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Thursday, December 13, 2018
HomeAlaska NewsBob Gillam: A mighty tree has fallen

Bob Gillam: A mighty tree has fallen

DIED AFTER MAJOR STROKE

Bob Gillam, who was raised in the back of his father’s liquor store but became one of the most successful businessmen in Alaska history, has died.He was 72.

He suffered from a type of brain aneurysm and was taken to the hospital on Monday midday, where he was on life support. Family was flying in from around the country. Few details are known at this time.

Gillam founded McKinley Capital Management in 1990. He headquartered the investment firm in Anchorage, an unusual location for firms of his type, four hours off of the New York Stock Exchange’s time zone. But he grew the company with an western-facing approach to look at markets across the Pacific. And it gave him access to fishing and the state that he grew up in and loved. He was an avid pilot and owned several planes.

Born in Fairbanks and raised in Anchorage, he was influential enough in Alaska politics that every major candidate for governor this year had met with him during the past 14 months.

He even considered running for governor himself because he felt his financial skills were a unique match for the dire financial situation that Alaska found itself in during the past four years. In January, he decided against it for health reasons.

After Donald Trump became president, Gillam was considered by the Trump Administration for a cabinet-level appointment leading the Department of Interior.

A graduate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a classmate of Trump’s, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Gillam owned a lodge at Lake Clark. He was one of the most vocal and well-heeled opponents to the Pebble Project, a proposed mine for the region, and he spent as much as $30 million running advocacy campaigns against the development of the gold and copper mine.

A side of him not well known was how much he helped young college students by giving them scholarships. He was exceedingly generous, but did not broadcast it. Just last week, at an event in Anchorage, he was approached by a young woman who thanked him for the scholarship he had given her. Gillam was heard to remark that he had never actually met her up until that moment, but was pleased to know he had been able to help someone achieve their dreams.

His company manages some $7 billion in investments, many of them on behalf of public pension funds around the United States. His son, Robert Gillam, is the company’s chief investment officer and senior Vice President.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Did Gillam large contributions to Trump influence EPA Scott pruitt to oppose Alaska pebble mine? We may never know.

  • Rest In Peace Bob, your contributions to our Alaska are defined by so many unsung hero’s, thanks for all you gave to your home state!

  • This State and many of its people will miss Bob greatly. But he leaves this world a better place. He stood up for what was right, he helped others.
    He’s my friend, Thank You Bob

  • What a sweet article Suzanne – thank you for shining a light on someone who didn’t necessarily seek to highlight the things he did to help others, his community, his state and his country. I thought of Bob sort of like an uncle; He wasn’t my uncle but he certainly treated me like he was. He was like that to anyone that was able to partake in his company. He was funny, sweet, charming and an avid outdoorsman.

    I remember spending some time with him at Lake Clark before I deployed to Iraq in 2006 and he was extremely sincere and thoughtful in his advice to me. I remember him taking the time to pull me aside and chat 1 on 1 and that really meant a lot, and stood out to me. That convo helped me maintain a great outlook throughout my time in such a tough and daunting situation. When I came home from Iraq, I applied for a scholarship through the Gilliam Foundation and to my surprise was accepted! I had worked so hard up to this point but nothing prepared me to get back to civilian life at college and back to the “real world”. Having that scholarship afforded me the ability to no longer worry about all the expenses that come with college. Freeing up time for me to focus on school and getting myself back from the war. I can honestly say that Bob, unknowingly saved my life, from a very dark place by helping me create the time and space to seek help for myself.

    Bob was a great man and he will be very dearly missed – not only by myself, but my entire family. So I just want to say from our family in Alaska, Texas, California and Virginia – We wish Bob fair winds and following seas. We hope his loved ones find comfort in this very difficult time.

    Prayers and condolences for anyone affected by his passing.