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Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

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Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.
Company typePartnership
IndustryInvestment banking
Commercial banking
Private equity
Wealth management
Merger and acquisitions
FoundedNew York, New York, US (January 1, 1931 (1931-01-01))
(merger of Brown Bros. & Co. (1818), Harriman Brothers & Company (1927) and W. A. Harriman & Co. (1922))
Headquarters140 Broadway
New York, New York
Revenue$1.3 billion
Total assetsIncrease US$ 55 billion (2020) [1]
Number of employees
5,701 (2020)[2]

Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (BBH) is the oldest and one of the largest private investment banks in the United States.[3][4] In 1931, the merger of Brown Brothers & Co. (founded in 1818) and Harriman Brothers & Co. formed the current BBH.

Brown Brothers Harriman is also notable for the number of influential American politicians, government appointees, and Cabinet members who have worked at the company, such as W. Averell Harriman, Prescott Bush, Robert A. Lovett, Richard W. Fisher, Robert Roosa, and Alan Greenspan.[5]


Brown Brothers Harriman provides advisory, wealth management, commercial banking, and investor services for corporate institutions and high-net-worth individual clients. Alongside the aforementioned services, the firm provides global custody, foreign exchange, private equity, merger and acquisitions, investment management for individuals and institutions, personal trust and estate administration, and securities brokerage services. Organized as a partnership, BBH has approximately 6,000 staff in 18 offices throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Currently, the firm has 38 partners,[6] and acts as custodian and administrator for $3.3 trillion and $1.2 trillion in assets, respectively.[2][7]


W. Averell Harriman, founding partner of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

After immigrating to Baltimore in 1800 and building a successful linen mercantile trading business,[3][4][8] Alexander Brown and his four sons co-founded Alex. Brown & Sons.[9][10] In 1818, one son, John Alexander Brown, traveled to Philadelphia to establish John A. Brown and Co.[11] In 1825, another son, James Brown, established Brown Brothers & Co.[12] on Pine Street in Lower Manhattan and relocated to Wall Street in 1833.[3] This firm eventually acquired all other Brown branches in the U.S.[12] Another son, William Brown, had established William Brown & Co. in England in 1810, which was renamed Brown, Shipley & Co. in 1839 and became a separate entity in 1918.[8][9][12]

Following the panic of 1837, Brown Brothers withdrew from most of its lending business. Two of the brothers, John and George, sold their shares in the company to the other two brothers, William and James. During the recovery from this economic turmoil, they chose to focus solely on currency exchange and international trade.


Prescott Bush, an initial minority owner after the merger between Brown Brothers and Harriman Brothers

On January 2, 1931, Brown Brothers & Co. merged with two other business entities, Harriman Brothers & Company, a private bank[13] started with railway money, and W. A. Harriman & Co. to form Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. Founding partners included:[14]

Time's December 22, 1930, issue announced that the three-way merger featured 11 Yale graduates among 16 founding partners.[15] Eight of the partners listed above, except for Moreau Delano and Thatcher Brown, were Skull and Bones members.[16]

In 1930s the company acted as a U.S. base for the German industrialist Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Adolf Hitler.[17]

After the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act, the partners decided to focus on commercial banking, becoming a private bank, and to spin its securities marketing and underwriting off into Harriman, Ripley and Company which eventually evolved into Drexel Burnham Lambert via mergers.

W. Averell Harriman, the founding partner in the firm left to go into public service. He left the leadership of Brown Brothers Harriman to his younger brother E. Roland Harriman. W. Averell Harriman was the ambassador and statesman responsible for the relationship between Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. Some historical records of Brown Brothers Harriman and its precursor companies are housed in the manuscript collections at the New-York Historical Society.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brown Brothers Harriman 2019 Annual Report. bbh.com, Archived 2021-07-22 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "BBH Annual Report" (PDF). BBH & Co. 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "New Bank Building on Hanover Street" (PDF). The New York Times. September 3, 1916. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
    • a "Brown Brothers, who are the oldest as well as one of the largest private banking concerns in the country" — ¶ 2
    • b "The firm was started in America in 1800 in Baltimore by the original Brown ... after starting in general dry goods business" — ¶ 3
    • c "in 1825 the banking office of the firm was opened in New York City on Pine Street. The firm has been on its present Wall Street site since 1833." — ¶ 3
  4. ^ a b "Alex. Brown & Sons Company Building, 135 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Independent City, MD". Library of Congress. 1933. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
    • a "Alex. (Alexander) Brown & Sons (founded 1800), the first and oldest continually operating investment banking firm in the United States." — Notes §, ¶ 1
  5. ^ Zachary Karabell, Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power (2021) pp. 341–356.
  6. ^ "The BBH Partnership". BBH & Co. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  7. ^ "BBH profile in Global Custody". globalcustody.net. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Guide to the Records of Brown Brothers Harriman 1696 -1973, 1995 (bulk 1820-1968): MS 78". New York Historical Society. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
    • a "linen merchant Alexander Brown emigrated to the United States in 1800" — ¶ 1
    • b "In 1810, Alexander's eldest son William returned to England and established the trading firm William Brown & Co. in Liverpool. This became Brown Shipley & Co. in 1839 and relocated to London. It separated from Brown Brothers as a distinct business entity in 1918." — ¶ 1
  9. ^ a b Hall, Henry (1896). "America's Successful Men of Affairs". New York Tribune. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
    • a "To him were born in Ballymena, four sons, William, George, John Alexander and James." — Pg. 116, ¶ 2
    • b "The family came to America in 1800, settling in Baltimore, where, after a prosperous career as a linen merchant, Mr. Brown founded the bank of Alex. Brown & Sons, in partnership with his four sons. He died April 6, 1834." — Pg. 116, ¶ 2
    • c "established the houses of Brown, Shipley & Co., in England
  10. ^ Walker, Andrea (April 3, 2002). "Alex. Brown name all but gone: German bank changes brokerage arm's title in marketing move". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
    • a "the oldest continuously operating investment bank in America, according to experts. Founded in 1800 as Alex. Brown & Sons" — ¶ 17
  11. ^ "1818: Philadelphia House Established". Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. Retrieved August 29, 2014.[permanent dead link]
    • a "John A. Brown travels to Philadelphia and establishes John A. Brown & Co. ... John A. Brown's historic Philadelphia house also serves as the founding date for the future Brown Brothers Harriman & Co." — Pg. 1, ¶ 8
  12. ^ a b c "Brown Brothers & Company records 1825-1889". New York Public Library. 1936. Retrieved August 29, 2014.
    • a "Baltimore in 1800 and opened a dry goods business with which his four sons became associated."
    • b "One son, John (1788–1872), opened a branch in Philadelphia in 1818"
    • c "Another son, James (1791–1877) established Brown Brothers & Co. in New York City in 1825 and eventually absorbed the other branches."
    • d "In addition, Brown Brothers & Co. was associated with the English firm of Brown, Shipley & Co., which was run by another brother, William Brown (1784–1864)."
  13. ^ "Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.: Private Company Information - Businessweek". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
  14. ^ John Atlee Kouwenhoven (1968). Partners in banking: An historical portrait of a great private bank, Brown Brothers, Harriman & Co., 1818-1968. Doubleday.
  15. ^ "Business: Brown-Harriman". Time. December 22, 1930. Archived from the original on October 18, 2007.
    • a "Of the 16 partners in the new firm of Brown Bros., Harriman & Co., eleven are Yale graduates."
  16. ^ "Skull and Bones Membership List (1833-1985)". mindfully.org. Archived from the original on August 4, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  17. ^ Campbell, Duncan (September 25, 2004). "How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power". The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2018.

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