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Raymond James chairman to step down after 50-plus years at firm

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Even the longest runs come to an end.

Tom James, chairman of Raymond James for more than 40 years and who has worked at the company since 1962, announced he's stepping down next February.

CEO Paul Reilly, 62, will take over his responsibilities as chairman, according to the company. The transition was anticipated; Reilly replaced James as CEO in 2010.

James, 74, said both he and the board of directors felt the timing is right for Reilly to take over the position.

During James' long tenure, the St. Petersburg, Florida-based firm grew from a small regional brokerage to one with a nationwide presence. The company now has over 7,000 independent and employee advisers, which rivals UBS' approximately 7,100 advisers.

Plus, advisers with $450M in combined AUM join Benjamin Edwards.
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His father, Bob, founded Raymond James in 1962, and James joined the firm after college.

Raymond James filed for an initial public offering in 1969, but held back due to market conditions. James said in a 2014 interview that he thought it was a temporary move at the time, but the early 1970s was a trying time for the firm. At one point, James sold parts of his coin collection in order to keep the company afloat, he said.

"You really don't appreciate what a downturn means unless you had experienced 1973 and 1974. The average commissions of our stockbrokers went down 80% — that much, ­ 80%," he said.

The difficulties forced James and his father to stop taking compensation.

"I didn't think at the time that I was going to make it through. When you read about problems you don't realize how much of a trial they can be when you're going through them," he added.

Raymond James went public in 1983.

"That's not what I thought 'temporarily' meant, but … it was a question of what securities firms would survive," James said. "I always describe this as my real business school. As great as Harvard was, there's nothing like learning from adverse conditions."

But the firm later prospered and, in addition to recruiting, Raymond James has also completed several key acquisitions, such as Morgan Keegan in 2012 and Deutsche Bank's U.S. Private Client Services Group in September. The latter has been renamed Alex. Brown, the unit's previous name. The company said it retained over 90% of the unit's advisers, who cater to wealthy clients.

After the company's shareholder meeting in February, James will become chairman emeritus and retain a seat on the board, the company said. He is also heavily involved with an art museum dedicated to Western and wildlife art, and which is due to open in St. Petersburg next year.

Reilly said in a statement that James has been mentor to him.

"No one knows our business better than he does, but just as important, Tom has been a vigilant and tireless teacher for our associates, passing on the values and lessons critical to upholding the firm’s heritage," Reilly said.

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