NEW YORK --Richard B. Fisher, the former chairman of Morgan Stanley who engineered the merger of the firm with Dean Witter Discover in 1997, died yesterday of cancer. He was 68.
"In an industry characterized by fiery, forceful personalities, Dick moved mountains by the power of his intellect rather than the force of his will," Philip J. Purcell, Morgan Stanley chief executive, said in a memo to the firm's employees. "Dick was a leader who inspired the respect of his competitors and the loyalty of his colleagues."
"He was the example of a CEO that clients wanted to deal with; I learned a lot from him," said John Mack, former president of Morgan Stanley who worked with Mr. Fisher on the Dean Witter merger.
Dean Witter combined with Morgan Stanley, the nation's second-largest securities firm with 51,000 employees, in a $10.9 billion deal. Dean Witter had focused on business with small investors; Morgan Stanley catered to major institutions and big corporations.
Mr. Fisher, a graduate of Harvard Business School, was president of the firm for seven years before being named chairman in 1991.
He was also a civic leader in Manhattan. He served as chairman of the Urban Institute, chairman of of Rockefeller University, chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Endowment Trust, and as a trustee of The Paris Review Foundation and the American Fund for the Tate Gallery.
A noted art collector, his collection of abstract expressionist paintings included works by Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline.
Mr. Fisher was also an avid sports fan. Though he had to use a cane as a result of polio, he was a regular golfer.
Mr. Fisher leaves his wife, Jeanne; two sons, Richard B. of Brooklyn and Alexander D. of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; a daughter, Catherine C. of Monterey, Mass.; and a brother, David.