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AGF co-founder Goldring leaves legacy of innovation

What Henry Ford did for cars, or Ted Rogers did in cable, Warren Goldring brought to the world of Canadian money management.

The mutual fund pioneer and co-founder of AGF Management, AGF.B passed away yesterday at the age of 81.

Mr. Goldring brought mutual funds to the masses by launching the first U.S. equity fund into the domestic market more than 50 years ago.

His simple concept was to make Bay Street's high-end portfolio management skills available to Main Street investors.

It all started in 1957, when Mr. Goldring and business partner Allan Manford launched what they called American Growth Fund - that's where AGF came from.

The fund proved a hit, and the fledgling company was able to exploit this success by creating the first domestic China equity fund. AGF also created a bestseller with a Japan stock fund and other domestic innovations such as wrap programs, which see investors buy a variety of funds bundled up with one label.

AGF now has more than one million clients, a $766-million market capitalization, and manages $34.5-billion.

Along with building AGF as a family-controlled public company, Mr. Goldring played a central role in the domestic mutual fund industry.

His work on rules, for example, brought greater transparency and accountability to the sector. In the 1960s, he was part of an Ontario Attorney-General's committee that drafted much of today's securities regulation. He also served as head of two major industry groups, the Investment Funds Institute of Canada and the Toronto Society of Financial Analysts.

He retired from an active role at AGF a decade ago, handing the reins to son Blake Goldring, who said yesterday in a news release that Warren Goldring's "legacy will live on in the enduring commitment we have at AGF to helping Canadian investors succeed."

Mr. Goldring leaves his wife of 55 years, Barbara, his sons Blake and Bryce and daughters Jane and Judy (who is also an AGF executive), as well as 11 grandchildren. In addition to his industry work, Mr. Goldring was a generous philanthropist, supporting his alma mater, the University of Toronto, the World Wildlife Fund and the United Way.

With succession long since settled at AGF, Mr. Goldring's passing is not expected to result in any changes at the mutual fund company he built. Dundee Securities analyst John Aiken published a well-crafted report yesterday that opened with the line: "We wish to send our condolences to the Goldring family and those who were touched by Mr. Goldring, particularly current and former employees of AGF."

Then Mr. Aiken looked at what the passage of a pioneer in the sector could mean to the mid-tier company in a consolidating sector.

"We cannot ignore the fact that some market participants may believe that this occurrence could lead to the sale of AGF. We do not believe that this is the case and do not anticipate any change in control in the near term," Mr. Aiken said. "While some modest restructuring may occur, we do not believe that a wholesale change is in the offing, nor will it likely be directly related to the passing of Mr. Goldring."

A Toronto native, Mr. Goldring started his career with Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada in Montreal, where he was an analyst, charged with reviewing foreign investment opportunities. He left the insurer and spent 16 years at brokerage house Fry & Co. before founding AGF.

His specialty at the money manager was running bond funds, and in the firm's early days he ran AGF's fixed-income operations. Mr. Goldring became president of AGF in 1975 and chairman in 1983.

© 2007 The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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