10/22/2012 | by
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Michael Farrell, Annaly Capital Management Inc.'s (NYSE: NLY) co-founder, chairman and CEO, died on Oct. 21 at the age of 61. He had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Farrell co-founded Annaly in 1997, and today it is the largest mortgage REIT listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Wellington Denahan-Norris, who co-founded Annaly with Farrell, was named co-CEO earlier this year following Farrell's cancer diagnosis. Denahan-Norris is also the company's vice chairman and chief investment officer.

"He was a fantastic leader and friend and will be greatly missed. Our hearts go out to his family and all those who were fortunate enough to know him," said Annaly's board of directors in a statement about Farrell's passing.

In addition to leading his own company, Farrell was known for his leadership within the REIT industry and stewardship of the REIT approach to real estate investment.

"Michael Farrell was a leader of the REIT industry who actively contributed his knowledge and insights to the betterment of our marketplace," said Steve Wechsler, president and CEO of NAREIT.  "He gave generously of his time and energy to our industry as a member of NAREIT's Executive Board and in many other capacities.  He will be greatly missed."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., as one of seven siblings, his parents were Irish immigrants. Farrell graduated from high school at the age of 16, but never completed college.

He got his start in the financial industry after getting a clerical job at brokerage firm E.F. Hutton in 1971 before becoming a trader for the company. Crain's New York Business named him to its Crain's Fortune 100 list in 2011.

Prior to founding Annaly, he was a managing director for Wertheim Schroder and Co. in the fixed income department. In addition to serving on NAREIT's Executive Board and as chairman of its Residential Mortgage REIT Council, Farrell was chairman of the board of visitors of the Wake Forest School of Business, a member of the board of trustees of Wake Forest University, a director of the U.S. Dollar Floating Rate Fund and chairman of the Maeve Foundation.