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Malcolm Chace III; R.I. philanthropist was on Berkshire Hathaway board; at 76

By Laurence Arnold
Bloomberg News / July 2, 2011

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NEW YORK - Malcolm Chace III, founder and chairman of Bancorp Rhode Island Inc. and a former board member at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the company led by his friend, Warren Buffett, died June 23 in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was 76.

No cause of death was cited in a death notice in yesterday’s New York Times.

Known as Kim, Mr. Chace was part of the family that ran Berkshire Hathaway when it was a textile company, before Buffett took it over in 1965 and diversified it into one of the world’s most closely followed investment vehicles.

Mr. Chace joined the board in 1992, taking the seat of his father, Malcolm Jr., who retired. Mr. Chace remained a director until 2007.

“Both he and his father were closely identified with Berkshire Hathaway for decades and decades,’’ Buffett told the Providence Journal for its story on Mr. Chace’s death. “They were enormously supportive for a period of over 40-plus years.’’

For a time, Mr. Chace made Forbes magazine’s list of richest Americans. The magazine estimated his family’s net worth at $1 billion in 2001 and 2002, then $935 million in 2003, its last year on the list.

He was chairman of Bancorp Rhode Island since its founding in 1996. The Providence-based company agreed April 20 to be acquired by Brookline Bancorp Inc. of Brookline, Mass., for about $234 million in cash and stock.

Mr. Chace and his wife, Elizabeth, were leading philanthropists to arts, education, and health-related causes. According to the death notice, one of his proudest moments was the 2009 opening of the Chace Center at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Mr. Chace was “an exemplar of the old-fashioned public-spirited businessman, civic leader, and philanthropist - the kind who have built so many of our nonprofit organizations since international trade and the Industrial Revolution started to create great wealth in southern New England,’’ the Providence Journal said in an editorial.

Mr. Chace was born in Providence. As a boy, he spent what he called an “absolutely terrible’’ summer working in the Berkshire textile mill, which had been founded by ancestor Oliver Chace in 1806, according to Forbes. Mr. Chace graduated from Yale University in 1956.

His father oversaw the 1955 merger of Berkshire Associates with Hathaway Manufacturing. Buffett began buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway in 1962 and took over in 1965.

According to Forbes, Mr. Chace recalled of Buffett’s purchase: “We sort of sat there and smiled and watched him do his thing.’’