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Paul Belica, a pioneer in public finance who in 1961 was appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to run the fledgling New York State Housing Finance Agency, and went on help revolutionize the student loan industry during his later years with Smith Barney, died Sunday, February 10, 2019 in New York. He was 97 years old.
Adored by his children and grandchildren for his loving and gentle patriarchal presence, and revered as a mentor by the leading Wall Street figures he nurtured throughout his long career, Belica, born in Slovakia, never lost his immigrant’s passion for hard work and the joys of family.
Belica spent 15 years as executive director of the New York State Housing Finance Agency, helping usher in an era of state-sponsored construction of hospital facilities, dormitory facilities and middle income housing, as well as refining the financing for the state’s public university system. Serving under three Governors, he was at the helm of the agency during the financial crisis of the 1970s, when New York City narrowly avoided bankruptcy. During his tenure he also oversaw several other agencies, including those that financed the state’s medical care facilities, the municipal bond bank agency and the state’s project finance agency.
Belica moved to the private sector in 1976, hired by Smith Barney Upham Harris, where he became a managing director. There, with the issuance of a student loan revenue bond for the state of Wisconsin in 1978 -- the first of its kind -- his group came to dominate the market for the securitization of a new asset class. He has served on the boards of directors of an array of funds in the Pacific Investment Management Company (“PIMCO”) and Allianz Global Investors fund complexes, as well as serving as a director of Student Loan Finance Corporation and Deck House Inc.
Born in Slovakia in 1921, Belica, who studied law at Comenius University in Bratislava, came to the U.S. in 1949, after working for the Slovak Embassy first as a consular officer in Prague and then as Chief of the Restitution Mission in Vienna. As the communist regime became increasingly repressive, Belica was able to arrange passage to New York for him, his wife, nee Marina Karas, and their two children, Paul and Peter, on The USS General M.L. Hersey. His first job in the US was as an auto mechanic, and as he worked his way up through the finance world, he always saw himself as the embodiment of the American dream.
Belica maintained close ties to his Slovak roots. After the so-called “Velvet Revolution” in the early 1990s, together with his son, Paul, he organized a group of Wall Street bankers to meet with representatives of the new democratic Slovak government. Belica advocated a flat income tax, which the government implemented, later awarding him a Presidential medal for helping galvanize the support of the American financial community.
His wife Marina, died in 1973, and he later married Bani Bose, who survives him, as do his six children, Paul, Peter, Daniel, Marina, Patrice and Patrick, 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral Mass, St. Theresa’s Church, Briarcliff Manor on Sat. Feb. 23, 2019 at 11 AM. Interment Private.
WATERBURY & KELLY FUNERAL HOME
1300 Pleasantville Road
Briarcliff Manor, New York 10510