Sam Stewart, whose talent as a “collector of people” helped him turn a Utah financial firm into a multi-billion dollar business, has passed away.
Stewart died at his Salt Lake City home on Tuesday, according to his son, Josh Stewart. Stewart was 79 – and, as he often predicted, was at his home desk, presumably at work, his son said.
For 43 years, Stewart was the head of Wasatch Advisors, renamed Global Investors Wasatch in 2019 – a small cap investment management firm based in Salt Lake City. Stewart founded the firm in 1975; when he left the company in 2018, it had amassed $ 17 billion in assets.
In a 2019 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Stewart recalled that the prevailing wisdom in the 1970s was that “the price of a stock is its value, and its value is its price” – something he heard in a speech by the award-winning economist of the Nobel Prize winner Gene Fama. Stewart disagreed with Fama’s idea that the value of a company could be summed up in the ups and downs of its stock prices.
Stewart told the Journal that “Fama’s insistence that the market was perfectly and completely efficient ignited all the tinder in me.” He said that with Wasatch, âI had no idea how to build a big business or make a lot of money. I just wanted to prove that there are ways to beat the market.
Instead of going after big companies, Wasatch’s specialty was new small businesses ripe for growth.
When Wasatch started out, fund manager Robert Gardiner told The Tribune in 2012, “Small-cap investing wasn’t even a category.” Gardiner, who worked at Wasatch before launching to launch Grandeur Peak Global Advisors in 2011, said Stewart âtook us to this lake where there weren’t a lot of people fishing. And it was a lake that was continually being replenished with good companies.
Investing in small caps âis difficult because when you get it wrong, you get it wrong,â Toby Levitt, CEO of rival Albion Financial Group, told The Tribune in 2001. âYou can invest in a company like Johnson & Johnson or General Electric. and if they make a mistake, they will still be there. With a small cap, this is not always true.
Levitt praised Stewart’s knack for picking winners.
âObviously, Wasatch is among the best in the country at what they do,â said Levitt.
Josh Stewart said that when he and his brother Spencer moved to New York City to work for a Wall Street company, they were shocked to find out how much the industry respected their father’s work at Wasatch Advisors.
âWe were working for a broker, someone who was supposed to set up meetings between small caps and investors. Small businesses would ask for meetings with Wasatch, when normally it’s the other way around, âsaid Stewart. âIf Wasatch is on your share register, it is a signal that you are a good company and that you can attract other investors because Wasatch is there.
Stewart told The Journal that his talent was that âI turn out to be a collector of people. I’m looking for people who have a unique talent or something, and I want to find out how to make the most of it.
Stewart and his second wife, Diane – a dominant force in Utah’s art community and founder of the Salt Lake City Modern West Fine Art Gallery – launched the Stewart Family Foundation in 2002. The foundation aims to support the arts and education in Utah, as well as progressive issues.
Among the many groups that the foundation has supported: Alliance for a Better Utah, Ballet West, Encircle, Equality Utah, Human Rights Campaign, Moran Eye Center, Madeleine Choir School, Mormon Arts Center, Natural History Museum of Utah, Rape Recovery Center, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Springville Museum of Art, Utah Film Center, Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Utah Shakespeare Festival and Utah Symphony | Utah Opera House.
In a statement, Utah Governor Spencer Cox noted that Stewart was “a son of Sanpete County” and “a brilliant financier and philanthropist who, along with his wife Diane, made generous contributions to the arts, to the education and many causes, including the Governor’s Mansion. Foundation. His warmth and humanity will be missed.
Stewart sold his stake in Wasatch and left the company in 2018 to join his son, Spencer, who had started a new investment firm, Seven Canyons Advisors. Josh Stewart also left Wasatch to join the new family business.
In an unusual move, according to The Journal, the elder Stewart transferred two mutual funds that he personally managed for Wasatch to the new company. Wasatch let the fund shareholders decide whether to follow Stewart to Seven Canyons or stay with Wasatch under the direction of a new fund manager. The shareholders went with Stewart.
Samuel Spencer Stewart Jr. was born July 3, 1942 in Salt Lake City, to Samuel Spencer Stewart Sr. and Miriam Hardy Stewart, the eldest of four boys. He spent much of his childhood in Mount Pleasant, Sanpete County, because his father believed boys should grow up on a ranch. (The family still owns a ranch there.) He returned to Salt Lake City for high school, graduating from East High. Stewart went to college at Northwestern and did his graduate studies at Stanford.
Stewart married Pamela Kimball in 1970; they had five children and divorced in 1991. He married Diane Pew in 1992; they had two more children together.
Stewart told The Wall Street Journal that he inherited his interest in the stock market from his father, a stockbroker. As a child, Stewart heard from George Romney – then president of American Motors Corp. and later Governor of Michigan (and father of Utah Senator Mitt Romney) – that AMC’s compact car lineup would make the company a sound investment. Stewart’s dad didn’t take Romney’s advice, and AMC shares went from $ 5 to $ 90 per share.
âFrom that point on, I was hooked,â Stewart told The Journal. âIt didn’t take long for me to know that I was going to die one day at my desk, choosing stocks.
Stewart is survived by his wife, Diane; his brother, John Hardy Stewart; his children: Sammy Stewart (Gallaher), Jamie Stewart (Moessing), Josh Stewart, Spencer Stewart, Andy Stewart, Hardy Stewart and Hank Stewart; stepchildren Reagan Tolboe and Clifton Tolboe; and 11 grandchildren. Her brothers JB and James have previously passed away.
Plans for the memorial services had yet to be finalized earlier this week.