And it's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
Or leave it if you dare
And it's just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
And a short time to be there..."
- Grateful Dead, Box of Rain
On Saturday morning I learned that Tobias Levkovich, Citigroup's (C) - Get Citigroup Inc. Report chief U.S. equity strategist, my friend and my investment confidante over the last three decades, had passed away.
Tobias was walking to his synagogue when he was hit by an automobile on the morning of Sept. 1, as he crossed a street in his hometown of Hewlett on Long Island, New York. He had been hospitalized for a month before he passed away at the age of 60 on Friday.
The investment community knew him as Tobias, but his family, friends and the Jewish community, knew him as Tuvia, which in Hebrew means "God is good."
To me, Tuvia combined the wisdom of a Byron Wien with the work ethic of a 25 year old.
Tuvia was a special man.
Kind, humble and even-tempered.
He had a sense of justice.
He sought out the good in people -- and people like me sought out his advice.
He was fiercely committed, and he developed a personal connection with his friends, his fellow workers at Citigroup, his clients and many outside of the investment world.
He loved his family and community.
He was righteous, charitable and deeply religious.
He befriended everyone, the successful and the unsuccessful -- it didn't matter -- and developed thousands of sincere personal connections within and outside of the investment community.
He realized we live in this world not for ourselves, but for others.
To be with Tuvia was a delight.
He was smart, but more importantly, he had the wisdom of the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He was so real in a world that can be very fake.
On numerous occasions Tobias invited me to play the role of the "bear" at fancy lunches in Citigroup's executive dining room with his largest institutional clients, one of whom at every lunch would be the "bull." It was the most fun, especially with Tobias moderating.
The last time I saw Tuvia in person was before COVID at lunch in Palm Beach two years ago. Here is a picture of that lunch with Tuvia (second from right), Lee Cooperman, Jeff Greene, Jack Ablin and Jerry Jordan.
And the last thing that Tobias did for me was, not surprisingly, a favor. I was doing work on AT&T T and, at my request, he retrieved a newly minted AT&T purchase recommendation from his research department.
As an investment professional, he was always prepared. His body of work was hard hitting, logical and thorough. He was not afraid, if justified analytically, to stand out in the crowd in terms of his market view.
The day of his accident, Tobias published his last equity note -- maintaining a bearish stance on the market, with a 4000 S&P year-end price target.
He wrote on that day: "Caution that proves to be wrong can cost one a career... Nevertheless, we feel compelled to stand by our analytical process."
The S&P Index had closed that day, on the month of August, at 4524, and was to fall to 4307 during September.
It was another one of what were hundreds of Tobias' great calls over his career.
At the funeral on Sunday, the Rabbi recalled Tuvia's uniqueness in an anecdote about his last appearance on CNBC (you can watch it here). The show was the day before his car accident. In that CNBC interview Tobias appeared in his home office and behind him was a shofar. A shofar is made out of a ram's horn and is used in Jewish religious festivities and services.
I was brought to tears, because I spoke to Tobias right after that interview and I had noticed the shofar. In that phone call he told me, and the Rabbi passed on his similar discussion with him, that the placement was intentional. The shofar's placement was a subliminal message -- Tobias wanted it to inspire all the young Jewish professionals who had recently entered Wall Street.
I was brought to tears again when the Rabbi, at the end of the service, quoted something that my Rabbi Martin Zion had previously quoted to me and his dear friends in a letter right before he died (See my column, "Keys To A Life Well Lived"):
"Who is wise? One who learns from every man ... Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations ... Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot ... Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows."
- Ben Zoma, Ethics of the Fathers
Tobias -- and Tuvia -- will be missed by anyone who has entered his sphere during a beautiful life of meaning and commitment.