Former colleagues of Robert H. “Bob” Carey are quick to say how much the man contributed to the municipal bond industry, as well as to their careers. They are also quick to recall his good-natured sense of humor and hearty laugh as much as his pragmatism and resolve.
As a bond attorney for more than five decades, Mr. Carey was able to mentor many young lawyers during his career. He also saw the industry develop and played a role in its evolution. He died Thursday at age 79.
Jim Normile knew Mr. Carey for more than 30 years. Normile, who runs the public finance department at the law firm Winston & Strawn, worked under Mr. Carey in the late 1970s while both were at Nixon, Mudge, Rose Guthrie, Alexander & Mitchell.
“He was the most practical lawyer,” Normile said. “Having trained under him, I learned so much about how to close a deal, rather than how to find problems with a deal. That’s what endeared him to so many people.”
Mr. Carey counseled on housing, school district and general obligation bonds. He started his career at Caldwell, Trimble & Mitchell, which then merged with Nixon Mudge. He later served as managing partner of Sullivan, Donovan. He most recently was of counsel to Nixon Peabody.
Early on, Mr. Carey learned the business while working with John Mitchell, a former attorney general under President Richard Nixon and the father of the moral obligation bond. Soon, Mr. Carey brought his own capacity for innovation to his position. In 1979, he and Normile visited Oklahoma as attorneys at Mudge Rose. Mr. Carey quickly figured out how every county in the state could issue single-family mortgage revenue bonds, something no one had done before, Normile said.
Mr. Carey put together the authorization to issue single-family bonds. He assembled the necessary legal analyses for the authority and then gave the opinion in his role as counsel, Normile said.
“Bob was so creative,” he added. “Working for Bob, I probably did 20 deals in Oklahoma. We had so much fun.”
Mr. Carey’s son, Gregory Carey, chairman of the public sector infrastructure department at Goldman, Sachs & Co., said he appreciated his father’s approach to mentoring. In addition to being a teacher in the industry, his father was also Gregory’s counsel for many deals.
“He loved the industry and the people in it,” Gregory Carey said of his father. “He loved to mentor younger lawyers; he’d mentor them on how to get through the growth process.”
Former colleagues and friends also described Mr. Carey as a gregarious man. Peter White, chairman of the global sports media and entertainment group at DLA Piper, knew him for 28 years, having met him as a colleague at Sullivan Donovan. Mr. Carey would regale White with stories of the old days in the business.
“I learned the history of the bond business, all of the old bond firms, from Bob Carey,” White said. “He had a strong personality, a strong sense of humor — very direct, funny, but kind-hearted. He was cut from the old cloth.”
Mr. Carey was known to bestow upon his protégés a practical education, as well. Once when they were doing a closing, Mr. Carey and White could not find the seal of the municipality that was required to emboss the documents.
So, Mr. Carey, determined not to let so trivial a matter get in the way of a close, found a solution using what materials were on hand. He placed a silver dollar under the bond and then put one on top, and then used a hammer to create the “seal” impression.
“He was very practical that way,” White said. “The first thing he taught me was, 'A closed deal is a good deal.’ That was his motto.”
Robert Carey was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., growing up in the neighborhood of Flatbush. He attended Brooklyn Preparatory School, graduated from Niagara University and then served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander in Germany. Afterward, he earned his law degree from St. John’s University.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Joan Carey, their four children — Robert Carey Jr., Suzanne Lavins, Gregory Carey, and William Carey — six grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Robert Carey and Joan met while he worked as a cabana boy at the Breezy Point Surf Club. He was 14; she was 12.
Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on May 31 at Glynn’s Funeral Home in Rockville Centre, N.Y. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., on June 1 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Southampton Hospital or the Children’s Academy in Manhattan.