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Walter Gerken, who led Pacific Life in Pimco era, dies at 93

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(Bloomberg) — Walter Gerken, the former insurance executive who helped build Pacific Investment Management Co., which went on to oversee the world’s biggest bond fund, has died. He was 93.

He died Oct. 5, according to a statement Monday from Pacific Life Insurance Co. that didn’t disclose a cause of death.

Gerken was chairman and chief executive officer of the insurer, previously known as Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co., from 1975 to 1986. The executive was influential in the decision to move the company to Newport Beach, California, from Los Angeles and also in the founding and growth Pimco, started as a fixed-income unit of the insurer, according to the statement.

“Walter was a man of vision and action who helped build Pacific Life into what it is today,” said Jim Morris, chairman and CEO of the insurer. “And he was a leading example of how to make a difference in the community.”

Pimco was established in 1971 by a group that included money manager Bill Gross, later known as the “bond king.” Pimco became a publicly traded company in 1994, and insurer Allianz agreed in 1999 to buy the company.

Annuities, Insurance

Pacific Life is one of the top 15 sellers of life insurance and variable annuities in the U.S., and had more than $137 billion of assets as of Dec. 31. The insurer traces its roots to 1868, when the company’s president was Leland Stanford, who later founded Stanford University. The insurer operates as part of a mutual holding company, counting its policyholders as members, and has no publicly traded stock.

Gerken was a native of New York and served in World War II in the Army Air Corps, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, according to the statement. He later got a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and received a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 1958.

A member of the Business Advisory Commission for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he was also elected a Regent’s Professor at University of California Irvine’s graduate school of management, the insurer said. He was awarded with the UCI Medal in 1988, acknowledging his contributions to the campus, according to the statement. The school established the Walter B. Gerken Endowed Chair in Enterprise and Society in 1998.

Gerken raised six children with his wife Darlene, according to the statement. His wife died in 2009, according to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times. He lived in Corona del Mar, California.