Hedge-Fund Founder Robert W. Wilson Leaves Art to Whitney

Robert W. Wilson, the hedge-fund manager who lept to his death last month from his New York residence, gave his art collection to the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan.

Wilson, who served on the museum’s board, didn’t specify the size of the collection in his will, which was filed this week in New York state Surrogate’s Court. He also bequeathed his wine collection to friend James K. Brehm of Manhattan and directed that his residential property, including his 16th-floor apartment at the San Remo building on Central Park West, be sold by his estate, according to court filings.

Wilson, who died Dec. 23 at age 87 after a Wall Street career that spanned five decades, started Wilson & Associates, a hedge fund, in 1969. He retired in 1986 and, by 2000, his net worth peaked at about $800 million, according to Gary Castle, his accountant. By then, he had already begun to give most of his money away, donating more than $500 million to charities, primarily to conservation groups, Castle said in a Dec. 24 interview.

The will excluded one painting from Wilson’s gift to the Whitney, a painting by James Rosenquist called “The Meteor Hits the Swimmer’s Pillow.” He gave $2 million to Angela Riccardi of Brooklyn, his longtime assistant. The rest of Wilson’s estate was left to his executor and the trustee of a trust he established in 2002, Richard G. Schneidman.

Personal Property

Schneidman said yesterday he couldn’t discuss the size of the estate and that a list of Wilson’s artworks wasn’t available. Wilson’s personal property was valued at $15 million to $20 million, according to court filings.

Born in Detroit in 1926, Wilson got his first job in New York in 1949 as a trainee at First Boston Corp., which was later acquired by Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 and returned to First Boston in 1953.

He moved back to his hometown that year to become a securities analyst in the trust department at National Bank of Detroit. He returned to New York in 1958 to work as an analyst, and eventually as a vice president, at General American Investors, a closed-end investment trust, and went to A.G. Becker & Co. four years later, where he remained until founding his hedge fund.

In addition to his position on the Whitney’s board, Wilson served as chairman of the New York City Opera and on the board of the Metropolitan Opera.

He was divorced from his wife, Marilyn, for about 35 years and had no children. Wilson was survived by his brother, William Wilson II of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, according to court filings. Another brother, John Wilson, died in 1994.

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