At age 80, Byron Wien compiled “20 life lessons”from a long career as a Wall Street fortune teller. “Never retire” was number 20. “If you work forever, you can live forever,” he explained. “I know there is plenty of biological evidence against this theory, but I follow it anyway.”
Wien (pronounced ween) did not surpass biology. But when he died on October 25, at age 90, he was still engrossed daily in reading the economic tea leaves of his most recent employer, the private equity firm Blackstone. He continued to ask politicians, central bankers and financial titans around the world for information to help shape his company’s strategic reporting. And if he felt that his own colleagues weren’t picking his brain enough or adding him to enough meetings, he told them that he had enough bandwidth.
“He had a thirst for knowledge and was probably the most curious individual I’ve ever met,” said Joan Solotar, global head of Blackstone’s private wealth division, who was Wien’s boss.
“I had the pleasure of giving Byron his annual review,” she added in an interview, “and he would sit down and ask me the same question every year: ‘Tell me what I can do better.’”
Wien, a go-to quote provider for financial news media and a conference speaker who could fill the spot, was for 38 years the author or co-author of a popular annual forecast, “Ten Surprises,” that anticipated trends in markets. , politics and world economies.
While some predicted an economic disaster following the election of Donald J. Trump, Wien’s bullish call in January 2017 for a 12 percent rise in the S&P 500 was spot on.
But not all his predictions were. In January 2016, he foretold that Hillary Clinton would defeat Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in that year’s presidential race. This year, predicted a ceasefire in Ukraine and a drop in oil prices to $50 a barrel. (It was more like $80.)
He said his win-loss record is beside the point; he wanted to “extend people’s thinking,” as he put it.
One place the list wasn’t popular was his own home. “My wife hopes that I will leave this as soon as possible,” Mr. Wien told the New York Times in 2001. “While people are enjoying the holidays, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I go into a complete panic and work very hard to develop these.”
Before joining Blackstone, Wien spent 21 years as Morgan Stanley’s chief U.S. strategist, where he oversaw a 50-stock model portfolio that was widely followed by investors. First Call, a financial news service, named him the most read analyst of 1988. Smart Money magazine named him Wall Street’s number one strategist in 1990.
For Blackstone, which he joined in 2009, Wien also published takeaway of discussions he hosted during summer lunches with famous investors like George Soros at his home in Wainscott, New York, a village on the East End of Long Island. (He also had a house in Manhattan.) He led those discussions, which he called “reference lunches,” like a schoolteacher.
“You would pose a question and call people over or they would raise their hand and there would be a group discussion, rather than someone stating their point of view,” Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman of Blackstone, said in an email. “It was a master class for the top people on Wall Street.”
Byron Richard Wien was born on February 14, 1933 in Chicago. His father, Max Wien, was a doctor and died when Byron was 9, and his mother, Anne (Lurie) Wien, died when he was 15. His mother’s sister took him in until he graduated from Senn High School in Chicago.
While he was a senior there, a counselor called him and told him that a Harvard admissions officer was passing through Chicago and that the officer had asked to interview a bright student at the school.
“Then he said, ‘You are our choice, and when you go there, don’t make a fool of yourself,’” Mr. Wien later wrote. “I went to Harvard and that changed my life.”
He graduated in 1954 and attended Harvard Business School, graduating in 1956.
Wien began his career on Wall Street at a money management firm in the mid-1960s and eventually joined Morgan Stanley in 1985 as a strategist for U.S. markets. The job required writing a weekly essay and traveling around the world. In interviews before being hired, he was repeatedly told that he would be perfect for the job, he wrote in a reminiscence for The Times in 2011.
“I later found out I was the seventh person they courted with that line,” he wrote.
To differentiate himself from other strategists, he came up with the idea of putting together an annual list of surprising predictions, but, according to himself, Morgan Stanley was initially not enthusiastic about the idea.
“They said, ‘Byron, you could get all 10 wrong and you’d embarrass the company and humiliate yourself. Frankly, we don’t give a damn about his humiliation, but we don’t want the company to be embarrassed,’” he later recalled.
After more than two decades at Morgan Stanley, Wien joined Pequot Capital Management, a hedge fund, where he worked until it closed its doors in 2009.
Blackstone hired him when he was 76 and named him vice president of private wealth solutions, a group that serves financial advisors and their high-net-worth clients. “He may have been 76 years old, but he was tireless,” Schwarzman said. “He would go anywhere. If you put him in front of a group, he was like magic: very perceptive and infinitely patient.”
Mr. Wien’s first marriage ended in divorce. In 1978 he married Anita Volz, president of the Observatory Group, an economic consulting firm. She survives him. He died in Southampton, New York.
Mr. Wien compiled your list of life lessons, learned over its first eight decades, in 2012, publishing it on Blackstone’s website. He offered advice like “read all the time,” “travel a lot,” and “work hard.”
“The hard way is always the right way,” said number 4. “Never take shortcuts, except when driving home from the Hamptons. Shortcuts can be interpreted as carelessness, a career killer.”