FBR co-founder steps down as CEO


A 2012 photo of Eric Billings in his office at FBR’s Arlington headquarters. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

After 17 years at the helm of Arlington Asset Investment Corp. — formerly known as Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group — Eric F. Billings announced this week that he is stepping down as chief executive of the firm he co-founded in 1989.

J. Rock Tonkel, Jr., the company’s president and chief operating officer, took over Wednesday as chief executive of Arlington Asset Investment Corp. He will remain the company’s president.

Billings’s retirement marks the departure of the firm’s last remaining founder. The other two founders, W. Russell Ramsey and Emanuel J. Friedman, left the company in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

“It has been one of my greatest professional privileges to lead Arlington Asset and its employees,” Billings said in a statement. “We have capitalized on many opportunities, and faced and overcome many challenges together as well.”

In its heyday, FBR was heralded as a Washington success story, a homegrown investment bank that rode the technology boom to riches. It suffered a setback when the dotcom bubble burst, only to rise again during the housing boom. But in the early 2000s, the company invested heavily in subprime mortgages, a move that resulted in huge losses when the credit crisis triggered the Great Recession.

In 2006, FBR spun off a new subsidiary, FBR Capital Markets (now called FBR & C0.) as an independent investment bank. Billings headed both, before announcing in 2008 that he would retire from FBR Capital Markets.

Billings, who will remain executive chairman of the company, said he plans to spend more time working with his three sons at Billings Capital Management, an Arlington-based investment management company where he serves as senior managing partner.

Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. For more Washington business news, go to www.capbiz.biz.

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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