FRED MARKS: IN LOVING MEMORY
It saddens us to deliver the news that on December 25, 2020, 10 days shy of his 88th birthday, Cheviot’s founder and our dear friend, Fred Marks, passed away at his home in McKinleyville, California. His lovely wife, the Honorable Marilyn Miles, was at his side.
Most of us know Fred as the careful value investor who founded and presided over Cheviot for nearly 30 years, but Fred was much more. A life-long learner and ever-curious, Fred was also an accomplished violinist, a yogi (and a lover of Yogi Berra-isms), a teacher, a ballroom dancer, a lawyer, a scholar, a prolific writer, and a voracious reader of subject matters that were impressively wide in range. He could discuss the finer points of classical music, UCLA basketball, and every cubic inch of a car’s engine, switching gears seamlessly between those disparate subjects.
Fred had an enormous vocabulary and would use words that caused us to nod our heads and then retreat quietly to open the dictionary. When we think of Fred, we think of one word he particularly liked: stalwart. Webster defines it as “marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind, or spirit.” It didn’t matter to Fred if a word that he liked, such as stalwart, sounded like something a dermatologist might remove. If it was the right word with the exact meaning that he intended, he used it. That was Fred. Stalwart.
Fred’s knowledge of stock market and economic history was encyclopedic, and he called on this expertise to inform the business and investment decisions that kept Cheviot’s clients’ accounts afloat through turbulent waters and moving forward in tranquil times. But it wasn’t simply Fred’s investing acumen that accounted for his success and the success of Cheviot’s clients. It was also Fred’s unassailable principles of fairness, honesty, transparency and hard work that distinguished Fred and Cheviot from other advisors in what Fred sometimes referred to as the “financial disservices” industry. We have yet to meet anyone in business with greater integrity than Fred.
Always a gentleman, anyone who knew Fred was treated with kindness and respect. He was a caring and thoughtful man who valued his relationships with others. In those relationships, he cherished the opportunities to exchange ideas and learn new things. In the work setting, Fred was equally kind, flourishing as a teacher and role model. He was forever uncomfortable with the term “boss,” and preferred to be called by, and refer to, his employees as “colleague” or “team member.”
It is quite an accomplishment to build a small business from scratch and an even bigger one for it to thrive for decades. Whenever he was asked what his goal was for Cheviot, Fred never spoke of growing the firm to a certain size as so many others do. Instead, he would always reply, “to continue to satisfy our clients and simply to help them.” For those of us who had the daily pleasure of working side-by-side with Fred at Cheviot (as Darren did for 15 years and David for 7), we will forever remember him fondly and with the deepest appreciation for his giving us the opportunity to be part of a very special company. He excelled at modeling the skills and behavior necessary to manage and grow a practice into an enterprise that will flourish for decades to come. We are forever grateful to Fred for being both a wonderful friend and the best boss “colleague” we could have ever wished for.
After his retirement eight years ago, Fred visited us in our offices dozens of times. While his visits came less frequently after his early 2016 move to Northern California, he continued to greet us regularly with thoughtful phone calls and emails (some greater than 2,000 words in length!). Often those missives were about topics other than investing, such as documentaries or books that he thought were worthwhile and educative. Sometimes, unannounced, we would receive books from him in the mail. Just as we think about him regularly, he was always thinking of Cheviot and its clients in a most supportive way.
In the investment world, we often discuss gains and losses. Fred’s passing is a tremendous loss for all that are close to him. But we will hold dear the gains we enjoyed from being near him as we carry on in his honor.