Jay DeBow, a financial and corporate agency pro who built Jay DeBow & Partners over 30 years in New York before selling to Omnicom, died Feb. 24 in Florida after a four-year bout with Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.

jay debowDeBow founded his eponymous firm in 1960 and spent three decades providing PR and IR counsel to clients like DieBold, Ashland Oil, Santa Fe International and Phillips Petroleum. Notable campaigns included launching the first bank credit card for BankAmericard, now known as VISA, and unveiling the ATM for client Diebold, initially to the banking industry and later to consumers.

He fostered meetings between client BankAmerica and the Russian government, built a public affairs program in Southeast Asia for construction giant RMK-BRJ during the Vietnam War, and created a London financial communications program for Ashland, among other globe-trotting assignments.

DeBow is a Long Island native who split his time between New York and Hypoluxo, Fla., in recent years. He was a graduate of Paul B. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, N.Y., and earned a B.A. in journalism in 1955 from the Univ. of Georgia in Athens, where he was a defensive tackle on its football team.

He started out in journalism at the Athens Banner Herald and moved to United Press before entering the agency world as a PR staffer at ad shop Merrill Anderson in New York. He founded his own firm at age 26 focused on corporate and financial work.

DeBow eventually sold the firm in 1992 to Omnicom, which folded it into Porter Novelli, and continued as a counselor to the firm for clients like First Nationwide Bank and Union Bank.

In the PR industry, he was a member of the board of directors of the National Investor Relations Institute and chairman of both its Ethics and Government Affairs Committees. He was a founder of and served on the steering committee of the Senior Investor Relations Roundtable and was a member of the special events committee of the New York Society of Security Analysts. He was also an active member of the Public Relations Society of America and its Counselors Academy for many years.
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne Hayat DeBow; four daughters, Stacy Covey, Cary Smith, Jennifer DeBow, and Holly Carbo, from a previous marriage to Audrey Ellison DeBow. He is also survived by his brother Thomas DeBow, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

A memorial to celebrate Mr. DeBow’s remarkable life will be scheduled in the summer. The family requests that remembrances take the form of contributions to The Salvation Army. He was chairman of the Manhattan Board of Advisors of The Salvation Army and a governor of The Metropolitan Club, where he was also chairman of the Membership Committee.