Robert Wilson

Age 88 Businessman, financial adviser counseled Rockefeller family, served as president of two investment firms.

July 22, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Robert J.M. Wilson, former president of Adams Express Co. and of Petroleum & Resources Corp., who as a youth participated in the historic Fahnestock Expedition to the South Pacific, died of pneumonia Wednesday at the Charlestown Retirement Community. He was 88.

Mr. Wilson was born in Millbrook, N.Y., and was raised in Greenwich, Conn., and Rumson, N.J. He was a 1938 graduate of the Choate School and earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at Yale University in 1942.

"Instead of attending his freshman year at Yale, he joined a yearlong expedition to the South Seas on the Fahnestock Expedition," said his daughter, Olivia Wilson Welbourn of Owings Mills.

The expedition began in February 1940, when brothers Bruce and Sheridan Fahnestock and a 17 member crew departed from New York Harbor aboard the Director II, a three-masted, 137-foot schooner, for the South Pacific.

During the next nine months, they visited American Samoa, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Australia, recording in film and on records native music and dance and collecting bird specimens for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

"The recordings brought back from the expedition were the first electronic recordings made in Oceania and are among the last field recordings made there before World War II changed the ancient cultures of the region forever," Mrs. Welbourn said.

Fearful of a mainland attack by the Japanese, the Australian Navy confiscated the Director II's charts. Forced to use charts that were out of date, the vessel struck the Great Barrier Reef and sank in the late fall of 1940.

From 1942 to 1946, Mr. Wilson served as a captain in the Army Transportation Corps in the South Pacific and was in charge of small ships that transported military supplies.

He returned to New York City and went to work as a security analyst for Union Securities Corp. In 1949, he became a senior analyst for the Tricontinental Corp., a diversified closed-end investment management company.

Mr. Wilson was president of the Surveyor Fund from 1963 to 1972, when he became a senior financial adviser to the Rockefeller family. In 1975, Mr. Wilson became president of Adams Express Co. and of Petroleum & Resources Corp., and the next year, relocated the two investment management companies to Baltimore from New York City.

Mr. Wilson was president of both companies until retiring in 1986. He was a director of both companies from 1975 until 2006.

"Bob brought many years of investment experience to Adams Express Co., and it meshed extremely well with the company's investment philosophy," said Joseph M. Truta, current president of Adams Express Co.

"He was very affable man and a mentor who was willing to share his investment wisdom," Mr. Truta said. "He always stressed prudence."

He was a member of the Society of Security Analysts and was a member and former chairman of the Association of Publicly Traded Investment Companies. He also had been a member of the advisory investment committee of the Maryland State Retirement Systems.

Mr. Wilson, who had lived in Ardsley-on-Hudson, N.Y., and Gibson Island, had lived at the retirement community for the past five years.

Mr. Wilson, who enjoyed sailing, was a former member of the Gibson Island Club, Shelter Island Yacht Club and the New York Yacht Club. He had also been a member of the Maryland Club.

At Mr. Wilson's request, no services will be held.

Also surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Yvette Laneres; two sons, R.J. Montgomery Wilson Jr. of Reading, Mass., and Geoffrey L. Wilson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and six grandchildren.

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