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Goodbye to Bob Margolis, true friend of independent advisors

A regular contributor to RIABiz, Bob died in New York City earlier this month

Monday, January 31, 2011 – 3:07 PM by Elizabeth MacBride
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Bob Margolis

Brooke and I are sad to report that Bob Margolis, a regular contributor to RIABiz and the author of many of our breakaway stories, died earlier this month.

He was 44. He died of complications of diabetes.

Bob – or Bobby M. – as he often referred to himself, was widely known in the independent advisory world after years of covering the business. He had written for media companies including Forbes and ThomsonReuters – but his articles were not the sawdust-dry pieces that reporters too commonly turn out about the business of investment advice.

Rather, he worked to get the human element into all of his stories – and in fact in the months before he died told me was noodling the idea of an “advisors unplugged” blog for Forbes.

We knew him as part of the community of independent advisors, but his interests and career were much broader. For a decade, he covered music for the Alm@nac weekly, covering Ulster County, N.Y. When he spoke with me, he often ended a conversation about advisors on the note that he was heading out to hear a band in Park Slope – or leaving for a Phish concert. His chocolate lab, Ruben, was usually in tow. Ruben is now living with Bob’s sister and her family.

Bob’s career also included teaching at Rikers Island Penitentiary and serving as a research analyst at the Brookings Institution. Bob held a master’s degree in political science from the New School in Manhattan.

Bob had the most marvelously clear-eyed and compassionate view of people, from his family, whom he spoke of often, to the people he interviewed, to the hundreds of friends he counted in every city. He also was a gifted writer, as, if you’ve read his stories, you already know.

After I found out about his death, I reached out to a few people that I knew had worked with him, and I’ve included some of their memories of him below. Please feel free to add any thoughts about Bob in the comments section.

If you’d like to make a contribution in his memory, please send it to The Maryland SPCA, 3300 Falls Road, Baltimore, MD 21211. According to the funeral home, Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. of Baltimore, Bob is survived by his parents, Charles and Irma (nee Silver) Margolis; his sister and brother-in-law, Beth and Michael Davis of Harrison, N.Y.; and two nieces, Lucy and Jenny Davis.

Brooke Southall, founder of RIABiz:

I liked Bob Margolis right away. He called one afternoon last May to introduce himself and to say that he wanted to write for RIABiz. In fact, he took it one step further and said that his dream would be to move to Sausalito and write for our publication full time. I’ve only known one other person to express that particular desire and it was me. Like I said, I liked Bob immediately.

In the phone call, he mentioned that he had worked for Reuters and that the news service had never really wanted to cover the advisory business the way he did. He proposed writing his first article for us about a conference based on the efforts of the NFL Players Association’s to screen advisors on behalf of its players. In 10 minutes it was becoming clear that he liked sports, liked the advisory business and liked writing about them both. It turns out he saw the advisory business the way a sportswriter sees football — as an exciting, dynamic spectacle filled with personalities and varying levels of talent. It’s something we shared.

It showed in the way he wrote. Bob quickly became our mainstay writer of Breakaway Stories. Each article debriefed an advisor from a wirehouse who turned independent. These events were not considered momentous enough by publications I formally worked for to merit coverage. I was determined that the tales could be written as nuggets of human aspiration that tell the story of the advisory industry’s growth in a microcosm. Bob immediately let me know that this did not need to be explained to him and wrote the stories with the energy, enthusiasm and sharp business angles that I had been hoping for. His articles got a big readership.

Bob thrived upon writing about athletes, advisors serving athletes, brokers becoming advisors and other expressions of the human spirit triumphing over the gray corporate work world. He fit right in at RIABiz, and we already feel his absence deeply.

Advisor Dorie Rosenband, &Wealth Management of New York City:

My heart breaks for his family who he often spoke so highly and humorously about.

When I think back to the times that we spoke, I felt that Bob was genuinely interested in and deeply cared about people. He spoke from the heart and didn’t hold back. Most of all, Bob had an honesty about him that revealed a soulful, passionate person. I will remember him with fondness.

Frank Pizzichillo, director of business development at MarketCounsel:

Bob and I shared two of the same passions, baseball and music. One time he called me and we talked about the Beatles White album for about 25 minutes and then he was about to hang up and he said, “Wait, I think I called you about something else but I forget now.” A genuinely nice and interesting guy. He will be missed.

Brian Hamburger, CEO of MarketCounsel:

I am so saddened by this news. Bob was a very special guy; seemingly scattered in his thoughts but focused on his passion. He was a real
friend of independent investment advisers.

Here are a links to a few of Bob’s breakaway stories, including the one about Dorie:

Dorie Rosenband’s post-maternity return to Smith Barney shocked her into becoming an RIA.

A Morgan Stanley Smith Barney breakaway stepped off the wirehouse carousel to keep in touch with his clients.

Inside the mind of one recent Morgan Stanley Smith Barney breakaway who landed at HighTower.

Mentioned in this article:

RIA Publication, Blog/Social Networking Tool
Top Executive: Brooke Southall

Ben Lewis

Ben Lewis

February 25, 2011 — 3:30 PM

I am saddened by the news of Bob M’s passing. He and I have had numerous opportunities over the years to work together on articles about independent advisors and other projects. He was always passionate about the topic at hand and had a real knack for shedding a humorous light on virtually any subject. While I will greatly miss our lively sports discussions, the industry will miss a real friend in Bob M.

Tom Granucci

Tom Granucci

September 2, 2015 — 8:30 PM

I was recently sitting in my office thinking about a job I had in 1987 at Med-O-Lark Camp in Washington Maine. I met a fellow councilor named Bobby Margolis and we immediately hit it off. I thought I would try and contact him and found info of his passing. Bobby and I never spoke after camp ended, but I often think back to the carefree times of playing music with Bobby while kids gathered around. Bobby will always have a spot in my heart. Rest in peace my old friend.

Jay Freeborne

Jay Freeborne

July 18, 2015 — 3:44 PM

I am very late to the game (4 years) to hearing of Bob’s passing and hadn’t seen him in 20 years – but these comments above definitely capture him: his love for jazz, sports- and an interest in the counterculture. I met him during his Northwest “phase” in Seattle. One memory that truly sticks out – is once when he was a kid/student – he called Branford Marsalis’ answer machine to get some info on a jazz report and Mr. M – called him back! He was going for the journalistic scoop even back then. Nonetheless – Mr. Margolis was a fascinating and totally original guy – sad – that he is gone from the planet. R.I.P.

Mark Rose

Mark Rose

February 1, 2011 — 2:10 PM

I had lunch with Bob in NYC a couple of years ago when he was between media jobs, looking for a new gig. He talked expansively and openly about jazz, baseball, his dog, his digs in Brooklyn and his last horrible date. And this was the first time we met! He was open, he didn’t have the usual filters you encounter in these meetings, he was refreshing. I’m so sad to hear about his death. He was too young. I’m glad, at least, that there is this forum to hear about how others encountered Bob and to share my remembrance.

Marie Swift

Marie Swift

February 2, 2011 — 3:01 AM

Bob Margolis was a very special person. I remember my first meeting with him at a Starbucks in Manhattan. We hit it off right away. But as important as our coffee meeting was, working out details for a story we had planned for an industry publication, he cut our conversation short saying his chocolate lab was at home alone and he had to head out.

Later in our cordial business relationship, he shared about his family and health concerns. And when the media job market was turned upside down by the recession, he called to ask who might be in need of a good writer. I was pleased to see his breakaway broker stories appear on RIAbiz and other good articles by Bob in a couple other outlets.

When I saw him in NYC in September 2010, he looked healthy and vibrant. How sad to know that he’s passed away.

Thank you, RIAbiz, for creating a place that those of us who knew “Bob M” – as he liked to call himself – can say a few kind words about the gentle man he was. He will be missed.

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