Margaret Klein, Ex-Chase Overseer of Troubled Loans, Dies at 63

Margaret Klein, an early woman executive on Wall Street who became a turnaround specialist overseeing troubled loans at Chase Manhattan Bank, has died. She was 63.

She died on Jan. 18 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York after a 15-year battle with ovarian cancer, her brother, John E. Klein, said yesterday in interview.

In a 20-year career at Chase, now part of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Klein held 16 positions in five banking divisions and worked in London, Panama City and Johannesburg as well as New York, said her brother, a retired president of Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Her last position was division executive and managing director of Chase’s special loan division, where she oversaw troubled loans around the globe, according to a biography supplied by her brother.

She left in 1992 to become chief executive officer of Wyatt Inc., a home heating oil and gas company in Connecticut.

“My heart’s still at Chase,” she said, according to an article in the American Banker on her departure.

At Wyatt she faced the type of financial difficulties she had seen from a banker’s perspective, and a year after arriving, the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. She oversaw a financial restructuring that led to its emergence from bankruptcy.

Klein joined Chase after graduating from Wellesley College in 1972, making her part of the initial wave of women into Wall Street jobs.

Executive’s Daughter

“It was easier for men to rise than for women to, so she really felt she had to work harder than others, and she did,” John Klein said. “During the time she was with Chase, she spent most of her waking hours working for Chase.”

Margaret Kennedy Klein was born on Feb. 4, 1950, in Orange, New Jersey, the youngest of three children of Walter C. and Mary Eddy Klein. Her father rose to president and CEO of Bunge Corp., the North American unit of what today is Bunge Ltd., an agribusiness and food company.

She was raised in Maplewood and Short Hills, New Jersey, and graduated from Kent Place School in Summit, New Jersey.

She received a degree in art history from Wellesley in Massachusetts, then was accepted into a training program at Chase, according to her brother.

Her assignments at Chase, he said, included starting a new unit in South Africa focusing on trade financing and managing a turnaround of a 14-branch network in Panama.

Helping Women

After her stint at Wyatt, she became a consultant to troubled companies and devoted much of her time to philanthropic endeavors.

They included New York-based Trickle Up, which aims to improve the lives and income of women living in extreme poverty in India, West Africa and Central America. Klein was a member of its board since 2005.

In a blog post, William Abrams, president of Trickle Up, said Klein made trips to India, Mali and Uganda to see the group’s efforts firsthand.

“When people ask me in the future what the job of a board member is, I will tell them about Margaret,” Abrams wrote. “She cared deeply about our mission. She was always eager to learn about our work and the nature of the poverty we address. She read everything we sent her closely. She asked questions, lots of them. She shared her opinions, lots of them.”

After visiting India on behalf of the group, Klein extended her trip to Bhutan, Abrams said. As she explained it, he recalled, “any country that measures itself by Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product is a place I want to see.”

In addition to her brother, survivors include a niece and nephew. A second brother, Walter C. Klein Jr., died in 2009.

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