Remembrance and Reflection: 50+ Years of Cambiar

Remembrance and Reflection: 50+ Years of Cambiar

In late 2023, we paused our anniversary celebration in order to reflect on the profound impact of our founder's final days, sharing insights and memories that continue to shape our path forward.

Cambiar Investors celebrated its 50th anniversary as an asset management business in August 2023.  Longevity is not a strong suit of financial companies and reaching a half century is an important milestone to take note of.  We are happy to have made it this far, and as company President for the last 24 years, I am indeed proud to be able to say as much.

But our celebration was a quiet one for unfortunate reasons.  We had loosely planned for some low-key anniversary-related events and publicity, with some kind of firmwide outdoor barbecue or indoor party in September 2023 as possible.  Planned external communications included a discussion of Cambiar’s founding and history, how the business arrived at its current shape, and where we might see the business going over the next decade or so.  The look-back at history included some yet to be supplied details from Cambiar’s founder, Michael Barish, about Cambiar’s founding and the world of asset management in the 1970s.  Some of these details are familiar to me due to my relationship with Barish Sr., but others I either don’t know at all or don’t recall with much confidence, leading to a number of gaps.

Upon returning from a vacation in early August, the plan was to sit down with Barish Sr. and fill in those gaps.  Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia precisely at that time.  Given his age (83) and various other prevailing ailments and chronic conditions, the longer-term prognosis for survival was grim.  However, with modern medical advancements, medication and treatment can often hold back the worst of the Leukemia for several months or even a couple of years.  That was the game plan in mid-August.  He entered the hospital on Tuesday, August 22 to begin treatment, and was generally hopeful about it.  For my part, I intended to hang out with him and whatever contraptions he was attached to, and get the questions in for the purposes mentioned above while helping him pass the time.

Sadly, within 24 hours, the reaction to treatment went poorly, and a round of Q&A was out of the question.  He retained a sense of humor even as his body began to fail – comparing his failing vitals to some notorious stocks and sports teams.  24 hours later things were altogether worse, and by Friday evening, it was obvious that he might not recover.  He died Sunday afternoon August 27, 2023, 50 years and one day post Cambiar’s founding.  The end was quick, unexpected, and there were only a couple of bad nights.  Perhaps going quickly and not knowing or even understanding this might be the end was an act of mercy in some greater scheme of things.  Mike Barish had endured years of deteriorating health, including an extremely bad back that left him unable to walk very far or enjoy a number of life’s simple pleasures.  He did not deserve to suffer any more.

You might imagine that the intended festivities and web content, however low key, had to be waived off for a later date.  We decided that a 6 month pause was the appropriate amount of time.

In the middle weeks of August, Mike Barish and I did spend a lot of time together, mostly contemplating a new living situation for my parents that would incorporate more immediate access to medical care than their suburban house.  We spoke of the future of Cambiar and asset management in general while driving around Denver and awaiting various appointments.  Mike Barish was always very supportive of what Cambiar had become following his retirement in 2001, though from approximately 2004 onwards, his level of knowledge of the business, its products, and the scope of client relationships waned considerably.  He focused more on his own private investments and activities.   He was quite aware that asset management in the 2020s did not resemble asset management in the 1990s due to the huge influx of indexation and sector specific/thematic ETFs.  We both shared an understanding of the impact these products were having, and incredulity at the degree of proliferation.  “It’s like flying on a plane that has no pilot” he would say. We agreed – it was not particularly obvious to either of us how traditional asset managers were expected to thrive if pilotless passive products grew to represent some (seemingly absurd) percentage of market ownership.  We both tacitly agreed that somebody, somewhere, needed to engage in price discovery and stock-specific research.  Maybe that somebody would be a firm like Cambiar, or maybe not.

Brian Barish is the President and CIO at Cambiar Investors and is responsible for the oversight of all investment functions…
Our final business conversation was one of worry and encouragement. He worried for me, for my psychological health essentially, if the ongoing running of a traditional long-only asset management business meant barreling ahead futilely into simply brutal headwinds.  I assured him in the moment that I fully understood these concerns, and still thought the Cambiar way represented one of the few credible antidotes to the passive wave, and that a passive definition of value (which implies price discovery on autopilot) was particularly inane and beatable.  We had this conversation literally as he settled into his hospital bed awaiting treatment. Visibly tired as his disease was beginning to take hold, he voiced encouragement for Cambiar to prevail and go on to new heights.


Click to read our full anniversary post50+ & Beyond: A Pretty Good Idea that Went Pretty Far…

Click to read the Mike Barish MemoriamHonoring the Legacy