Robert Stanger was a man who made a difference.
Bob Stanger, 65, who died in Mexico in April, began
as modestly as it gets-publishing his first issues of The Stanger
Report, the monthly newsletter on direct participation investments that
he personally authored, from a bedroom in his home.
But his experience and abilities were anything but modest. He left a successful 17-year career on Wall Street to form Robert A. Stanger & Co. in Monmouth County, N.J., in 1978. From the start he had an almost uncanny ability, both in writing and in conversation, to go straight to the essence of an issue, to accurately assess it, and then to transform the complex into simple explanations while generating a totally unexpected solution. Within five years, virtually every securities brokerage office in the United States carried a copy of The Stanger Report. It became known as the "Bible" of direct participation investments.
Stanger's unheralded mission was to improve the quality of limited partnerships and other direct investments, for the sake of investors and the industry itself. To that end, he brought sophisticated securities rating and research to this emerging industry. Stanger originated the first performance studies, comparing the investment success of more than 600 oil and gas programs-an act that did not ingratiate him with some of the more lackluster sponsors. He did not expect Stanger's Drilling Fund Yearbook to be a raging commercial success, but he wanted to bring more accountability to the industry. He introduced the first product ratings. His "Investor Share Ranking" was a tool that enabled direct comparison of fees from the chaos of undecipherable program structures.
To foster better decision-making by investors and investment advisors, Stanger invented a host of analytical tools specifically for direct participation investments. He published procedures for product due diligence. He provided guidance in countless articles, authored books and produced educational courses for the College of Financial Planning and the American Society of Certified Public Accountants. The methodologies he created became the standard for a generation of brokerage industry due diligence officers.
Stanger also helped organize the direct investment industry. He created "The Forum," the first annual conclaves of CEOs and industry leaders designed to address the challenges facing the direct investment industry and improve its products. Stanger saw the need for political action and organized the Investment Partnership Association (later renamed the Investment Program Association).
By the mid-1980s Stanger was recognized as the nation's pre-eminent expert on limited partnerships. He was featured on the cover of Money Magazine. He appeared on Wall Street Week. He was the "go to" man for the financial press when writing about the industry. The best and brightest came to know Stanger as one of the premier creative intellects in the direct investment community.
New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley sought his input on the Bradley-Gephardt Tax Reform Bill. Stanger was called upon to help NASAA assess the fee guidelines for direct participation programs. He was asked to testify before Congress, and gave advice to federal and state regulatory agencies.
Bob Stanger's vision and creativity helped carry his company and many of the nation's most noted investment managers through a three-decade rollercoaster ride spanning both bust and boom times. And when bust came in the late 1980s to limited partnerships, Stanger confronted it, while remaining committed to the industry. While he knew that macroeconomic forces were the primary culprits in the decimation of the real estate and oil and gas industries, he also spoke out against the abuses. He published a "Hit List" of deals to avoid. He helped author the NASD's rollup rules to protect investors in partnership consolidations. He worked to have the industry provide more accurate valuations to investors, while arguing for improved fee structures. And when the "re-birth" of the real estate industry occurred in the early 1990s, Stanger's company was providing financial advisory and investment banking services in more than $20 billion of real estate mergers and consolidations which ushered in a new generation of publicly traded REITs.
But there was another side to Bob Stanger that many may not have known. He was in some ways an anachronism-a renaissance man trapped in the 20th century. His talents were enviable and seemed almost boundless. Take athletics. To see him, you would not imagine Bob Stanger as a pole vaulter-yet he was an accomplished one as a young man. As an adult he was a skier and a single-digit handicap golfer. Bob was an accomplished pianist. The book de jour in his briefcase was never predictable-history, politics, science. A voracious reader, he was always interested and informed.
In addition to achieving visible successes, Stanger quietly influenced for the better the lives of scores of employees. He was a valued mentor to many aspiring professionals, helping develop their skills and confidence while under his employ, and generously helping them move on to greater success. He took a personal interest in every employee-from receptionist to managing director. Everyone was respected for his or her contribution. It's a reflection on his character and the environment he created that more than half of the people currently employed in his company, based in Shrewsbury, N.J., have been there for more than 20 years.
In short, Bob Stanger was a trusted counselor and friend to all whose life he touched. His leadership and vision helped many achieve greater things for themselves, their families, and the industry than any one could have imagined.