Mailbox: Is it strange to feel sad even though I haven’t seen Allan Gray in 24 years?

Written on 11/12/2019
Alec Hogg

A Biznews reader and once close friend of investment pioneer Allan Gray aptly describes the loss of a true icon when he writes: Although I haven’t seen him in 24 years, just the fact that he is no longer alive saddens me. Is that strange?

By Arnie Witkin*

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Allan Gray.

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I met him in late 1980 after my speech at the Financial Mail Conference, ‘The Outlook for Equities 1981’. I was the investment manager of Legal and General at the time and we had been the top performing institution three years in a row and that included Allan Gray. I should add that the profile of the company skyrocketed after the event and the business of Legal and General trebled in the next three months.

‘Nostalgia is the most fun you can have without actually having fun.’ – Dennis Norden.

Allan called and asked to meet me, which of course I agreed to. I was aware of his reluctance to give his views and he started the conversation by congratulating me on the speech and the performance. Naturally he asked me many questions and having answered them, I then asked what his views were. Now he had a bit of a problem. He couldn’t say that he never gives his views having just asked for mine. I learnt a lot more than he did.

In retrospect I thought that it may have been a job interview, even though it was never mentioned, and, if so, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get the job!

I met him again in London after we moved there and I invested in one of his funds. I used to see him three of four times a year and Roni and I played bridge with him and Gill a couple of times. He had a quiet certainty about his views but was always aware that things could change. You have to distinguish between certainty and arrogance and Allan was a man of extreme humility. He was a lovely guy and it was always stimulating and enjoyable being in his company.

When he moved to Bermuda I lost touch with him. Although I haven’t seen him in 24 years, just the fact that he is no longer alive saddens me. Is that strange? I guess the memories never pass.

  • Arnie Witkin is a speech writer, public speaking coach and executive coach and mentor.