James W. Hirschmann will become president of Legg Mason on May 1, the company announced today. Mr. Hirschmann is president and CEO of Western Asset Management, Legg Mason's largest money management subsidiary. He will succeed Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, who will retain his responsibilities as chairman and CEO of Legg Mason. Mr. Hirschmann will retain his position as Western Asset's CEO until that firm "completes the combination of the recently acquired Citigroup Asset Management fixed-income business," the news release said. D. Daniel Fleet, chairman of Western Asset's management committee, will become WAMCO's president on May 1, succeeding Mr. Hirschmann in that position.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Mason said the "phenomenal growth" of Western Asset Management under Mr. Hirschmann's leadership, together with his "extensive global experience" at a time when Legg Mason's growth abroad looks poised to outstrip its growth in the U.S. market, were "the two key factors" behind the board's choice.
Messrs. Mason and Hirschmann said that integration remains the top task at Legg Mason for now. Mr. Mason said Mr. Hirschmann will continue to focus on the Western Asset piece of that task, "which is by far the biggest piece of the acquisition." By this fall, however, Mr. Hirschmann should be able to start spending more time on Legg Mason business, Mr. Mason said. Mr. Mason said the ultimate decision on when he will retire, to be replaced by Mr. Hirschmann as chairman and CEO, will belong to Legg Mason's board.