Honoring the Legacy: Michael Barish

Honoring the Legacy: Michael Barish

Cambiar President Brian Barish reflects on the passing of his father and Cambiar Founder, Michael S. Barish.


Mike Barish passed away on Sunday, August 27th, 2023 at age 83.  His passing was sudden and unexpected, the result of chemotherapy treatment for acute leukemia, as well his underlying condition, the disease itself, and age.  He had been formally diagnosed with AML in early August.  The end was quick, and unexpected by all people close to him, and himself.  We all expected several more months.

For all of us working at Cambiar today, and over the years, it is a loss, as we have all been impacted by this man and his legacy.  From giving the firm its unique name at its founding in 1973 and infusing it with a durable investment discipline that survives to this day, to urging me to start up an International product in 1997, to striking the right message with Cambiar’s former owners Old Mutual/United Asset Management (UAM) that they had better find a way to agree to a buyout in 2001, the Cambiar of the 20th and 21st centuries owes an unpayable debt to him.  His investment acumen is legendary to this day.  In 27 years as Cambiar’s President and CIO, he never had a down year, and underperformed the S&P 500 only six times.  Cambiar’s Large Cap strategy trounced the S&P 500 over this extensive time period by a simply ridiculous degree.  His own approach to investing back then, he described as fallen angels, careful attention to price, and more informally a strong aversion to superficial / non-serious companies and corporate governance, of which there was plenty back then just as there is now.

Cambiar Investors Inc. was sold in 1990 to United Asset Management.  Mike Barish was 50 at the time.  Part of this transaction was a contract to keep performing as the firm’s CIO for another ten years.  At the expiry of his contract in 2000, he made no bones about a desire to exit the asset management business and leave behind the stress and acute 24/7 responsibility of this activity, believing that at age 60, surely that was enough.  At the time, he did not hold a lot of sentiment for the firm he had built.  He often called it “an activity” or “the activity”, infusing it with an impersonal character.  Just a year later, a group of employees bought it back from Old Mutual, which had acquired UAM in 2001.  Reborn as Cambiar Investors LLC, the considerable success of the post-2001 version of the company gave him great pride as its founder.  It was something he did not expect.  His great gift to the firm in this century was to keep clear and leave Cambiar to our motivations to develop.   His great gift to me was an unwavering confidence that I could lead it forward, especially in dark days when it seemed the experiment could fail.

The Mike Barish of yore was large and some would say physically imposing man in his day, standing 6’3 and a lean-ish 210 lbs.  However large his physical presence might have been, his personality was larger.  He was not an extrovert.  Emotionally he was rather reserved, polite, and formal in his communications.  But he was exceptionally opinionated and had zero qualms about informing those in his presence what those opinions were, independently of how they might be received.  One could say he was blunt, by the standards of blunt people.  He did not tolerate fools, foolishly run companies, poor analyses, or some of the puffery that is unavoidably infused in marketing campaigns and consultant evaluations.  Those characteristics made him a phenomenal investor, though perhaps a lesser business manager once the firm had achieved some scale and success.  He recognized that in himself – he could be a lot to be around on a day-to-day basis, but this was who he was.  His business friends frequently described him as a “no BS guy”.  He seldom cursed but seemed onboard with that one.   He enjoyed some of the trappings of financial success, taking vacations to distinctive places, dining in nice restaurants, and owning some well-tailored suits.  Beyond these, he remained largely uninterested in more overt luxuries – he either thought them to be frivolous indulgences or worse.  It was all very consistent.   Many of these sensibilities endure in the firm’s investment philosophy.


Brian Barish