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Annaly Capital CEO Michael A.J. Farrell dies

Michael A.J. Farrell, who built Annaly Capital Management Inc. into the world's largest mortgage real estate investment trust, has died after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. He was 61.

His death was confirmed in a statement by the New York-based company, which didn't provide additional details.

Farrell, who graduated high school at 16 with plans to become a commercial artist, instead turned to Wall Street, beginning at E.F. Hutton & Co. in 1971. After stints at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch & Co., he started Annaly in 1997 and increased assets to about $128.3 billion at the end of June, turning the firm into one of the largest buyers of home loan debt backed by the United States. He branched out with separate companies that buy non-agency bonds and commercial real estate securities.

"Mike will be missed not only for his stature in the business, but as one of the class guys in our industry," said Shawn Matthews, chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., the brokerage arm of Cantor Fitzgerald LP.

"He hired me into this business, and I have always considered him a mentor, great leader and true gentleman." Farrell, Annaly's chairman and chief executive, was receiving chemotherapy for cancer that "was caught early" and was considered treatable, according to a company statement in January.

In May, the firm disclosed the cancer was in remission. This month, it said co-founder Wellington Denahan-Norris was appointed joint chief executive to allow Farrell to focus on his "ongoing treatment."

Farrell was born on April 10, 1951, in Brooklyn. He graduated from high school at 16, according to an article published last year in a Wake Forest University magazine.

He and his wife, Mary Flynn, neither of whom completed college, committed $10 million to the school in "the largest cash commitment by a living individual in the university's history."

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