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Rating:Nobody Saw It Coming . . . Not Rated 0.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nobody Saw It Coming . . .

Reported by Carl Winfield

Bob Reynold's retirement today is catching even fund insiders by surprise. In numerous interviews Thursday afternoon, sources repeatedly expressed their surprise at the timing of the decision and the fact that they had heard no rumblings of the announcement beforehand. Even top Fidelity executives may have been caught unaware.

The move was big enough news that Fidelity's public relations department formed a special task force to handle the flood of calls from reporters.

Interestingly, Reynolds was not replaced with one person -- a move that would hint at preplanning -- instead, Fidelity split his duties among three executives who had been his direct reports. The three will all now report to Ned Johnson directly.

Boyce Greer, president of Fidelity Management Research Company's (FMRCo) fixed-income division, Walter C. Donovan, president of the the company's equity division and Dwight Churchill, FMRCo's president of of investment services, have long been leaders at FMRCo. With Bob Reynold's departure, the three of them will continue to keep FMRCo in the top spot as the primary provider of workplace retirement savings plans.

Spokesperson Anne Crowley told the MFWire that all three are longtime Fidelity veterans and have held senior posts with great responsibilities. Greer has been at Fidelity for 20 years, Donovan for 12 years and Churchill for 14 years.

Whether Greer, Donovan or Churchill knew that Reynold's announcement was coming is an open question, what is known, is that none of the Fidelity watchers outside of the firm saw it coming today.

Geoff Bobroff, a Rhode Island-based consultant said that he had no inkling that Reynolds was planning to retire so soon. He added that the move fit with recent changes in the management team however.

Bobroff added that Fidelity Chairman Ned Johnson has a history of seeing top executives out the door after they become seen as potential successors at the company.

Similar surprise was heard from other industry insiders.

"Wow. It is a watershed event for Fidelity. He was the chief honcho at Fidelity for a long time," exclaimed Burt Greenwald, a dean among industry consultants based in Philadelphia. "He was one of the architects growth and diversification of Fidelity."

"I guess he figured out that he was not likely to succeed Ned. It is a family run firm and this seems to show that their is limited room at the top for someone who is not a family member," Greenwald added.  

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