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Archie MacAllaster; investor shared insights

By Laurence Arnold
Bloomberg News / October 1, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Archie MacAllaster, chairman of the New York City investment firm MacAllaster Pitfield Mackay and a longtime member of Barron’s investor roundtable, died last Saturday at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn. He was 82.

The cause was complications of colon cancer, said his son, David, the firm’s president.

A resident of Fairfield, Conn., since 1962, Mr. MacAllaster was actively managing the firm as recently as three weeks ago, his son said.

For many years, his firm was a market maker in banking and insurance stocks. In his book “Beating the Street,’’ Peter Lynch called Mr. MacAllaster “a savvy investor in the over-the-counter market.’’

Mr. MacAllaster began his career in the Montreal office of Canadian investment company Pitfield, Mackay & Ross Ltd. After two years, he was dispatched to run its New York office. In 1984, he purchased the firm’s US unit, which he reorganized under the name MacAllaster Pitfield Mackay.

David MacAllaster said his father began sharing his insights through Barron’s roundtables in the 1970s “because, number one, he thought he had good ideas to share.’’

“But he also got a lot of calls from people who wanted him to manage their money’’ after reading his views, his son said.

“He just enjoyed doing stock picking.’’

One of his best picks was prompted by a lunch with Warren Buffett in the late 1950s or early 1960s for the Pilgrim Fund, which he was managing, his son recalled.

“He was so impressed with Warren Buffett’s intelligence, the first thing he did when he came back to the office was purchase 12,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway for his fund,’’ a stake that today would be worth more than $1.2 billion.

Within about a year, Mr. MacAllaster concluded that running a mutual fund and a brokerage created conflicts, and he turned over control of the Pilgrim Fund, his son said. “And the first thing the new manager did was sell the 12,000 shares of Berkshire Hathaway.’’

Mr. MacAllaster viewed himself as particularly knowledgeable about the insurance industry, and at the start of 2011 he advised investors to be buying.

“As a group, the life-insurance business is a great place to be,’’ he told Barron’s in January. “You could buy almost all of them. The old, senior, the well-vested companies, they should be bought. They’re cheap.’’

Three months ago, as part of the Barron’s midyear 2011 market assessment, Mr. MacAllaster said he saw “lots and lots of bargains, long-term,’’ in financial stocks.

“The problem is, define long-term,’’ he added.

“The Obama administration is antibusiness,’’ he said.

“The president is good on his feet. He speaks well. He has a sense of humor. But he is anti- business because he never grew up with business. Also, the two parties don’t get along, which makes things difficult for business. In this environment, it is hard to know what stocks will do.’’

Archie Freeman MacAllaster II was born on Oct. 16, 1928, in Watertown, N.Y.

He attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., before graduating from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

He served four years in the Navy.

Mr. MacAllaster was a trustee emeritus at St. Lawrence. The university president’s residence was renamed MacAllaster House in 1999, in recognition of his financial support for its renovation.

In addition to his son David, he leaves his wife, Barbara Torrey MacAllaster; a daughter, Sara; and a granddaughter. Another son, Archie III, known as Sandy, died in 1979.