Chicago futures veteran Robert Ray dies

Robert Ray, the chief executive officer of CME Group Inc.’s proposed European exchange, has died after a short illness, according to the company. He was 60.

Ray, a native of Chicago, moved to London in 2009 and was working to open a futures market called CME Europe prior to his death. He was previously a managing director responsible for CME Group’s strategy and sales in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

He joined CME Group, now the world’s largest exchange by market value, when it bought CBOT Holdings Inc. in 2007. He’d been instrumental in the transaction, which merged the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade.

Ray had “twinkling eyes and a devilish grin that betrayed the fact he was constantly thinking up his next politically incorrect joke,” Erika Olson wrote in “Zero-Sum Game,” which chronicled the CBOT-CME deal. “He could have been actor Bill Murray’s better-looking, higher spirited brother. Bob was always the life of the party -- his sharp suit couldn’t hide the fact that he emanated energy.”

He started working at CBOT in 2002, serving as a senior vice president for business development, according to a CME Group biography. Earlier in his career, Ray was employed by Robertson Stephens Inc., Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., Carr Futures and Continental Grain Co. over the course of a 35-year career in the derivatives market.

Ray, who graduated from Loras College, a Catholic college in Dubuque, Iowa, originally planned to be a doctor but was drawn to finance and the markets.

“The industry has lost a giant who will be extremely difficult to replace,” said John Damgard, who was president of the Futures Industry Association for 30 years. “He excelled in each and every challenge that the industry presented to him. He always did it with integrity and dignity. As an American in London, he was beloved and respected. I knew Bob as a great family man and a true gentleman with a great sense of humor, in an industry where he stood out with those qualities. We extend our very heartfelt condolences to his family.”

 

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