Continental Cablevision

A fond farewell to a bigtime banking hero

February 8, 2011: 5:00 AM ET

It's hard to believe, but there are bankers out there who give the business a good name. Arthur F.F. Snyder was one of them.

Hating bankers is all the rage these days. Hey, what's not to hate when we hear bankers whine about being "demonized" while knocking down multimillion-dollar pay packages from banks that wouldn't exist if U.S. taxpayers hadn't rescued the world financial system? I was especially sensitive to the bankers' self-pity, because even as they carried on in Davos about how unfair life was to them, I was preparing for the memorial service of an unsung hero: Arthur F.F. Snyder, the kind of guy who gave banking and business a good name.

Art, who morphed from a news subject of mine into a teacher and then a friend, made venture capital-like loans to companies like Continental Cablevision and Jamesbury Corp. that came to employ thousands of Americans and make billions of dollars for shareholders. He financed other, less spectacular successes too. I met him in 1972, when I covered banking for the Detroit Free Press, and he was imported from Boston to fix Motown's ailing Bank of the Commonwealth. He left in 1976, but we stayed in touch. More

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