Parasol’s low-key leader with drive

By Claire Fortier
Special to the Bonanza

Dean Meiling’s quiet intensity gives way to an almost boyish smile as he describes what it is like to race cars.

“I enjoy the sensation of speed, turning, braking,” he said. “It’s a little like skiing: going down the mountain feeling like you are in control, even over difficult terrain.”

The difficult terrain that Meiling mentions in passing happens to be the Classic Le Mans, a vintage sports car race held on the same 8.4-mile circuit as the fabled Grand Prix of Endurance. The race takes place over a full 24-hour day/night cycle and features classic cars that previously raced at Le Mans.

Driving a 1959 Cooper Monaco at 130 to 140 miles an hour, through daylight and darkness, was “kind of neat,” Meiling said. And then he flashes that smile as he adds, “When I think of how few people get to experience something like that, it gives you an extra little thrill.”

Meiling’s fast track began long before he started racing vintage automobiles. Raised in the Midwest, the son of a civil engineer who helped build the country’s highway system, Meiling went into finance as an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After graduation, he worked for Northwest Mutual as a bond analyst. The company paid his way through graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He then spent the next five years helping Northwest invest its portfolio.

He went on to New York to work as a stock analyst.

“It was a very interesting experience, very different than bonds,” he said. “With bonds, you are worried about getting the money back. With stocks, it’s all about maximizing profits.”

Meiling moved west, taking a job in Southern California with Pacific Life. It was there he began his career with PIMCO, now the world’s leading bond investment firm, managing more than $800 billion in assets.

When he started with PIMCO in 1977, it was a small operation, about $100 million in managed assets. Meiling did everything from client work to marketing.

“About the only thing I didn’t do was trade,” he said.

By the time he was named senior vice president in 1982, PIMCO had grown to almost $10 billion and was starting to pioneer new bond derivatives. He was named managing director in 1987.

While he describes the business atmosphere as “very intense,” he jokes he had “indoor work with no heavy lifting.” What was fascinating, he said, was to be able to match wits with “other people on what the future holds.”

Meiling started to wind down his career in 1995, about the time he bought his house in Incline Village. During his time with PIMCO, he “put away a lot of other things. After a while, the marginal utility of the next dollar paled in comparison to the marginal utility of my free time,” he said.

He retired from PIMCO in 1998, after setting up a highly successful overseas operation in London. At the time of his retirement, PIMCO managed $186 billion in assets and the company was garnering accolades in the international financial community.

Since his retirement, he has been a low-key leader in the Incline community. He has given both his time and money to a number of local causes from Sierra Nevada College to the Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation.

As chairman of Parasol’s board of directors, he sees Parasol playing a critical role.

“Parasol is the catalyst for real change,” he said. “The benefit of the community foundation will be ever more tangible and evident as we grow our asset base. I feel good that people who make the comparison of what we have accomplished to what we have spent will see that the foundation gets a very good bang for the buck.”

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