Raymond James Financial chief executive officer Tom James on Monday chose Paul Reilly, a company outsider but a hometown boy, to succeed him.
Filling James' shoes is no easy task. James routinely is voted tops among area business leaders in an annual St. Petersburg Times survey and is a major area philanthropist. And he's handing stewardship of Raymond James to Reilly during one of the more perilous economic times since the Depression.
The Tom James throne is the closest thing the Tampa Bay area has to business royalty. The publicly traded company boasts the highest profile among area corporations, thanks in large part to the firm's decision years ago to buy the naming rights to Raymond James Stadium, home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the site just 30 days ago of this year's Super Bowl.
But Reilly, 54, is not arriving without experience. He has served as a director on the Raymond James board since 2005 and was chairman of the board's audit committee for the past year.
Reilly grew up in St. Petersburg and is executive chairman of the Korn/Ferry International executive search firm. Earlier, he was CEO at KPMG International, an advisory firm of more than 100,000 employees with annual revenue of $12 billion.
Reilly will join Raymond James Financial as president on May 1. After one year, Reilly will succeed James, 66, as CEO. James will continue to work for the firm full time as executive chairman of the board.
Raymond James was co-founded by Tom James' father, making Reilly the first CEO outside the family to run the investment firm. Neither James nor Reilly was available for comment Monday, but James offered some thoughts in a statement.
"Because he grew up in St. Petersburg, I have known Paul and his family since he was a young tennis player," James said. "Since then, he has demonstrated success in academia and international business, as well as, in recent years, as a public company CEO."
James said he has had the opportunity to observe Reilly's business skills in action as a company director. James praised Reilly's intellect, financial insight, decisionmaking skills, objectivity and "a commitment" to the firm's values and tenets.
Reilly said Raymond James' conservative management practices and principles, commitment to clients and culture of service help distinguish the firm from others in the industry. The firm's "relatively steady performance during these challenging economic times has validated its approach and is another reason why it continues to be so well respected," he said.
Reilly was appointed a director of Raymond James over the objections of Institutional Shareholder Services. The independent adviser to investor groups didn't think Reilly fit the mold of an independent director after his firm, Korn/Ferry, was paid $215,000 by Raymond James for executive search fees.
Raymond James' current president, Chet Helck, will retain the role of chief operating officer after Reilly comes on board.
Before his roles at Korn/Ferry and KPMG, the soft-spoken Reilly ran Peat Marwick's local real estate consulting business. He was a consultant and civic leader behind downtown redevelopment during the Bay Plaza era of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also chaired the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and was an early supporter for a St. Petersburg building now called Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Reilly graduated from St. Petersburg's Bishop Barry High School, the predecessor to St. Petersburg Catholic. He earned an MBA at the University of Notre Dame.
Shares in Raymond James closed Monday at $13.51, down from a 52-week high of $38.25. As Wall Street-related financial firms go these difficult days, that's a pretty good showing.
Information from staff writers Mark Albright and Jeff Harrington was used in this column. Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com.