Richard Jenrette, 89, Wall St. Power and Preservationist, Dies


For his part, Mr. Jenrette believed that while big companies were quite profitable, their stocks had become so expensive as to suggest limited further gains.

“We concocted something that was totally contrarian,” he recounted in his 1997 memoir, “Jenrette: The Contrarian Manager.”

The firm built its business serving institutional clients by providing them with detailed research on small-capitalization stocks. At the time, at least in the early years, most Wall Street firms were still focusing on big stocks for individual investors.

Institutions began showering D.L.J. with commissions at a time when commission rates were still fixed at high levels and portfolio managers were beginning to trade more frequently.

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Mr. Jenrette in his Manhattan office in 1990, when he was chairman of Equitable Life. His capital-raising solution rescued the company.

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William E. Sauro/The New York Times

“We hit a gusher,” Mr. Jenrette wrote.

D.L.J. made its precedent-setting public stock offering in early 1970, and the considerable profits it reaped very likely contributed to the demise, about five years later, of fixed commissions, pressure for which was already building.

Many securities firms followed with public offerings of their own, giving rise to criticism that publicly owned firms took on more risk than they would have had they remained private partnerships.

When Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Lufkin left the firm, Mr. Jenrette became chief executive and, after surviving a severe downturn in 1974, restored high profitability and sold D.L.J. to Equitable Life for $440 million, twice its book value, in 1985.

Like his houses, Mr. Jenrette said, “I considered D.L.J. a restoration job.”

Mr. Jenrette was induced to join Equitable as vice chairman and as president and chief executive of the Equitable Investment Corporation, the holding company for Equitable’s investment-oriented subsidiaries, including the D.L.J. brokerage firm and its Real Estate Group. The investment corporation thrived, and in 1987 Mr. Jenrette was named chairman of Equitable.

Equitable, then a 140-year old insurance grande dame owned by its policyholders, had gotten into debilitating financial trouble with a flawed version of a product called guaranteed investment contracts, and it had suffered reverses in junk bonds and real estate.

Mr. Jenrette’s capital-raising solution was the industry’s first significant demutualization — the process by which a customer-owned mutual organization is transformed into a joint stock company. Accomplished in two years, the process led to a highly successful public stock offering. Mr. Jenrette retired in 1996.

His basic precept as a manager was to “hire people smarter than you are,” he said, and he often used handwriting analysis and color charts to evaluate candidates. He also expressed more than a passing interest in astrology, to which he devoted 16 pages of his memoir, providing the signs of dozens of prominent business, political and sports figures.

Mr. Jenrette indulged a passion for meticulous record-keeping. He weighed himself daily, kept a diary for the bulk of his adult life and even in his advanced retirement years calculated the value of his liquid assets every day.

At the same time, he was building a far-ranging reputation involving what he called his hobby: buying and restoring historic American homes, more than a dozen of which he lavishly decorated and furnished with period antiques.

“I’m probably better known for old houses and antiques than for Wall Street,’’ Mr. Jenrette said in an interview for this obituary in 2012.

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Edgewater, the 19th-century estate on the Hudson River that Mr. Jenrette bought from the author Gore Vidal in 1969.

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Phil Mansfield for The New York Times

The setting for the interview was the high-ceilinged octagonal library at Edgewater, his six-columned home built in 1824 on a Hudson River peninsula just north of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County, N.Y. He bought the home in 1969 from the author Gore Vidal, who had done his writing in the library. It still housed a large collection of Mr. Vidal’s books.

Mr. Jenrette “had a major impact on preservation,’’ probably as much as any single individual, said David J. Brown, executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Mr. Brown cited in particular two Jenrette rescues in Charleston: the elegant Mills House hotel and the Roper House, on the Battery overlooking the harbor and Fort Sumter. Those restorations, Mr. Brown said, helped spark the city’s renaissance as a destination for what has become known as heritage tourism.

A self-acknowledged “house-aholic,” Mr. Jenrette explained his interest by saying that it was probably inspired by “a dozen too many’’ viewings of “Gone With the Wind” as a child.

Mr. Jenrette’s renown in historic restoration circles led to his hosting world dignitaries, including the emperor and empress of Japan and Charles, the Prince of Wales, who wrote the foreword to Mr. Jenrette’s 1995 book, “Adventures With Old Houses.’’

He also assembled what was believed to be the largest private collection of Duncan Phyfe furniture; many of the pieces are now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Richard Hampton Jenrette was born on April 5, 1929, in Raleigh, N.C. His father, Joseph, was a successful local insurance salesman. His mother, Emma,was an avid gardener and lived to 101, according to the publication New York Social Diary.

Richard was still in public school when he took a summer job as a sportswriter on The Raleigh Times. His boss was Jesse Helms, who would serve six terms in the United States Senate. Mr. Jenrette later moved to The News & Observer in Raleigh, the state capital.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina, where he majored in journalism and edited The Daily Tar Heel, Mr. Jenrette reluctantly apprenticed as an insurance salesman, taking after his father.

He didn’t relish a career prospecting for clients, he said, though what he called “a great two-year sales experience’’ gave him credibility four decades later when he found himself chief executive of Equitable Life.

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The octagonal library at Edgewater, where Mr. Vidal did his writing before selling the house to Mr. Jenrette.

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Phil Mansfield for The New York Times

With the Korean War on and his draft board hovering, Mr. Jenrette started a two-year active stint with the North Carolina National Guard. As a sergeant assigned to counterintelligence duty, he met a group of Harvard graduates.

Having heard that Harvard Business School was seeking to become more diverse — “affirmative action in 1951 was a Southern white male,” he remarked — he secretly applied to the school without telling his family that he hoped to quit the insurance business.

After graduating with a master’s in business administration and weighing various job offers, he joined Brown Brothers Harriman, the very model of an old-time Wall Street firm, whose oak-paneled ambience included roll-top desks, a large coal-burning fireplace and oil paintings of the founders.

He spent two years there as a portfolio manager — one client was Greta Garbo — before leaving at 30 to start his own firm with Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Lufki.

Mr. Jenrette’s partner, William L. Thompson, died in 2013. He is survived by a nephew and nieces with whom he was close: Dr. Joseph M. Jenrette III, Helen Wooddy, Betty Romberg and Nancy Reynolds.

In his later years Mr. Jenrette had owned several historic houses, all of which were to go to his Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. In addition to the Roper House, they included Millford Plantation in Pinewood, S.C., Ayr Mount in Hillsborough, N.C., and Cane Garden on St. Croix, in the United States Virgin Islands.

In Manhattan, his townhouses at 67 East 93rd Street and the adjacent No.69, which was his office, once belonged to George F. Baker, the New York banker who donated the money for the campus of the Harvard Business School.

“I’m a bachelor,” Mr. Jenrette said in 2012, “so these houses are kind of like my children.”

Ms. Howell, of the Preservation Trust, said Mr. Jenrette had regarded Edgewater as his primary residence. He bought the estate from Mr. Vidal for $125,000; in 2012 it was estimated to be worth as much as $15 million.

It was, Mr. Jenrette said, “the great love of my life.”

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Renaissance Tapestries Are Out. But Today’s Are Having a Renaissance.


On Tuesday and Wednesday, the regional auctioneer Sworders sold the principal contents of North Mymms Park, a Jacobean estate 17 miles north of London that had formerly been the home of the British-American banker Walter Hayes Burns, brother-in-law of the financier John Pierpont Morgan. Most recently, the house has been owned by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which was putting its principal contents up for sale.

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“Red Carpet,” by Grayson Parry, was made in an edition of eight. The dealership that financed the works said they had sold out.

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Paragon Press

The second day of the auction began with an exceptional group of 19 antique tapestries that had hung in the house for more than 100 years, many of them gifts from Mr. Morgan. These included a partial set of five mid-16th-century Brussels tapestries depicting the “Labors of Hercules.”

In 1979, when the Burns family sold North Mymms Park and its contents, all 19 had been offered by Christie’s. The tapestries were then bought back by the estate’s next owner, to preserve the decorative scheme.

On Wednesday, the five “Labors” sold for a seemingly impressive total of 478,000 pounds with fees, or about $680,000, led by the £146,400 given for a tapestry of Hercules and Atlas. It was bought online by a London dealer, who acquired nine tapestries in the sale. But in 1979, that same partial set was sold by Christie’s for £104,000, equivalent to about $800,000 in today’s money.

An 18th-century Brussels tapestry of a village festival, also formerly owned by Mr. Morgan, sold for £9,760. At the Christie’s auction 40 years earlier, it achieved a top price of £28,000.

“They’ve gone down substantially,” said Penny Bingham, a specialist valuer whom Sworders consulted for the North Mymms Park auction.

“People want instant color, and they’re generally less interested in wall hangings and textiles,” she added, noting that potential buyers were concerned about tapestries’ colors fading.

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Weavers at Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh during the making of Chris Ofili’s tapestry “The Caged Bird’s Song.”

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Dovecot Studios

Paradoxically, just as antique tapestries have been falling out of collecting fashion, there has been a revival in tapestry as a medium for contemporary art. Digital innovation has allowed tapestries made on Jacquard machine looms to achieve unprecedented clarity of interpretation, and enterprises such as Factum Arte in Madrid and Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh are enabling artists to realize ambitious new projects in the historical, but ever-evolving, medium.

“Increased computing power means you can do things you couldn’t do before,” said Adam Lowe, the founder of Factum Arte, which facilitates and produces artworks using a range of new and established techniques. “Artists are getting really excited by tapestry and are trying to push what can be done with the medium,” added Mr. Lowe, who points out that the Jacquard loom’s early-19th-century punch-card technology prefigured modern computing.

Grayson Perry, Cornelia Parker, Carlos Garaicoa and Craigie Horsfield are among the artists Factum Arte has helped to make tapestries on the looms of Flanders Tapestries in Wielsbeke, Belgium.

“The looms have become so sophisticated in the last 10 years,” said Mr. Horsfield, who immerses himself in the painstaking process of turning a large-scale photograph into data, then into an even bigger, unique tapestry. “I can make it look exactly like a photo. It doesn’t look like a tapestry. It doesn’t have that materiality.”

In “Zoo, Oxford,” a monumental 2007 tapestry diptych showing a male and female rhinoceros gazing at each other across their pens, the artist went a stage further by using digitally programmed 3-D weaving techniques to simulate the skin of the animals. The 13-yard-wide work was acquired by the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, the Netherlands, after a 2017 exhibition devoted to the artist there. The purchase price was 220,000 euros, or $270,000 at current exchange rates, said Mr. Horsfield, who self-finances his tapestry projects.

“They’re so expensive to make,” he added, noting that the weaving alone of a single tapestry panel could cost more than €25,000.

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Tapestries were among recently auctioned items from North Mymms Park, a Jacobean house 17 miles north of London.

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Sworders

Mr. Perry’s much-exhibited tapestries satirizing contemporary Britain are financed by the London dealership Paragon Press. These have been selling steadily to museums and private collections at slightly lower prices, reflecting that, unlike Mr. Horsfield’s unique tapestries, they are machine-woven in editions. Of Mr. Perry’s 10 ambitious seven-yard-wide tapestries titled “The Battle of Britain,” eight have found buyers at prices up to £125,000, while the entire eight-piece edition of the more compact “Red Carpet” has sold at prices up to £65,000 each, according to Charles Booth-Clibborn, founder of Paragon Press.

“Big things are back,” Mr. Booth-Clibborn said, referring to the renewed commercial appeal of large contemporary tapestries now that “collectors are creating warehouse-style private museum spaces.”

Unique, hand-woven tapestries made today in the tradition of Leo X’s Sistine hangings are, by contrast, almost a different medium.

It took two and a half years for Dovecot Studios’ five master weavers to make Chris Ofili’s tapestry “The Caged Bird’s Song,” a one-off commission for the Clothworkers’ Company, an organization in the City of London that dates from the 16th century. The tapestry was exhibited last year at the National Gallery in the British capital, before its permanent installation in the company’s hall.

One of just two tapestry studios left in Britain, Dovecot would not divulge the cost of the commission, but it did say that just one meter, or close to a yard, of its tapestry costs £25,000 to weave. Mr. Ofili’s Trinidad-inspired landscape covers 20.7 square meters, or almost 223 square feet, implying a cost of more than £500,000 for a commission the company said would “support endangered skills and nurture talent.”

But how can you tell the difference between hand- and machine-woven tapestries, other than price?

“There’s more life to them, a bit more expression,” said Naomi Robertson, one of Dovecot’s master weavers, who chooses colors by eye and mixes dyes by hand. “We see ourselves in a 50-50 relationship with the artist. We’re expressing ourselves as we weave. We blend the colors and find the language to create the work.”

Tapestry is once again gaining value in the art world. But as with so much else in that world, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

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That Shaggy Mutt? At Dog Museums, Our Drooling Companions Are the Stars


Below are a few museums around the world devoted exclusively to our canine friends. At this rate, cats may start to wonder what’s up.

Dackelmuseum, Passau, Germany

Mr. Küblbeck and Oliver Storz have been collecting dachshund memorabilia for a quarter-century. But the bulk of the collection — about 3,500 items — was acquired from a Belgian musician who sold it because he was getting married, Mr. Storz said. An array of books, drawings and porcelain figurines are now crowded into overstuffed display cases.

One object of note: a Waldi, the first official Olympic mascot, created for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. (It’s a plush toy.) Dachshunds, which were bred in the Middle Ages to flush badgers out of their burrows, are the 13th most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club. Fans including Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein.

American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, Queeny Park, Mo.

Just in case Park Avenue didn’t already have enough dogs on display: Next year, the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog is moving from its current home in suburban St. Louis to a ground floor gallery space in the Kalikow building, in Midtown Manhattan. The museum has more than 700 works of art, including paintings, porcelain figurines and sculptures, many donated to the museum by members of the club.

Alan Fausel, the club’s director of cultural resources, said the new museum would focus more on education and children’s programming. “We want to get the museum to a different audience,” he said. “We want to tell the story of the dog, and we can do that through our collection.”

Barryland, Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard, Matigny, Switzerland

Where else would one find a museum to honor the St. Bernard? Matigny is situated at the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Pennine Alps, where for centuries travelers have been greeted by the loyal dogs, known for their prowess in avalanche rescues. Monks bred St. Bernards in the late 17th century for work and to aid travelers overwhelmed by harsh winter conditions.

The museum, founded in 2006, is next to a Roman amphitheater and houses portrayals of the creatures in literature, art and culture. The main attraction, though, might be the dogs themselves, which can be petted and observed in their kennels on the first floor.

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Canines on display at the Museum of Dog in North Adams, Mass. It opened in March.

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Museum of Dog

Dog Collar Museum, Leeds Castle, Kent, England

In 1977, Gertrude Hunt donated a collection of more than 60 dog collars to the Leeds Castle Foundation in memory of her husband, John Hunt, an antiques dealer and scholar of Irish history. They became the centerpiece of a collection that includes more than 130 rare collars from the late 15th to the 19th century. The oldest is a Spanish mastiff’s iron collar, worn to protect dogs against bears and wolves that roamed the European countryside.

Collars from the medieval era are studded with spikes and barbed metal. Later, in the 1800s, canine neckwear became more ornate as more dogs moved indoors and became companions and pets. Pieces from the collection include an intricate gilded collar from the Baroque period, a set of engraved silver collars from the 19th century, and a display of neckwear with owners’ markings. More modern collars are laden with beads and gemstones.

Museum of Dog, North Adams, Mass.

David York loves pooches a lot. So much so, in fact, that he opened a dog museum last month in the Berkshires. For the Museum of Dog, situated in a historic building near the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Mr. York has assembled more than 180 pieces of art, including works by Mary Engel, a sculptor from Athens, Ga., and William Wegman, whose popular photographs of his Weimaraners are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Metal dog collars are prized collectibles among dog lovers; Mr. York has two from the 1800s. Most of the museum’s collection is owned by Mr. York, a rescue dog advocate. But he said the museum would also feature work by visiting artists. The first is Jesse Freidin, a fine art photographer who takes pictures of — what else? — dogs.

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