The Seattle Times welcomes Russell Investments to Seattle

Seattle welcomes Russell Investments. It is the kind of big company that fits into what downtown Seattle business is and needs to become: internationally successful.

Russell is involved in global investing and the evaluation of institutional investors. It is a company that might well be in New York City — and we’re glad it’s not. Seattle should do its best to keep Russell away from that place and anchored here.

In making its announcement, the Russell company said Seattle will give it “access to a large talent pool and will place Russell in the center of a major Pacific Rim city.” We appreciate the sentiments. The addition of Russell Investments will help make it so.

We offer our condolences to Tacoma. We know what it feels like to lose the largest private employer, having lost the Boeing headquarters to Chicago not too long ago. It hurts. For Tacoma to lose 900 Russell employees will hurt even more.

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Russell Investments will not be easy for Tacoma to replace. The former CEO, George Russell, was Tacoma’s Bill Gates. He made an institution of his father’s tiny firm by creating a job, the evaluation of fund managers, that nobody had done before. Tacoma never was the logical place to put the company he built, but he kept it there out of personal loyalty. He built his building oriented to Mount Rainier and encouraged key employees to climb it. If Tacoma had a flag, he would have flown it.

In 1999 he sold the company to Northwestern Mutual, an insurance giant based in Milwaukee. And here let this page toot a horn for which we are famous (and perhaps also infamous). The most common reason why family companies like Russell are sold is because of the federal tax on estates — the death tax.

When the family owner sells, the new buyer says don’t worry, nothing is going to change. After a while, it always does.

That said, we welcome Russell Investments to Seattle. We wish you success — and permanence.