By Mary Katherine Stump
Delray Beach — James W. Davant, retired CEO of PaineWebber Group, died in Delray Beach on April 17 at the age of 93. Mr. Davant led PaineWebber, now a part of UBS Financial Services, from 1964 to 1980.
Mr. Davant was a former resident of New York City and Locust Valley, Long Island. He was born in McComb, Miss., was raised in Memphis, Tenn., and attended both the University of Mississippi and the the University of Virginia.
He served as a naval aviator stateside and in the South Pacific during World War II, holding the rank of lieutenant commander when he was discharged in 1945.
After the war he settled in Minneapolis, Minn., the hometown of his wife, the former Mary Westlake. Her death in 2006 made the last two years especially hard for Mr. Davant, according to his daughter Diane. “She was the love of his life,” she said.
In Minneapolis, he took a $150-a month trainee position at Paine, Webber, Jackson and Curtis, and within 20 years was CEO.
During his tenure, Mr. Davant brought PaineWebber’s central offices to New York, overseeing the company’s national and international expansion. Mr. Davant also served as the director of the New York Stock Exchange in 1972.
“He was very cool under pressure, and provided the kind of leadership the company needed at exactly the right time,” said Donald Marron, Mr. Davant’s successor at PaineWebber and the current CEO of Lightyear Capital. “He was also an ardent golfer; that’s why he loved being in Florida.”
Mr. Davant was a member of Gulfstream Golf Club, St. Andrews Country Club, The Little Club, and the Bath and Tennis Club.
He is survived by his three children: Diane Davant of Glen Head, N.Y., Jack Davant of Bozeman, Mont., and Patricia Donaldson of Agoura Hills, Calif., as well as five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Cremation has taken place. A memorial service is planned for Minneapolis this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Bethesda Hospital Foundation of Boynton Beach.