Gene Saffold, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) managing director who served as Chicago’s chief financial officer and a top adviser to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, has died. He was 57.
He died Oct. 8, following heart surgery, the Alexandria, Virginia-based Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board said today in a statement. Saffold was named a public member in August.
Saffold pioneered a role for blacks as leaders of public- finance investment banks, serving as a mentor to junior colleagues. He helped spearhead a Chicago schools financial restructuring and the raising of more than $3 billion of capital when he was a trustee in the 1990s, said Gery Chico, a lawyer at Chico & Nunes PC and a former top Daley aide who introduced Saffold to the Democratic mayor.
“In the 1990s, he was one of the leaders of the financial renaissance of the Chicago schools,” Chico said by telephone.
Saffold showed a “lifetime commitment to philanthropy and civic engagement,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, said in a statement, citing the banker’s ties to city youth centers.
“Gene always understood that no matter our success as private citizens, everything we do is ultimately measured by what we do to advance the public good,” Emanuel said. “Gene showed a steadfast commitment to the city he loved.”
Saffold was a “wonderful human being” and “invaluable resource,” Daley, now of counsel at the Chicago-based law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, said in a statement.
“He was always innovative and forthright in his decisions,” Daley said. “He was a great adviser to me but more than that, a marvelous ally and friend who will be deeply missed.”
Saffold was born and grew up on Chicago’s South Side, according to the Bond Buyer. It said his mother died when he was young. His father worked as a regional manager for brewer Anheuser-Busch.
After graduating from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and obtaining a master of business administration from the University of Chicago, Saffold began a public-finance career by joining Salomon Smith Barney in the mid-1980s.
Saffold “wanted to start at the bottom,” said Adela Cepeda, president of A.C. Advisory Inc. in Chicago. She helped him find that job and had remained a friend as he progressed through his career. The skills necessary to be an investment banker came naturally to him, she said.
“He had a brilliant financial mind; he could dig into the most complex issue and get to the core of what was really important,” Cepeda said. “And he had excellent pricing instincts.”
From 1991 to 1994, Saffold co-founded and helped run an advisory firm, LS Financial Group Inc. in Chicago. After returning to Salomon, he left the broker again in 2002 to become national head of public finance at Bank One Corp., which was acquired by JPMorgan. The New York-based institution has since become the largest U.S. lender, with $2.3 trillion in assets.
Saffold was a co-head of municipal investment banking in New York starting in 2004, according to his page on the Linked In website.
With an “interpersonal ability to bring out the best in people,” Capeda said, Saffold mentored many public-finance investment bankers.
“Gene’s contribution to the public-finance industry extends beyond his distinguished career,” said Gary Hall, an executive director in JPMorgan’s public finance group who said in a prepared statement that he considered Saffold a mentor and friend. He said Saffold recruited him from corporate finance.
“He was also dedicated to contributing to the professional and personal development of so many in our industry,” Hall said.
Saffold returned to Chicago in August 2008 as managing director for national accounts for JPMorgan before becoming the city’s finance chief in March 2009.
The decision to leave a lucrative banking job to join the Daley administration resulted from an interest in seeing the business from all sides and in helping his city cope with pressures stemming from the financial crisis, Cepeda said.
“He believed in what he did,” she said. “He felt it was important to help the city at a critical time.”
Since leaving City Hall in May 2011, when Daley ended 22 years as mayor, Saffold has worked as an independent consultant. He was also a board member of the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, according to the muni rulemaking organization, which governs the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market, when he was named to its board in an Aug. 1 announcement.
“We are saddened by the loss of a friend and professional committed to the municipal market,” Jay Goldstone, the MSRB’s chairman and San Diego’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “Gene forged a distinguished career in public finance.”
Saffold, who was divorced, is survived by three children: Christine, Jessica and Nathan, according to Cepeda. A memorial service is set for tomorrow at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.
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