesa Petroleum Co. Roby recalled Pickens, the Texas oilman, telling him of Low: “He’s not a typical investment-banking type, but I think you’ll like him.”
At the 1983, Merrill Lynch-Golf Digest Commemorative Pro-Am tournament at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island, Low and colleagues J.W. McLean and Doug Milne triumphed in the two-round amateur competition, according to a New York Times account.
At DLJ, Low’s clients included Marvin Davis, the oil wildcatter turned billionaire movie-studio owner, in his unsuccessful 1989 bid for Northwest Airlines Corp.
The Audubon Society’s Connecticut chapter elected Low chairman of its board in 2009. In Williamstown, where he and his wife had a second residence, he was a board member and major donor to the Sand Springs Recreational Center.
He always carried $2 bills, the rarely seen piece of U.S. currency, and used them in part to pay off golf bets, said Roby, who said he had taken some off Low over the years and also lost many of them back.
In addition to his wife, the former Penny Ireland, survivors include three sons, Tad, Timothy and Jeffrey; a sister, Katherine; two brothers, David and Charles; and five grandchildren.