Bonnie Baha, DoubleLine Head of Developed Credit, Dies at 56

  • She was struck by car while visiting Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Baha helped transform firm into $100 billion asset manager

Bonnie Baha, a U.S. bond portfolio manager who helped Jeffrey Gundlach turn DoubleLine Capital into a $100 billion asset management firm, has died. She was 56.

Baha died Sunday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, after she was struck by a car turning onto District Avenue near the Shops at Stonefield mall, according to a statement by the Albemarle County Police Department. The vehicle also hit her husband, Mustapha Baha, and their daughter, who were treated for non-life threatening injuries. The accident is under investigation. 

The family was visiting Charlottesville to drop off Baha’s son at the University of Virginia, according to WVIR-TV.

Bonnie Baha
Bonnie Baha
Source: Bloomberg

Baha was head of global developed credit at Los Angeles-based DoubleLine, overseeing investments in fixed and floating-rate corporate and sovereign securities. She had worked with Gundlach for more than two decades, first at TCW Group Inc. and later at DoubleLine, which she joined in 2010.

“For a quarter century Bonnie was my trusted colleague and dear friend,” Gundlach said in an e-mailed statement. “She was honest and direct, with a sardonic wit perfectly matching her investment skepticism helping shape the DoubleLine philosophy.”

USC Master’s

Prior to joining DoubleLine, Baha was a managing director and portfolio manager overseeing the corporate bond investments at TCW for 19 years. She originally planned on a career in investment banking after earning a Master of Business Administration at the University of Southern California but was advised in an interview with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. that she should try asset management instead.

“This is a great business for women, and it’s a great business if you have a great boss,” Baha said in an interview with Bloomberg Markets magazine in 2012. A money manager’s performance can be measured in numbers based on the daily price of assets, she said, making it much more objective than measures of investment-banking prowess.

In the interview, Baha said her success as an investor partly came down to not being afraid to make an unpopular call. During the financial crisis, she ordered TCW traders to sell any Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. debt they owned in the first week of September 2008, even at a loss, when the debt was valued at more than 90 cents on the dollar. The bank filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008, plunging the value of its debt to single digits.

Job Description

“People don’t pay me to hope; they pay me to make an assessment,” Baha said of the trading call. “If you are managing risk by hoping that somebody is going to buy Lehman Brothers or whatever other bank is in trouble, you’re not really doing your job.”

Three years later she controversially told the trading desk of DoubleLine on Oct. 25 to stop dealing with MF Global Holdings Ltd., citing risk management and governance issues. This was despite DoubleLine doing almost $5.4 million of business with the firm in the third quarter. It was a decision backed by Gundlach and once again proved correct after MF Global filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31.

Baha was a co-manager on DoubleLine’s $285.5 million Floating Rate, $150 million Multi-Asset Growth, $2.1 billion Income Solutions and $344.5 million Opportunistic Credit funds, according to the firm’s website. She was named with Jeffrey Lee in June as co-manager of a new DoubleLine Ultra Short Bond Fund.

“She will be greatly missed as one of the senior women in fixed income for the past 25 years,” Joyce Chang, head of global research at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in an e-mail. “In addition to her insights and energy, she was a strong mentor and sponsor for other women in the industry.”

Clear Weather

Baha was born in November 1959, according to public records. According to the police report, she was 57.

Baha had a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California at Irvine and was a CFA charterholder and a Chartered Investment Counselor. She married Algerian-born Mustapha Baha after meeting him at USC. He was listed in good condition, according to a hospital spokesman. No other information was available on the daughter’s condition.

The accident occurred at about 1 p.m. in clear weather as Baha, her husband and daughter were walking at an intersection across District Avenue, a four-lane road with a concrete median, from a parking lot to the mall, according to Madeline Curott, an Albemarle County Police Department spokeswoman. There have been two other crashes at the intersection since the shopping center opened in 2012, including a non-fatal accident involving a pedestrian in April, Curott said.

The male driver in Sunday’s accident, whom Curott declined to identify, is cooperating with investigators. It was the first fatality this year in Albemarle County involving a pedestrian.

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