Leon Levy, who launched the first Oppenheimer mutual fund in 1959 and founded the company’s now-famous mutual fund unit the following year, will retire this month as chairman.

Clayton Yeutter will assume the role of chairman of the board, overseeing the company’s 31 funds, on Jan. 1. Yeutter has served on the board since 1991 and was a U.S. Trade Representative from 1985 to 1989. He was also U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1981 to 1991 and was president and CEO of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Levy, 77, joined Oppenheimer & Co. in 1951 as a partner and research director. In 1960, he formed Oppenheimer Management Corp., which eventually grew into what is today known as OppenhemerFunds. As of Sept. 30, the firm oversaw $120 billion in assets and maintained more than seven million shareholder accounts.

In a statement issued today, Levy said, "It is time to pass the baton."

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