John F. “Jack” Curley Jr., whose investment career spanned more than three decades and who rose to become vice chairman and chief administrative officer at Legg Mason, died Jan. 1 in his sleep at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The former Ruxton resident who lived in Orchid, Florida, was 82.
“Jack set an excellent leadership example by his presence and earned the trust and respect of his colleagues and friends,” said James W. Brinkley, who had been president and CEO of Legg Mason. “He was an excellent communicator and leader and we will cherish that in our thoughts.”
John Francis Curley Jr., son of John F. Curley Sr., a PaineWebber investment banker, and Anne Curley, a homemaker, was born in Wollaston, Massachusetts, and raised in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, which is on Cape Ann.
He was a 1956 graduate of Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Massachusetts, and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1960 from Princeton University. In 1962, he obtained a master’s degree in business from Harvard University.
After serving two years in the Army, where he attained the rank of lieutenant and was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, he began his professional career in New York City working at Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis Inc. — later PaineWebber Inc. — as a management trainee. He held multiple management roles for nearly two decades.
Mr. Curley had been chairman of its finance committee, president of its $6 billion money market fund, and president of PaineWebber’s brokerage company.
In 1982, Mr. Curley came to Baltimore when he joined Legg Mason, eventually being named vice chairman and chief administrative officer, where he was responsible for overseeing hundreds of the firm’s employees who worked in finance, technology, and administration.
“He is credited with helping Legg build its highly regarded family of mutual funds, and spearheading the company’s multimillion dollar upgrade of its computer and data processing systems over the past 15 months,” The Baltimore Sun reported in a 1998 profile. “But his biggest role has been freeing up [Raymond A. “Chip” Mason] and others to plot Legg’s strategy. While Mason is seen as the deal maker and strategic thinker, Curley is ‘Mr. Inside.’”
“Jack joined Legg less than a year after I did and we got to know each other through his time on the board of our funds,” wrote Bill Miller, founder of Legg Mason Capital Management, in an email.
“Jack played a key leadership role all along the way until his retirement 15 years later,” wrote Mr. Miller, who is the founder of the Baltimore investment firm Miller Value Partners. “I will always remember Jack with a smile on his face. I don’t ever remember seeing him angry or even annoyed. He was unflappable under pressure, always calm, always searching for the appropriate solution to a problem. Everyone had the highest regard for both his ability and character.”
He added: “He was the consummate gentleman and was not just a great guy, but a regular guy whom everyone felt comfortable around. He was about as nice a person as I have ever met.”
Mr. Curley was also responsible for overseeing Legg’s annual report and had developed a reputation for catching a typo or “anything else that was missed by four people,” according to The Sun.
“He is probably the best detail person that I have ever seen,” Mr. Mason told the newspaper. “Jack just may be smarter than all of us and do the things people never save time to do.”
When he retired in 1998, Mr. Curley told The Sun: “It is fairly simple. I have been in the business 34 years and I decided about a year and a half ago that I would like to do some other things. I am going to relax for a while.”
George D. Edwards, a retired Baltimore advertising executive who had been with W.B. Doner before establishing his own firm, Hottman Edwards Advertising, in 1971, became close friends with Mr. Curley and his wife.
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“I first met Jack when he came down from New York in the early 1980s,” Mr. Edwards said. “He was a very self-effacing guy who eschewed attention to himself. He was a very modest individual. He and Chip Mason were a great team and complemented each other’s strengths. There was never any braggadocio about Jack, who always shared credit with others and always took the high road.”
He added: “We shared an interest in the theater, music and the arts. We traveled to Europe together and each September after Labor Day rented a house in Maine together.”
Mr. Curley was a communicant of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Vero Beach, Florida.
He was an avid reader and an enthusiastic traveler.
“He read on a wide variety of topics and enjoyed researching visiting cities, towns and villages around the world that he later visited,” said a son, David N. Curley of Timonium.
Services are private.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 59 years, the former Loretta O’Keeffe, an artist; two other sons, Reid E. Curley of Ruxton and William L. Curley of Lake Oswego, Oregon; a sister, Marilyn Heavener of Gaithersburg; and five grandchildren.