What’s BlackRock Without Larry Fink? Shareholders Fret About Future.

Laurence D. Fink built BlackRock into the world’s largest asset manager with a steely grip, a thick skin and a cleareyed vision of what the company could become.

Today, it’s a caretaker of $10.5 trillion of investor money and a provider of sophisticated trading technology, and Mr. Fink has been an informal financial adviser to many governments, including the United States. Along the way, he has withstood criticism from lawmakers on both sides — and even the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — about BlackRock’s policies and politics.

He has also earned the adulation of its shareholders.

But Mr. Fink’s age — he is 71 — and BlackRock’s enormous size, which makes it ever harder to find new assets to manage, are clouds on the horizon. They were on investors’ minds this week at BlackRock’s annual shareholder meeting, as they listened to Mr. Fink talk about the company’s performance and voted on ballot issues.

One of the greatest concerns is succession. Mr. Fink, BlackRock’s chief executive and chairman, exerts an unusual level of control for someone leading a firm of its size, with nearly 20,000 employees. From writing LinkedIn posts defending BlackRock’s policies to personally finding key deals, he has put his stamp all over the company, which he co-founded in 1988.

Because of Mr. Fink’s all-in approach, the question of who will take over from him has become important, despite a deep bench of talent and several potential successors. It has become even more pertinent because some shareholders are unsure about how much growth BlackRock has ahead of it.

“It’s really hard for anyone to argue that Larry hasn’t done a great job with the company,” said Craig Siegenthaler, an analyst at Bank of America who covers BlackRock. “They’ve outperformed the industry and grown a lot over every single time period.” But Mr. Siegenthaler added that the “Larry Fink question” was a key one.

Asked about the concerns, BlackRock pointed to past public statements on the matter. At last year’s shareholder meeting, for example, Mr. Fink said, “BlackRock’s board and I have no higher priority than developing the next generational leaders.”

Since the beginning of 2023, BlackRock has added $365 billion in new assets and the market value of its assets has increased by more than $1 trillion. Although its results have been buoyed by a bull market — the S&P 500 stock index has risen about 38 percent over the same term — investors have handsomely rewarded the company’s performance. Shares of BlackRock, which has a market capitalization of about $120 billion, have risen roughly 14 percent.

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