When Sean Healey was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, the investment executive swiftly set about raising tens of millions of dollars to find a cure while recognizing the slim odds that one could be discovered in time to save him.
After a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Healey died this week, Affiliated Managers Group, the investment company he led for more than a decade, said in a statement.
Healey, who was 59, had helped build AMG from a small asset management firm on the North Shore to a powerhouse with dozens of affiliated fund managers and more than $600 billion in assets under management. After his diagnosis, Healey also played a key role in launching an ALS research center at Mass. General Hospital that bears his name.
AMG relocated its headquarters from Beverly to West Palm Beach, Fla., nearly six years ago, but maintains a major office in the North Shore community.
“Sean was my friend, mentor, and an imitable leader, always exhibiting an indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit and unwavering dedication to friends, colleagues and Affiliate partners,” AMG chief executive Jay Horgen said in a prepared statement.
During much of his time in Massachusetts, Healey was involved in philanthropic circles and, through his close ties to the Republican party at the time, in political circles as well.
Healey leaves his wife, Amy Broch, with whom he had one daughter, and two grown children from his previous marriage to Kerry Healey, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts who later served as president of Babson College.
AMG disclosed Healey’s condition in May 2018, when Healey stepped down from the CEO’s role that he had held for 13 years. He became executive chairman of the company, and turned to devote much of his time to fighting the rare neurodegenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
After the diagnosis, Healey would return to the Boston area for treatments at Mass. General Hospital and to lay the groundwork for the Sean M. Healey and AMG Center for ALS at the hospital, a center led by Dr. Merit Cudkowicz. The center was launched in November 2018, and funded by $40-million-plus in donations. The center’s goal is to coordinate research efforts to discover better ways to treat — and hopefully cure — the fatal disease.
Healey kicked in at least $5 million of his own money, and AMG agreed to contribute $20 million in matching funds. Friends, family members, AMG colleagues, and business partners also donated at least $15 million.
Through his work with the center over the past two years, Healey got to know many of the leading ALS researchers around the world. Cudkowicz described Healey as a skilled convener.
“He became a good friend and a partner in this fight against ALS,” Cudkowicz said in an interview. “He’s a remarkable man. It wasn’t just about giving money. It was his intellect, it was his business acumen.”
Cudkowicz said she remains hopeful that Healey’s lasting legacy will be nothing less than a cure for ALS.
“I don’t know how long it will take," Cudkowicz said. “But we’re not going to give up.”
Healey knew his life expectancy was short when he was diagnosed — maybe three to five years.
“I saw the opportunity to really make a difference,” Healey told the Globe in 2018. “I have hope but no expectation that what we will do with the center will benefit me personally. But I want to do my part and fight back against the disease in a way that will benefit others.”