By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON (Reuters) - Barton Biggs, a former chief global strategist for Morgan Stanley
Biggs was associated with Morgan Stanley for nearly four decades, joining as a partner, then founding the research department and later creating Morgan Stanley Investment Management, where he served as chairman until 2003.
Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman sent a memo to bank employees on Monday saying that Biggs had died on July 14 at age 79. His death followed a short illness, his friend Byron Wien, another former Morgan Stanley strategist who is now vice chairman at Blackstone Group, said.
"He was known as an independent thinker, colorful writer and one of the pioneers of emerging markets investing," Gorman wrote in the memo which was obtained by Reuters. "Our Firm benefited from his vision," he added.
At Morgan Stanley, Biggs got the bank to focus on the equities business and later helped the bank see beyond U.S. markets, changing its vision from domestic to global, Wien said. "He was a major figure for Morgan Stanley."
Biggs also played a significant role in the hedge fund industry where he co-founded one of the industry's first firms, Fairfield Partners, in 1965. Nearly four decades later in 2003 he founded hedge fund firm Traxis Partners and remained one of its portfolio managers until the end of his life.
"Barton was an exceptional financial strategist and a great friend. He had an immense impact on the financial industry for five decades," said Julian Robertson, chairman and founder of hedge fund industry heavyweight Tiger Management, LLC.
But he may be best remembered for raising concern about what he called overpriced technology stocks long before the crash in 2000 and warning that the rally might end badly.
"He was negative on tech stocks, but he also thought in the early 1980s that the market had bottomed and he turned negative on Japan at the end of the 1980s," Wien said, adding "He made some very good calls along the way."
Throughout his own career Biggs fostered the careers of dozens of other prominent investors, including Wien, and changed the way some strategists conveyed their opinions.
"He invented me," Wien said, adding that Biggs wrote his commentaries in a way that portfolio managers felt as if they were having an conversation with him.
An avid tennis player who continued to work out every day, Biggs graduated from Yale University and earned an MBA from New York University.
(Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Alden Bentley)