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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Johnsons Mourn Fidelity's Fallen Heart

News summary by MFWire's editors

Abby Johnson and Ned Johnson are mourning a retired Fidelity leader who spent more than six decades at the mutual fund giant.

Bill Byrnes, former president and vice chairman of the Boston Behemoth, died in Naples, Florida on Saturday at the age of 96, his obituary confirms.

William Leo Byrnes was born on December 12, 1921 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After going to Belmont Hill School, he spent more than 50 years on its board of trustees. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1943 in the middle of World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.

He returned to civilian life in 1946, joining his father's retail women's shoes and accessories chain, Hamilton-Lapp Company. In 1957, Byrnes had a "very good feeling" about Fidelity founder Edward C. Johnson II (Ned's father and Abby's grandfather), so Byrnes joined Fidelity as a research analyst. (Ned Johnson also joined Fidelity as a research analyst that year, and the two are the longest serving Fidelity employees in history.) By the mid-1960s, according to Fidelity, Byrnes and the father-son Johnson duo "formed a leadership team that would shape the future vision and direction of the company."

Byrnes rose to director of investment research, then to executive vice president in 1969, then to president of the management company and a board seat in 1972. In 1977, the year Ned Johnson became chairman and CEO, Byrnes became vice chairman. The next year, Byrnes left for London to work on Fidelity's international business. He returned to the U.S. in 1990 as managing director and vice chairman of Fidelity parent FMR, though he retired from day-to-day management. He stayed on the board of directors until 2014, and has been a director emeritus ever since.

"Apart from his enormous contributions to Fidelity's business, he was also one of the kindest and most thoughtful individuals I've ever had the pleasure of working with," states Abby Johnson, chairman and CEO. "Bill will be missed by many Fidelity associates for his business acumen, sharp wit, and friendship. The world is immeasurably better because of Bill."

"Simply put, Bill Byrnes was one of the best," Abby Johnson adds.

Ned Johnson, chairman emeritus, describes Byrnes as "at the heart of all major developments at Fidelity over many decades."

"Our company wouldn't be where it is today without his insights, creativity, passion and leadership," Ned Johnson states. "I truly believe that Bill is one of the best business minds of his generation. I'm grateful for having been able to call him my friend."

Roger Servison, who helped lead Fidelity's discount brokerage and retail marketing efforts, describes Byrnes and Ned Johnson as "a complementary duo."

"Ned was always filled with energy and ideas, but he wasn't a logistics guy," Servison states. "So oftentimes Ned would come up with an idea, and Bill was the one who would handle the details and the people management and make it happen."

"Bill was a great, honorable leader, and the ultimate gentleman," Servison adds.

Byrnes and his late second wife, Peggy, were active with the Port Royal Club, the Royal Poinciana Gold Club, and the Naples Yacht Club.

Byrnes is survived by his son, three step children, and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, Byrnes' family is directing donations to St. Ann School in Naples, Florida and to Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts.

The funeral mass is scheduled for 11am this coming Saturday, July 28 at 11am at St. Ann Catholic Church in Old Naples, followed by a private burial at the Naples Memorial Gardens Cemetery. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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