Leo O'Neill, a member of the Hobart Class of 1962, died April 20 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital due to complications from cancer. His obituary, posted on the Standard and Poor's Web site, is below. A feature on him in the April 22 Finger Lakes Times, quoting President Mark Gearan, Shari Best '62, John Norvell '66, and Georgia Jones '04, is also available.
Leo C. O'Neill, Recently Retired President of Standard & Poor's, Dies at Age 64
April 20, 2004 12:00 AM EDT
New York, N.Y., April 20, 2004 — Leo C. O'Neill, a key executive in expanding Standard & Poor's growth and influence in the global capital markets, died this morning at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital due to complications from cancer. He recently retired as president of Standard & Poor's, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, following an outstanding 36-year career. He was 64 and lived in New York City.
Harold McGraw III, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of The McGraw-Hill Companies, said: “Leo was an exceptional leader and key participant in the outstanding growth and success of Standard & Poor's. His recognition of the key trends driving the financial markets—globalization, privatization, disintermediation and securitization—positioned Standard & Poor's as the benchmark provider of ratings, indices, risk evaluations and research on a global basis. Most importantly, Leo's commitment to integrity, excellence and independence, which are bedrock qualities of all our franchises, serve as an example for current and future generations. His remarkable professional commitment, keen insight and warm personal style will be deeply missed by everyone associated with our business.”
Throughout his career, Mr. O'Neill balanced a deep commitment to analytical independence and objectivity with the business imperative to continually improve products and practices for customers. Under his direction, Standard & Poor's was the first rating agency to publish its ratings criteria; the first to launch a global network of offices (now covering 20 countries with more than 5,000 employees); and the first to make structured finance a separate ratings discipline. He also led the development of a a comprehensive program to recruit, train and develop top-flight analytical talent. He was inducted into the Fixed Income Analysts Society Hall of Fame in 2003.
Mr. O'Neill joined Standard & Poor's as an equity analyst in 1968 and rose through the ranks to become president of all Standard & Poor's businesses in 1999. He was appointed vice president, corporate finance and chairman of the Corporate Bond Rating Board in 1975. In 1981, he was named group vice president, Debt Rating Services, which encompassed all corporate, municipal and international rating activities. He rose to executive managing director in 1984, when the company initiated its global expansion by opening its first international office in London. He was appointed president and chief ratings officer of Standard & Poor's Ratings Services in 1989. He was succeeded as president of Standard & Poor's on April 19th by Kathleen A. Corbet, formerly a top executive at Alliance Capital Management.
When both the fixed income and equity sectors of Standard & Poor's came under Mr. O'Neill's stewardship in 1999, he reinforced a strong commitment to independent analysis and research. During his tenure, Standard & Poor's substantially increased the coverage and global reach of its equity research capabilities, index business, and data coverage of companies and funds. In addition, Standard & Poor's purchase of the corporate valuation business of Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2002 enabled it to become a leading provider of valuation analysis and research related to corporate restructurings and mergers and acquisitions.
Mr. O'Neill was active in various community and civic organizations. These included Scenic Hudson, an environmental group dedicated to improving the quality of life in the New York's Hudson River Valley area; The Battery Conservancy, working to revitalize the Battery Park area; and the Alliance for Downtown New York, which is working to improve the economic well-being of lower Manhattan.
He led Standard & Poor's efforts to recover from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which occurred only blocks from its 55 Water Street headquarters. He also maintained an active relationship with his alma mater, Hobart College, which awarded him its Alumni Association Medal of Excellence in 1995.
Mr. O'Neill was born in Geneva, N.Y. He attended Hobart College, where he received his bachelor's degree in Economics and Political Science in 1962. He is survived by his wife, Kip Bleakley O'Neill, and his children Brynn Van Schaick of Clayton, NC, Brendan O'Neill of Jackson, WY and Matthew O'Neill of New York City, his step-children Andrea Moriarty of Poughkeepsie, NY and David Bleakley of Poughkeepsie, NY, and five grandchildren. Mr. O'Neill is also survived by his mother, Eleanor O'Neill of Geneva, NY, his brother, James O'Neill of Geneva, NY, and sisters JoAnne Swenson of Fabius, NY, Theresa Felice of San Diego, CA, and Mary Cluff of Phoenix, AZ.