Joan Lappin: Pioneering Wall Street financial analyst, 'self-made woman,' HT contributor

Joan Ellen Lappin, a pioneering Wall Street financial analyst and investment adviser who founded Gramercy Capital Management in 1986, died on Monday in Sarasota after a brief illness. She was 78.

Mrs. Lappin managed the portfolios of several major U.S. corporations and high-net-worth individuals for more than five decades. In 1992, she was named to Business Week magazine’s 50 Top Women in Business. She was a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox and PBS and was a Forbes magazine contributor for 10 years.

In 2015, Mrs. Lappin started writing an investment column, “Deduced Reckoning,” for the Herald-Tribune. She reminisced in a recent column that Wall Street has not been hospitable to women, especially as she was finding her way in the late 1960s.

“The choices for employment for women were from the following skimpy list: bank teller, secretary, nurse, buyer in a department store, librarian, stewardess, and office worker. … MBAs were not something ‘girls’ were supposed to do,” Mrs. Lappin wrote.

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In the early 1970s, according to Harvard Business School research, 1 in 20 stock analysts were women. Mrs. Lappin earned a master’s degree in business in 1972 from New York University’s Stern School of Business and became a Chartered Financial Analyst. She received a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1964 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Because I went at night while working full time, it took me seven years to earn my MBA at NYU. Eventually, I got it done,” Mrs. Lappin wrote in her Sept. 15 column about tuition forgiveness. “I was earning $5,000 at the time.”

Mrs. Lappin previously managed investment portfolios at Manufacturers Hanover Trust and managed pension assets for Safeway, Chrysler, Bankers Trust’s Minority Equity Trust, and Rothschild Bank in Zurich, among others. In February 2002, the New York Times Sunday Business section credited Mrs. Lappin with being the first to identify fraudulent accounting in 1999 at Qwest Communications, which was eventually penalized by the SEC.

“Joan Lappin was a self-made woman,” said former Herald-Tribune executive editor Matthew Sauer, now with the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. “She rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in corporate America … before striking out on her own with Gramercy Capital Management in 1986. She shared all that investment wisdom with Herald-Tribune readers every week. Her work, wit and wisdom will be missed.”

Mrs. Lappin was born on Nov. 16, 1943, in Cleveland. She grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., enrolling at age 16 at the University of Wisconsin and earning a Ford Foundation Fellowship. She married Jack Lappin in 1972 and they had two children. They were divorced in 1989.

Mrs. Lappin, a lifelong advocate for women’s rights, was a passionate sailor. She earned a 100-ton Master Mariner license from the U.S. Coast Guard and started a sailing school, Sail Long Island. She was a past member of the New York Yacht Club and Manhattan Yacht Club and was a member of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, R.I. She was active in the Sarasota Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“There are many similarities between being out on the sea and trying to invest intelligently in today’s stock markets,” Mrs. Lappin wrote in 2006 for Forbes. “Both are subject to random storms that can come up quickly and require clear thinking so that you make the right decisions.”

Mrs. Lappin, an avid world traveler and talented amateur photographer, was a member of Temple Emanu-El in Sarasota.

Mrs. Lappin was predeceased by her parents, Jack Berger and Eleanore Berger Shallant, and her brothers, Edwyn Berger and Sheldon Berger. She is survived by a son, Joshua Lappin, and a daughter, Jessica Lappin; a son-in-law, Andrew Wuertele, and daughter-in-law, Liz Safian Lappin; and three grandchildren, Lucas Wuertele, Miles Wuertele, and Sabrina Lappin. All are from New York City.

A funeral service is scheduled at noon on Friday at Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City.

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