Pasi Hamalainen, Pimco Alum Who Raced Bugattis, Dies at 46

Pasi M. Hamalainen, a Finnish native who took early retirement as a managing director at Pacific Investment Management Co. to raise his son and race Bugattis before joining Capital Group Cos., has died. He was 46.

He died in his sleep on Jan. 16 at his oceanfront home in Manhattan Beach, California, his older brother, Janne Hamalainen, said yesterday in an interview. No cause has been determined, though a heart attack is one possibility, he said. The death “came as a complete shock,” he said.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Hamalainen spent 14 years at Newport Beach, California-based Pimco, which is the world’s biggest bond manager, with almost $2 trillion in assets. He was a portfolio manager, member of the investment committee and head of global risk oversight at the company, a unit of Munich-based Allianz SE.

In 2008, at age 41, he retired.

“He had accumulated enough wealth and had been married for a little while and felt like he wanted to take some time off,” Janne Hamalainen, who works as an engineer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said of his brother. “Pimco can be a rewarding place to work but it’s also demanding, with long days, and in 2008 he retired before the crash happened. Things were getting pretty hectic at work and he didn’t want to be putting in those super-long hours.”

Driving Passions

He devoted his energies to his son, Logan, who was born in 2009, and to high-end passions that included assembling a home stereo system that produced concert-hall sound and driving some of the world’s fastest, most expensive cars.

Chief among them was the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse “Le Ciel Californien,” in which he reached 230.6 miles per hour -- an event record -- at last July’s Sun Valley Road Rally, held on a stretch of highway north of Ketchum, Idaho. The achievement is featured in a video posted to Facebook by Bugatti Beverly Hills. He bought the car for $2.5 million in 2012.

Hamalainen returned to work in 2012, joining Los Angeles-based investment firm Capital Group as a fixed-income portfolio manager. Capital Group has $1.3 trillion under management, including the American Funds family of mutual funds.

“I think he was just getting bored,” his brother said. “He was managing his own investments and all that, but he was pretty sharp, so after buying a couple of Bugattis and picking them up in Europe, he wanted a little more of the excitement of being at work and interacting with other people.”

Finnish Roots

Pasi Matti Hamalainen was born on May 18, 1967, in Helsinki. His father, Matti, was a sportswriter; his mother, Raili, was an elementary-school teacher who competed twice for Finland’s gymnastics team at the Olympic Games.

After their parents divorced in 1969, Hamalainen and his brother were raised by their mother in the town of Tampere, Finland.

His two years as a pilot in the Finnish Air Force gave him early experience with speed, and with managing risk. Once, while transporting a high-ranking delegation, he angered a general on board by declining to attempt a landing in hazardous conditions, according to Janne Hamalainen.

“He made the decision based on what was right,” his brother said.

He received dual bachelor’s degrees in engineering and economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, then stayed on for a master’s degree in finance.

While he was a student, Hamalainen was a research assistant to Donald Keim and Ananth Madhavan, professors at the Wharton School at the time.

‘The Smartest’

Madhavan, now global head of trading research in the San Francisco office of New York-based BlackRock Inc., recalled Hamalainen as “the smartest research assistant I’ve ever had,” a contributor to important work on transaction costs and investment returns who somehow found time to compete in track and field.

“Pasi had a love of mechanical things, a love for cars and watches and stereo systems,” Madhavan, who delivered the eulogy at Hamalainen’s funeral, said yesterday in an interview. “It wasn’t to show off. He really just enjoyed precision-made mechanical devices, high-fidelity sound, well-made cars. He was a marvelous guy. There was a theme of excellence that ran through his life.”

Hamalainen joined Pimco in 1994 and became executive vice president four years later, responsible for mortgage-backed and international securities.

He was a permanent U.S. resident and retained his Finnish citizenship, his brother said.

He married Carey Cullinane, an oncologist, in 2006. Their divorce was finalized last year. Their son will be 5 years old in April and was baptized two weeks ago in American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach, where funeral services for his father were held on Jan. 25.

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