Peter Flanigan, Nixon’s Wall Street ‘Mr. Fixit,’ Dies at 90Laurence Arnold
Peter M. Flanigan, a Dillon Read & Co. investment banker who helped Richard Nixon become president and served in his administration as an adviser on business and the economy, has died. He was 90.
He died on July 29 at a hospital outside Salzburg, Austria, according to his daughter, Megan Flanigan. She declined to give a cause. With his second wife, Dorothea von Oswald, he lived in Wildenhag, Austria, and Purchase, New York.
After working as deputy campaign manager for Nixon’s successful 1968 presidential run, Flanigan served as an unpaid consultant in filling top executive branch appointments. He then joined the White House staff as assistant to the president, focusing on economic and financial matters. In 1972 he was named assistant for international economic affairs.
Time magazine, in a 1972 article, called Flanigan “Nixon’s ‘Mr. Fixit’ when it comes to powerful business interests.” It said consumer advocate Ralph Nader had called Flanigan the “most evil” man in Washington because of his record of influencing White House policy making in favor of business.
The New York Times, in a 1969 profile, called Flanigan “possibly the least known of President Nixon’s dozen or so top aides.” Nixon, in a 1974 letter accepting Flanigan’s resignation, said Flanigan had shown “immense effectiveness and unfailingly good judgment” in his work on the international economic system and on the transition from the draft to an all-volunteer military.
“Since his great loves in his life were family, his Roman Catholic faith and his country, he believed it was one’s duty to go into government,” Megan Flanigan said yesterday in an interview.
Dillon Read, one of the oldest U.S. investment banks, with roots back to 1832, became in the 20th century “known more for its leaders who served in Washington than for its banking operations,” Robert Sobel wrote in his 1991 history of the firm. In addition to Flanigan, the firm produced U.S. Defense Secretary James Forrestal, treasury secretaries C. Douglas Dillon and Nicholas Brady, and U.S. Navy Secretary Paul Nitze.
Swiss Bank Corp. bought Dillon Read in 1997 and itself became part of Zurich-based UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest bank.
Flanigan left the administration in June 1974, just weeks before the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign the presidency. After Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, nominated Flanigan as U.S. ambassador to Spain, some senators rebelled, citing testimony during the Watergate hearings that suggested Flanigan had helped sell an ambassadorship for a six-figure campaign donation.
Making Flanigan an ambassador “will disgrace the U.S.,” Senator Thomas Eagleton, a Missouri Democrat, said.
Flanigan insisted that his involvement with the appointment of Ruth L. Farkas as ambassador to Luxembourg had been misconstrued, and that he had always worked in “the national interest.” Ford ended up withdrawing his nomination.
He returned to Dillon Read as a managing director and one of five people on the executive committee, according to Time. He worked at the firm until the end of 1992.
Peter Magnus Flanigan was born on June 21, 1923, in New York. His father, Horace “Hap” Flanigan, was chairman of Manufacturers Trust Co. when it merged in 1961 with Hanover Bank to form Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. His mother, the former Aimee Magnus, was a granddaughter of Adolphus Busch, co-founder of Anheuser-Busch.
He served in the U.S. Navy as a carrier pilot during World War II, graduated from Princeton University in 1947, and joined Dillon Read as a statistical analyst. From 1949 to 1950 he worked in London for the Economic Cooperation Administration, the U.S. agency that administered the postwar Marshall Plan. He became a vice president at Dillon Read in 1954, according to a biography on the website of the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum.
In 1959 he organized New Yorkers for Nixon, a group supporting the then-U.S. vice president’s first bid for the White House. He was national director of Volunteers for Nixon-Lodge, the losing 1960 Republican ticket. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was the vice presidential nominee.
When Nixon moved to New York City in 1963, Flanigan became part of an inner circle that introduced him to new contributors and plotted his political comeback.
Flanigan was on the board of the Washington-based Alliance for School Choice and, in 1986, founded Student Sponsor Partners, a privately funded school-voucher program that supplies tuition assistance and mentoring to inner-city high school students in New York City.
“Since Peter founded Student Sponsor Partners 27 years ago, nearly 6,000 students have graduated from high school,” and “200 of them just received their diplomas last month,” the group’s executive director, Margaret Minson, said in a statement on its website. “SSP is a living example of his legacy and the many lives that he transformed.”
Flanigan’s wife, the former Brigid Snow, died in 2006. She was the daughter of Carmel Snow, longtime editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
Survivors include their five children -- Sister Louise Marie, Brigid, Tim, Megan and Bob -- and 16 grandchildren. Flanigan also is survived by his second wife and her five daughters, Maido, Theresa, Mariella, Sophie and Nina.