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F. Peter Cundill

Posted on March 12th, 2014

OBITUARY F. PETER CUNDILL FCA, CFA Philanthropist, sportsman, diarist and renowned global value investor. Peter Cundill was born in Montreal in October 1938. He was educated at Lower Canada College where he made his mark on the football field and on the basketball team. He gained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University in 1960, after which he qualified as a Chartered Accountant and entered the investment business. In 1963 he began to keep the daily journal that he maintained for more than 40 years as he built and grew the Cundill Value Fund for which he became famous. Peter had what he called his “epiphany” on a plane when he read about the value investment principles of Benjamin Graham. His comment was “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE” and he did, with a success that richly rewarded thousands of investors, not least those with small resources and precious savings. His record over 35 years as a global mutual fund manager was unrivalled. In 2001 he received the Analysts’ Choice Career Achievement Award in recognition of proven superior performance and his lifetime contribution to the financial community. At the Canadian Investment Awards ceremony he was introduced as “the Indiana Jones of Canadian Money Managers” – an epithet in which he took great delight. But Peter was in no sense one dimensional. He had a passion for physical challenges, running 22 marathons including a “sub 3” when aged over 40, of which he was immensely proud. His interests were exceptionally wide ranging, springing from his insatiable curiosity, a characteristic which he regarded as a vital component in every aspect of life. He was a voracious reader and an inveterate traveller, once commenting, “If I haven’t been on a plane for a week I begin to feel restless.” He was never happier than in a hotel suite where he could smoke his cigars and eat his favourite “junk” foods (typically hot dogs with lashings of mustard and vanilla ice cream smothered in caramel sauce). Although he lived in London for the past 20 years and loved that city, he remained inordinately proud of being Canadian, profoundly interested in everything about his country. He relished nothing better than being among a gathering of Canadians with a bit of Montreal gossip, some Bay Street news and Vancouver views. His abiding passion for history and his belief that it is only possible to comprehend the present and arrive at a measured perspective about the future if one understands the past, led to his founding of The Cundill International Prize in History at McGill, the largest in the world. The Cundill Foundation, which now controls his very considerable wealth, has supported and will continue to support a wide range of charities as well as research projects and educational and enterprise gifts to young people. In 2006 Peter was diagnosed with Fragile X Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome, an as yet untreatable neurological condition. As a result he retired from daily operational fund management in 2009, becoming Chairman Emeritus of Mackenzie Cundill. Nevertheless, far from giving up or wallowing in self-pity, Peter fully embraced the challenge of his condition with unwavering cheerfulness and a determination to lead as full a life as possible and to continue to guide and support all those within his wide reach in a personal and professional sense. His influence has been profound. He was very anxious to provide some legacy of his investment genius which might be useful to others and this culminated in the production of a book, There’s Always Something To Do – The Peter Cundill Investment Approach. To his immense delight the first copy was pressed into his hands in hospital two days before he died. It will be released at the end of February. Peter was predeceased by his beloved wife, Joanie, and is survived by his stepdaughter, Evelyn, two grandchildren, his stepson, Roger, and his brother, Grier. He will be deeply missed by a large international circle of friends and all of his ex-colleagues and associates. Following his wishes, Peter will be cremated and his ashes will be scattered in Quebec and British Columbia.

F. Peter Cundill, (Jan. 27, 2011)
Obituary – The Gazette