One of the familiar figures of the mutual fund industry, whose bearlike image instilled confidence, has died.

William Merriam Bart Berger, the former president and majority owner of Berger Associates, died June 29 of congestive heart failure in Denver, Colo. He was 73.

Berger is best known to the public for his distinctive appearance. Pictures of Berger, with white hair and white beard, ran regularly in Berger Funds' print advertisements.

Berger also appeared on televised personal finance programs, where he became as much a symbol of the mutual fund industry as he was of the fund group he ran from 1974 to 1994.

"He worked to educate people to the importance of savings and investing," said Sally Carleton, vice president of corporate communications for Berger Associates. "He really inspired thousands of people to make their lives better" by saving and investing.

Berger, a native of Denver, spent more than 40 years in the money management business. In 1950, Berger became a portfolio manager in the trust department of Colorado National Bank of Denver. He subsequently started a series of mutual funds and money management companies in Denver.

One of his firms, Centennial Management Company, merged with another Denver mutual fund company, Founders Asset Management, in 1966.

Berger sold Berger Associates to Kansas City Southern Industries of Kansas City, Mo. in 1994 and subsequently devoted himself to art collecting and philanthropy.

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