Julius Westheimer

1916 - 2005

Financial adviser in print and on the air

Broker brought energy, charm to local, national broadcasts

September 01, 2005|By Albert Sehlstedt Jr. and David Michael Ettlin | Albert Sehlstedt Jr. and David Michael Ettlin,SUN STAFF

Julius M. Westheimer, a Baltimore investment banker who became the region's best-known financial adviser as an effervescent analyst for newspapers, radio and television, died late yesterday afternoon at his Pikesville home.

Mr. Westhimer would have celebrated his 89th birthday Tuesday. He had undergone surgery two weeks ago for an abdominal obstruction but appeared to be recovering well, said his wife of 19 years, the former Dorrit Feuerstein Kohn.

She said he had been planning a visit to the studio of WYPR-FM tomorrow to tape segments for his daily commentaries on the station - his broadcast home after a long stint at WBAL-TV and radio. He also had a column in The Sun and The Evening Sun for nearly a quarter-century.

Small of stature but exhibiting boundless energy and intense curiosity, the Baltimore-born Mr. Westheimer crammed into one lifetime a measure of joie de vivre that probably would have delighted any two or three average human beings.

As a boy, he published a neighborhood newspaper in Pikesville, and he graduated with honors from Dartmouth College while editing the campus paper and playing varsity lacrosse. He served in the Army Air Forces in World War II.

He became president of his family's department store but quit to become a stockbroker. He traveled around the world, and still found time to organize and direct charitable campaigns in his hometown.

Once asked how he managed to cram considerable activity into any given day, he replied: "I get started very early. I'm a morning person. I have also found that you find time for what you want to find time for."

For many years, he hopped out of bed daily at 4:30 a.m. and jogged 3 miles (until his doctors demanded in later life that he slow to a walk).

He was equally adept in another pursuit - newspaper writing.

"He can bat out a story as fast as any newspaperman," Jesse Glasgow, former financial editor of The Sun, once remarked. Mr. Westheimer wrote a regular financial column, "Ticker," along with many feature articles.

His columns in this newspaper ran from Feb. 22, 1977, to Dec. 28, 2001, and in his farewell, Mr. Westheimer took measures of the growth of the Dow Jones Industrial average over that span (939.26 to 10,131.31) and his own verbal output (2,300 columns and about 2 million words).

And he gave a synopsis of the advice they often brought home: "Go to professionals, diversify (remember Enron?), stick to quality, invest for the long pull, don't let every headline throw you off course and don't `time' the market. The time to invest money is when you have it."

"Julius was a legend in the investment business," Bill Miller, chief executive of Legg Mason Capital Management, said last night. "He gave of himself to the local community in a way very few others in the investment community did."

Mr. Miller said he watched in awe as Mr. Westheimer kept working into his late 80s.

"He loved it, so he continued all the way to the end - never stopped, never retired or went in another direction. I always wondered, at his age, did he ever want to quit or do something else? The answer was no."

Mr. Westheimer began his peripatetic life on Sept. 6, 1916, when he was born to Milton F. Westheimer and Helen Gutman Westheimer. His father was a Baltimore investment banker and his mother the daughter of Julius Gutman, a German immigrant who in 1877 founded the downtown department store that bore his name.

Young Julius attended Park School in Baltimore, then went to Dartmouth, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude in 1938.

Though graduating from college in the midst of the Depression, he managed to get a $35-a-week job in the toy department at Macy's in New York, where he stayed for two years while on the company's executive training ladder.

Then he married the girl he had first spied at the Park School when he was 16 and she was 13. She was Ernestine Hartheimer of Baltimore who, like her husband, was a first-rate student, good athlete (field hockey) and fond of travel.

Mrs. Westheimer, who bore two daughters, died in 1985.

They had been married in 1940, the same year Mr. Westheimer returned to Baltimore to work at his grandfather's department store.

His department store career lasted 23 years, and "I despised every minute of it," he said years later in an interview with the Baltimore Jewish Times.

"I just wasn't cut out for the retail business," he remarked on another occasion.

Mr. Westheimer rose to president of the company, but after merging Gutman's with the Brager-Eisenberg department store, he left retailing and went to work in 1961 for the Baltimore investment house of Baker Watts & Co., now Ferris Baker Watts.

He spent more than three decades with the company, analyzing business and financial trends for his stock-purchasing clients.

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