James Schiro, who led Zurich Financial Services AG through the credit crisis and became Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s lead independent director, has died. He was 68.
He died on Aug. 13, according to an e-mail sent today to employees of New York-based Goldman Sachs by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohn. Schiro died of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer, at his home in Princeton, New Jersey.
In 2002, Schiro became CEO of Zurich Financial Services, which had been the worst-performing European insurance stock the previous year. Under his leadership, the company returned to profitability, and Barron’s magazine included him in its Top CEO list in 2008 and 2009. The company, Switzerland’s biggest insurer, changed its name to Zurich Insurance Group AG in 2012.
Following his retirement from Zurich Financial in 2009, Schiro joined Goldman Sachs’s board and in 2012 was named lead director and chairman of the Corporate Governance, Nominating and Public Responsibilities Committee, according to the bank’s biography. He retired last month to undergo medical treatment for his disease.
“Jim was an outstanding board member and an exceptional individual who made an invaluable contribution to our firm and to all those who worked with him,” Blankfein and Cohn wrote. “We will remember him for his unfailing commitment to Goldman Sachs and to our shareholders and for the example he set as a leader and mentor.”
He also served as a director at PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, New York, and Royal Philips Electronics NV, located in Amsterdam.
“Jim will be remembered as one of the finest business leaders of our generation,” Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, said today in an e-mailed statement. “He could see beyond the horizon and set a vision for the future, yet he also had the discipline, focus and agility to navigate uncertainties along the way. He was as respected for his knowledge and intellect as he was for his character and integrity.”
James J. Schiro was born on Jan. 2, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York, one of two children born to Joseph and Mary Schiro. He attended a local school, St. John’s University, on a scholarship from the Knights of Columbus and Citibank, graduating in 1967. He received a master’s in business administration from Dartmouth University, according to the Goldman Sachs biography.
In 1967 Schiro joined Price Waterhouse and held various positions, including managing partner of the New York office from 1991 to 1995. He rose to chairman of Price Waterhouse and when the firm merged with Coopers & Lybrand in 1998, he served as CEO of New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, one of the world’s four biggest accounting firms. He retired in 2001.
Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Tomasina; their children, Justine and James Jr.; and a granddaughter, Elisabeth.