A Pioneer

The placement agent concept that Charles Eaton ’68 spearheaded has become a multibillion-dollar industry.
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In 1983, after 15 years on Wall Street, Charles Eaton ’68 and a colleague started their own firm. Their initial plan was to provide investment research, but one of their first clients also asked them to help attract capital. Eaton saw an opportunity: their business could raise money for money managers on a third party or independent basis.

Columbia Connection: Five alumni have become partners of his firm. Others are clients.

At first, cash flow was a challenge. The firm accepted modest retainers and offered to be paid based on the business it brought in, which took a few years. Eaton’s partner was even forced to return to a regular paycheck on Wall Street. Eaton and his wife were only able to keep at it with sacrifice. “We hunkered down,” Eaton recalls, “and tried to keep our expenses down.”

Sure enough, Eaton’s hard work started to pay off. By 1989, the firm was working for a number of blue-chip clients, including Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management hedge fund. And it grew from there. Over the last 25 years, Eaton Partners has represented more than 100 investment managers. The “placement agent” concept, which Eaton pioneered, has become a multibillion-dollar industry. “Slowly,” Eaton says, “it has grown into a very successful business.”

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