Founded in 1969, NIRI is the professional association of corporate officers and investor relations consultants responsible for communication among corporate management, shareholders, securities analysts and other financial community constituents. The largest professional investor relations association in the world, NIRI’s more than 3,300 members represent over 1,600 publicly held companies and $9 trillion in stock market capitalization.
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The comprehensive "Origins of NIRI" presented here is the product of one of NIRI's founders and long-time members, Dick Morrill. This work was completed on the occassion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the National Investor Relations Institute. DeWitt (Dick) C. Morrill was a founder of the Investor Relations Association, whose members launched NIRI in 1969-1970.
The author who writes for a publication starts out in command of the material. Before he is half way through, the material is taking command of him. By the end, the material is the master and the writer the slave, so submissive and so enraptured he doesn't want it to stop.
Despite this tortured entanglement, it is customary to thank those who have provided information, guidance, sympathy and, one says unwillingly, pressure!
First in line in this roguish gallery would be Lou Thompson. Several months ago, the author offered to prepare a history of NIRI to help celebrate its 25th anniversary. Lou was both kind enough, and foolish enough, to accept. He has politely declined to say how many sleepless nights he has suffered wondering whether it would be done in time, or even done at all. He has also been gentle with the application of pressure, but keen to spot the author's guilty buttons and successful in spurring him into frenzied effort.
One wants to emphasize that in the strict interpretation of the word, this is less a history than it is a narrative of circumstances, events, people and ideas, much of it drawn from memory by less than half a dozen early entrants into the realm of Investor Relations. Readers should know that memories have weak spots, and any two or three people may have different memories of the same events. Even so, putting these several recollections together with the available letters, handwritten memos, minutes of meetings and published reports — in the press and by NIRI — has generated what the author believes to be a sufficiently authentic story to merit belief.
One whose memory has been buttressed by copious research is Glenn Saxon. Without his earlier work on the history of investor relations itself, this later attempt to tell the story of NIRI would not have been possible. Years ago, Saxon alerted the author to the words of Benjamin Graham that provide the intellectual and moral foundation for investor relations. In his later research, he quoted them at length, with proper dates and pages duly noted! Similarly, when you read about Adolph Berle and Gardner Means, thank Saxon for reviving a dim college memory of a freshman course in economics more decades ago than the author will admit.
The information about the American Management Association's early involvement in investor relations is drawn from the Saxon papers. Even more important is the wealth of data concerning the how, when and why of General Electric Co.'s pioneering creation of the first investor relations department. One has confidence in getting one's information from the horse's mouth Saxon was there at the Creation!
Similarly with the Brookings Institution's work on shareholder demographics, on the New York Stock Exchange's programs to encourage individual investing, on the role of Lewis Gilbert in fostering shareholder democracy, and many other parts of this story. All of the senior investor relations professionals remember these events and personalities, but hardly any have taken the time to cement them in place, in writing, as Saxon has done. Also rare is the vision to see what needs to be known in order to understand these facts of history. For this, Heraldic artists might have scrolled his legend: Scholar rampant on a field of dreams. Let us all say his praise accordingly.
In order to gain confidence in one's own uneven and sometimes very sketchy records, it has been an enormous help to spend long hours on the telephone with Bill Chatlos and John Gearhart, in particular, and with Dick Brodrick. In the writer's mind, Brodrick is the person who, more than any other single individual, provided the prod and thrust that gathered together a half dozen investor relations executives to meet for lunch and contemplate forming a more structured organization. That was in the period 1963-1966, a mere thirty years ago!
Bill Chatlos and John Gearhart both have displayed mnemonic mastery to be marveled at. Their ability to dredge up not only arcane details but whole scenes from this antique play put the author in a state of awe.
How does one thank people whose assistance came in the form of notes scribbled on an early roster of NIRI's predecessor, the Investor Relations Association, or one's own penciled notations of a telephone conversation concerning the agenda for a meeting? There are many of these, along with letters from men now gone from this world but still present in their artifacts. To these unsung angels, let praises ring.
Nor may we overlook the staff of NIRI in Washington who have supplied important facts but, even more important, have suffered in a most cheerful way through the pain of putting this work in type. And then putting up with seemingly endless little changes.
To Kris Floyd, Sue Nunn, Linda Kelleher, and Beth Carty: you cannot be thanked enough. In the last days of author's agony, Beth had the chore of pulling it all together, so special awards of gratitude are hers.
To the reader, one also expresses thanks. A play without a stage? An act without an audience? How sharper than a serpents tooth! You are thanked profusely for the courage to tunnel through.
One of Wall street's famous men of the 1960's wrote a fine market letter, not only because it was good information and wise advice, but because it was immensely readable. The author is indebted to him for the challenge that, The first obligation of a writer is to be interesting! Speaking now in the first person, I do very much hope that I have fulfilled this obligation.
Looking about at today's volatile, globalized markets, derivative disasters in Singapore and Southern California, the mutual fund mania and other speculative phenomena, one can't help being warned Plus ca change, Plus c'est la meme chose.
DeWitt C. Morrill
May 22, 1995
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