ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Bob Gillam, reported to be one of the richest people in Alaska, passed away shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday night after suffering a “massive stroke” that sent him into intensive care at an Anchorage hospital on Tuesday.
Gillam was surrounded by family at the time of his passing according to a family spokesperson.
Gillam, an investor by trade and the founder and chairman of McKinley Capital Management, was 72, said J.L. McCarrey, McKinley’s general counsel.
Alaska-raised, Gillam steeped himself in politics and at one point considered running for governor this year and also sought appointment by Donald Trump as Secretary of the Interior.
Gillam, who owns a home in the Bristol Bay region, has been a staunch opponent of the huge Pebble Mine prospect there and has bankrolled the political opposition with millions of dollars. He also supported Trump, contributing more than $300,000 to Trump’s election, the Republican Party and a Trump “victory fund.”
Trump and Gillam were classmates in the 1960s of the business-focused Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
McKinley Capital, headquartered in Anchorage with offices in New York, Chicago, Delaware and Abu Dhabi, managed nearly $6 billion in investments in 2017, it disclosed to the SEC. It and Gillam got into trouble with the Alaska Public Offices Commission over allegations the company paid for the flights of Pebble opponents, but APOC ruled that McKinley actually provided the pilots to an air service, not directly to opponents.
“Just as the fuel company who sold fuel for the flights provided fuel to (air service) RGB, not to the candidates, MCM (McKinley Capital Management) contends that it merely provided pilots to RGB, and that it should not be deemed to have provided piloting services to the individual passenger on the plane. MCM has established by uncontroverted affidavits that it supplies pilots to RBG as part of a barter arrangement,” APOC said in its 2011 order dismissing McKinley.
In an opinion piece published in the Anchorage Daily News in 2009, Gillam described open-pit mining like Pebble as a “dirty, ugly business that will leave the land scarred forever.”
“Why risk 54,000 seafood industry jobs for 1,000 mining jobs?,” he asked in the same op-ed opinion article. “Fish go on forever; the mine has a limited life. I am a money manager by trade and this equation makes no sense.”
McCarrey, the McKinley general counsel, said he was speaking for Gillam’s family when he said that Gillam was prepared for his own death or incapacitation and had put his personal finances, and McKinley’s, in order. McCarrey said he didn’t know if Gillam would bequeath some of this wealth to the anti-Pebble forces.
In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News in 2009, Gillam said he wired $1 million to an anti-Pebble group days after being hospitalized the previous year for a “serious illness.”
“He said he worried about his health and he wanted to make sure money was still available to fight the mine,” the story said.
Gillam didn’t disclose the nature of his illness at that time and McCarrey wouldn’t comment on what it could have been.