NEW YORK – Mutual fund pioneer Jack Dreyfus, a master money manager whose marketing savvy helped forge Wall Street's image in Main Street's mind, died Friday.
Dreyfus, who matched his investment prowess with penchants for interests ranging from horse breeding to crusading to curing depression, died at New York Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. Dreyfus was 95.
The cause of his death wasn't immediately known, but he had been ill for some time, said Arnold Friedman, treasurer of the Dreyfus Charitable Foundation, the financier's philanthropy.
As the creator of the Dreyfus Fund and its parent Dreyfus Corp., Dreyfus built one of the nation's biggest mutual investment funds and one of the first that actively courted everyday individuals, rather than just professional financiers and institutions.
The fund's lion symbol — introduced in a cheeky 1950s ad that showed the big cat striding out of a subway station and down Wall Street — became a familiar mark of success and power to generations of Americans.
The 58-year-old company, now part of the Bank of New York Mellon Corp., said it was deeply saddened by Dreyfus' death.
"This remarkable individual was a legend in the creation and marketing of mutual funds and a humanitarian with a heart of gold," the company said in a statement Friday. "We are eternally grateful to our founding father for his legacy of innovation and integrity."
During the 12 years he ran the Dreyfus Fund, it returned 604 percent — more than 100 percentage points better than its closest competitor, according to a 2004 Investor's Business Daily story that described his method of charting stocks on giant sheets of graph paper.
Life magazine called him a "maverick wizard." He dubbed himself "the lion of Wall Street" in a 1996 book, one of at least five he wrote.
He kept following the market and going to an office overlooking Central Park every day into his 90s, though he retired from the Dreyfus Corp. in 1965. He left with an estimated net worth of $100 million and a new mission.
Behind the scenes, he had been fighting severe depression — cured, he said, only when a doctor prescribed the anti-epilepsy drug Dilantin. It also is known by the generic names diphenylhydantoin and phenytoin.
Dreyfus threw himself into promoting the use of the drug to treat depression. He spent more than $2 million on ads, pressed presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan and described his struggle in books including "A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked."
The Food & Drug Administration has never approved the drug to treat depression, but Dreyfus' campaign entangled him in political controversies.
A 2000 book by journalist Anthony Summers about Nixon, "The Arrogance of Power," said Dreyfus gave Dilantin to the president. Dreyfus told The New York Times the claim was true, but some Nixon aides and Patricia Nixon Cox, the former president's daughter, called it doubtful.
The next year, it was revealed that Dreyfus had given Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating $250,000 during the 1990s, and Keating arranged for Dreyfus to talk with state and federal officials about the drug. Keating said he had done nothing wrong but returned the money.
More recently, Dreyfus was catapulted into tabloid headlines when a 40-year-old man unsuccessfully asked a court to force him to take a paternity test.
Just before he died, Dreyfus was at the center of a legal dispute between his longtime companion, Laima Drobavicius, and his caretaker, Mary Beth Whitehead-Gould, the surrogate mother at the center of the Baby M case in the 1980s. She decided not to give up a child she had been paid to bear for a New Jersey couple; a court ultimately gave the couple custody.
Born Aug. 28, 1913, in Montgomery, Ala., Dreyfus said he wasn't much of a student growing up or at Lehigh University. He started a brokerage house in 1947 before launching his mutual fund in 1951, the Dreyfus Corp. said.
He also was a high-ranking bridge and gin rummy player, bred champion race horses and won tennis tournaments for players in their 60s and 70s, his foundation said.