Longest-serving Russell Funds indie steps down after 22 years

Kristianne Blake’s departure marks third recent departure for $36bn mutual fund board

Russell Funds independent trustee Kristianne Blake concluded her 22-year tenure on Dec. 31, the board disclosed in a Feb. 28 filing.

The filing did not provide details about Blake’s departure; the funds’ adviser, Russell Investments Group, Ltd, did not respond to questions about why she left.

Blake, 69, is the third independent trustee to leave the board in two years, following the death of Thaddas Alston in January 2021 and the retirement of Cheryl Burgermeister in June 2021.

Another independent trustee, Jack Thompson, will reach the board’s mandatory retirement age next year. The nine-member board has already implemented a succession plan that included adding four new independent trustees in 2021.

At the time of her departure, Blake was tied in the race for longest-serving board member with current chair Raymond Tennison, Jr., 68, who joined the board in 2000, the same year as Blake.

Blake was the founder and president of accounting firm Kristianne Gates Blake, P.S., from 1987 to 2021 and was a tax partner at Deloitte Haskins & Sells from 1986 to 1987.

She sat on the board of the WM Funds from 1999 to 2008, on the board of electric utility Avista Corporation from 2000 to 2023 and on the University of Washington’s board of regents from 2006 to 2018.

Blake is the older sister of Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates.

The Russell board’s remaining independent trustees include Tennison, 68; Thompson, 74; Michelle Cahoon, 57; Michael Day, 66; Katherine Krysty, 72; Julie Dien Ledoux, 54; Jeremy May, 53; and Jeannie Shanahan, 59.

The board has a mandatory retirement age of 75, although the board may choose to waive the retirement age for individual trustees for up to five years.

Vernon Barback, COO of Russell Investments, is the board’s only interested trustee.

The funds’ CCO is Cheryl Wichers.

The board, which oversaw $34.6bn across 40 mutual funds at the end of 2022, maintains an audit committee, a nominating and governance committee, and a regulatory and investment compliance committee.

Total compensation for the independent trustees ranged from $225,100 to $284,100 for the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2022.

Russell Investments is an institutional and retail investment services firm headquartered in Tacoma, Wash. It managed $276.5bn globally at the end of 2022.

Kristianne Blake
  • Independent trustee, Russell Funds, 2000 – 2022
  • Founder and president, Kristianne Gates Blake, P.S., 1987 – 2021
  • Tax partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, 1986 – 1987
  • Director, Avista Corporation, 2000 – 2023
  • Regent, University of Washington, 2006 – 2018
  • Independent director, WM Funds, 1999 – 2008