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Boston Capital

Kathleen Gaffney finds new home at Eaton Vance

These were Kathleen Gaffney’s simple options: a very comfortable investment career where she had worked for 28 years or the opportunity to step out of a shadow.

Gaffney decided to take a walk, a half-mile journey straight up Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway from her old office at Loomis Sayles & Co. to the headquarters of Eaton Vance Corp.

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This is where I met her for lunch the other day, about three weeks after she made that change.

Gaffney spent many years as part of a team working with Dan Fuss, the famous fixed-income money manager at Loomis Sayles.

She was highly regarded and well known around the investment world — helping manage more than $80 billion overall and one of the industry’s best-performing bond funds. But no one was confused about the fact that Fuss, 79, was the star attraction at Loomis and had no plans to leave.

Eaton Vance executives didn’t recruit Gaffney out of the blue. She made it known she was thinking about a change. The reason she made that decision, at that time, wasn’t complicated.

“I was 50,” she says. “I don’t see Dan going anywhere. I knew from early on his plan was to work and work and work.”

She wanted the chance to run her own funds and build a track record with her name on it. How much longer could she wait for a chance to do that?

“If I waited five more years? You need that time to build something. I’ve got that short runway,” she says.

“But it’s long enough. As much as I respect Dan and understand why he wants to continue, the only way to find out what I can do is to do it myself. Life is too short if you’re not grasping the opportunities that are at hand,” she adds.

Gaffney isn’t running anything yet.

Eaton Vance expects to roll out new products for institutions and mutual fund investors soon, probably early next year. They will focus on her multisector bond specialty — a kind of go-anywhere strategy that tends to be a little riskier than Eaton Vance’s best-known offerings in municipal debt and bank loans.

Gaffney is about to do that at a time when most bond prices are sky-high. I asked her if that was like starting a new stock fund in 1999. She didn’t see it that way.

Her view: Many bonds are expensive, but fixed-income investments won’t reverse course uniformly in the future.

Pockets of opportunity, in areas such as convertible bonds, should be profitable for investors like her.

One sure thing: Kathleen Gaffney will have her own track record soon enough.

.   .   .

Boston investment bankers who advised the owners of the Planet Fitness workout empire say they got stiffed for more than $4 million in fees when a deal was struck to sell the company.

America’s Growth Capital received $50,000 in an initial retainer when it was hired over the summer by the Newington, N.H., company that owns or franchises more than 550 fitness centers across the country.

It was owed about $4 million more as a result of an agreement to sell the business for $505 million, according to a lawsuit filed by the investment advisers in US District Court in Boston.

“When great deals get done like this, you want everything to come out very positively,” says Ben Howe, president of American Growth Capital. “This is tough.”

But not unprecedented. American Growth went to court twice in 2009 alleging it had not been paid for its services in business deals. Both cases were settled within months.

I was unable to reach attorneys for the group that sold Planet Fitness. Ropes & Gray represented the company in the sale. A lawyer there did not return a call Thursday.

.   .   .

Bob Sheridan will punch out Monday as chief executive of Savings Bank Life Insurance of Woburn, a job he’s held for 20 years.

SBLI has grown from a single-state business into a nationwide insurer during Sheridan’s tenure.

A couple of impressive statistics: SBLI’s annual sales have grew 676 percent between 1992 and last year. The company’s total insurance in force has expanded by 839 percent over the same period.

Sheridan, 64, has been honored as the “man of the year” at more local charities than I can count in the past year.

He’ll remain a director on the boards at SBLI, Suffolk University, and several Boston-area nonprofits.

Steven Syre is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at syre@globe.com.
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