- Fishman died Friday after building Travelers, fighting ALS
- Weill: ‘He was a source of great strength to so many of us’
Jay Fishman, who steered Travelers Cos. through the financial crisis and into the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was remembered over the weekend for his business acumen and ability to inspire others, skills he used to rally against the disease that shortened his life.
Fishman, the 63-year-old former chief executive officer of Travelers, died Friday at his home in New Jersey after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. For much of two decades, he led the insurer through natural disasters, market cycles and the Great Recession before stepping down as CEO in 2015. He then stayed on as chairman while spearheading philanthropic efforts against ALS, the terminal neurodegenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He donated to ALS research and earlier this year helped oversee the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship golf tournament, which made its primary beneficiary a Connecticut hospital that provides care to ALS patients. He appeared at the event this month using a wheelchair and respirator. For many, his dedication in recent years to helping others afflicted by ALS is as important to his legacy as decades of success in business.
“You can be a skeptic and say, ‘Well, the only reason he’s doing it is that he has the disease,” Fishman said in an interview weeks before the tournament, according to the Associated Press. “The answer is, ‘Yeah, of course.’ If not me then who? If I’m not going to reflect all the good things that have happened to me in my life and find a way to plow that back to help people deal with what I personally know is a horrible disease, then shame on me.”
A funeral was held Sunday at Temple Beth El of Northern Valley in Closter, New Jersey, followed by a burial at Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey.
Below are statements of remembrance from the industry leaders and institutions with whom he worked.
“We witnessed firsthand his incredible business acumen, his strong philanthropic spirit and, most recently, the grace and dignity he brought to his fight against ALS. Just this past November, Jay set aside any physical duress he may have been under in order to speak at our PGA Tour employee meeting. Everyone in that room of 800-plus was moved by his words, as he spoke, as always, from the heart, and left us inspired to look for ways to make a difference in this world, as he always had.”
Alan Schnitzer, CEO of Travelers:
“Though he would be too humble to admit it, Jay was an icon among corporate leaders. As his friend, I’m grateful to Jay for his mentorship and counsel. As his successor, I’m grateful to Jay for everything he did to set the stage for our company’s future success. I’ll miss my dear and close friend.”
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chairman and CEO, who worked with Fishman while building what is today Citigroup Inc.:
“From the time I hired Jay into what ultimately became Citi, he was from start to end a great professional and, more importantly, a treasured friend.”
Sanford “Sandy” Weill, former chairman and CEO of Citigroup:
“I love Jay Fishman. He fought a really awful disease all the way to the end. He was a source of great strength to so many of us. He and Randy, his partner in life, were always passionate about the business. Anybody who ever worked with Jay or knew him valued his intellect, hard work, passion and willingness to give back.”
Dannel P. Malloy, governor of Connecticut:
“The strength of spirit he displayed, the extraordinary philanthropy he showed, the mission to improve the world around him -- all will never be forgotten by the Hartford community. Most of all, it was his outlook on life that was so infectious. It left deep impressions on all of us.”
Nancy Wyman, lieutenant governor of Connecticut:
“He reminds us that commitment to our communities is an important and valuable part of our humanity.”
Daniel A. D’Aniello, chairman of Carlyle Group, where Fishman served on the board as senior independent director:
“A wonderfully talented man and valued friend taken too soon,” D’Aniello said in a statement. Fishman “consistently provided invaluable guidance and strategic direction to the board and management. He expected a lot but at the same time made us all better every day.”
Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, a deputy mayor of New York under Michael Bloomberg and former CEO of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News:
“No one has managed the diagnosis of ALS with as much courage and grace as Jay Fishman,” Doctoroff wrote on Twitter. “We have lost a great man.”
Rex W. Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., where Fishman served on the board as presiding director:
“Jay was a dear friend who I greatly respected. His management expertise and business insights made important and lasting contributions to the board.”
John H. Dasburg, who was named to succeed Fishman as chairman at Travelers:
“Jay was an inspirational leader, and he built a management team that has established Travelers as a clear industry leader. Jay will be missed by the entire Travelers family.”