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Duke Chapman Jr., made mark on Wall St. in mergers

NEW YORK — Alger “Duke” Chapman Jr., who led Shearson Hammill & Co. through its merger into Sanford Weill’s Hayden Stone Inc. in 1974, a milestone in the growth of finance industry mega-companies, has died. He was 81.

He died Monday at St. Vincent Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., where he had retired, said his son Sam. The cause was heart failure.

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In a career that included posts at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Mr. Chapman spent 20 years as an executive at the Wall Street brokerage firm that was Shearson Hammill & Co. when he arrived and part of American Express Co. by the time he left. In the interim, according to his son, he tended to the human toll of the mergers and acquisitions that made Weill a legend in the field.

“He was always the nice end of what Sandy was up to,” Sam Chapman said Tuesday. “Whenever they merged and they had to lay off people, my dad was the one who got handed the gun and he stayed up all night finding people new jobs.”

Weill, in an interview Tuesday, called Mr. Chapman a wonderful person who had earned his trust as a business partner.

“I think Duke was really a terrific person who cared about his company, who cared about the people who worked for him,” Weill said. “I think that he did the best job that could have been done for his company in doing the merger with us.”

First, as Shearson’s president and chief executive officer, Mr. Chapman negotiated as an equal with Weill, who was chairman of Hayden Stone.

As Weill recalled in his memoir, “The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy” (2006), he “put out feelers’’ to Mr. Chapman about a sale in 1973 and Mr. Chapman finally replied in April 1974.

“Meeting in a remote restaurant in Little Italy — a place reputed to attract Mafia bosses — Duke and I felt each other out,” Weill wrote in the memoir, co-written by Judah S. Kraushaar. “Shearson’s franchise remained solid in most respects but its shortage of capital had begun to squeeze the company.”

“I’m sure Duke and his partners would have preferred to remain independent,” Weill recalled. “Once again, though, one of the industry’s major firms had found itself in a corner with all too few options.”

Weill emerged as chairman and CEO of the combined firm, Shearson Hayden Stone Inc., while Mr. Chapman became co-chairman and chief operating officer. The firm became Shearson Loeb Rhoades as a result of further mergers, and in 1981, Weill sold it to American Express for about $930 million.

Mr. Chapman stayed on, developing a private banking network as vice chairman of American Express International Bank. He left in 1986 to be chairman and chief executive of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Weill, after quitting American Express in 1985, completed a series of takeovers to create Travelers Group Inc., which merged with Citibank in 1998 to form Citigroup.

Alger Baldwin Chapman Jr. was born in Portland, Maine. His father was an adviser to Governor Thomas Dewey of New York and served as CEO of Beech-Nut Life Savers Inc.

He graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and from Columbia University Law School.

In 1961, after working for the SEC, he became vice president for legal, governmental, and civic affairs at the New York Stock Exchange, according to a biography prepared by his son. He joined Shearson Hammill in 1966.

Following his retirement from the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Mr. Chapman in 1998 became vice chairman of investment banking and capital markets in Chicago for Amsterdam-based ABN-AMRO Inc. He retired in 2004.

His son Sam is CEO of Chicago-based Empower Public Relations and is married to sex therapist Laura Berman, known as “Dr. Laura.” He also leaves his wife, Beatrice Bishop Chapman; two sisters, Carol Whitehouse and Hilda Dugan; three other sons, Alger, ­Andrew, and Henry; and five grandchildren.

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