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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Founder of a Touchstone Precursor Dies

News summary by MFWire's editors

The 78-year-old founder of a precursor to Touchstone Investments died earlier this month.

Bob Leshner "passed away unexpectedly" on January 22 at his home in Los Angeles' Studio City neighborhood, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. For fundsters who knew (or wish they knew) Leshner, the Courier's long obituary is worth the read. Legacy.com posted a separate, shorter obituary.

Robert Harvy Leshner went to high school in Hamilton, Ohio, playing football in both the Cincinnati suburb and later at Ohio State University in Columbus. After a freshman injury in 1958, he became a student for OSU's Buckeyes, the Courier reports, and later worked in the Cincinatti Bengals press box.

Leshner graduated from OSU in 1962 and started his investment career at Cincinnati-based Gradison & Co. He left in 1974 and started Leshner Financial, where he launched Cincinnati's first mutual fund family, the Midwest Group of Funds, the Courier reports, with a particular focus on bond funds, one of the country's first money market funds, and one of the first muni money funds. Countrywide Credit Industries bought Leshner's eponymous firm in 1997 and transformed it into its Countrywide Financial Services unit, which Leshner led.

Countrywide sold the unit to Western & Southern Financial Group in 1999, the paper notes, and Leshner left soon afterwards and started his own wealth management firm. Yet under Western & Southern, Leshner's old fund business found new life under a new brand.

"Bob was a great friend," John Barrett, CEO of Western & Southern, tells the Courier. "And he brought to us the real start of our mutual fund family, which is now Touchstone Funds. Based on what he brought in the door all those years ago — almost 20 years ago — it's turned into a really big business for us. Bob will be missed."

Meanwhile, Leshner merged his firm into Kisker & Associates in 2014, and was still working with that firm (now called Fidant Wealth Partners, an Ameriprise-affiliated shop) when he died.

The Courier's obituary includes shared memories of Leshner from several others, including: Bob Dorsey, CEO of nearby mutual fund servicing shop Ultimus Fund Solutions and 15-year Leshner Financial veteran; Jim Cummins, partner at Cummins Law; Doug Kisker, CEO of Fidant; and Leigh Leshner, one of Bob Leshner's daughters. The Courier also shares quotes from Leshner himself, from an interview the paper did with him back in 1997 when he sold his firm to Countrywide.

Cummins recalls Bob Leshner working with the SEC on new money fund regs and credits him with convincing the Ohio legislature not to tax the money fund business.

"We were able to persuade legislators that mutual funds are a good thing, not something bad," Cummins tells the Courier.

"He was a pioneer and innovator in the money market business," Dorsey tells the paper. "He was an entrepreneur who really started the money market business in Cincinnati. He also was a trailblazer in the mutual fund industry in Cincinnati. A lot of the mutual fund business in Cincinatti traces its roots back to Bob."

Bob Leshner is survived by his wife Carol Leshner, his daughters Leigh and Michelle, and his brother Todd. The funeral was on Monday at the Weil Funeral Home in Cincinatti. In lieu of flowers, the family is directing donations to the Alzheimer's Association, Cedar Village, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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