Ag industry giant, Robert J O’Brien passes away at 103 years old

We want to take a minute to remember a giant in the agriculture industry-- Robert J. O’Brien.

He was the RJ O’Brien and Associates chairman emeritus.

Before that, he was chair of the CME, and as a further testament to his impact on the markets, O’Brien took delivery of the first cattle contract traded and broadcast the first live commodity report from the trading floor.

He also sponsored the first woman to work on the exchange floor. He passed away at the age of 103.

On behalf of all of us here at RFD-TV, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.

Press Release Via RJ O’Brien and Associates

CHICAGO, Jan. 5, 2022 – Chicago-based R.J. O’Brien & Associates (RJO) today announced the passing of the firm’s Chairman Emeritus, Robert J. O’Brien, Sr., yesterday at the age of 103. The company shared statements about the news.

RJO Chairman and CEO Gerald Corcoran said: “Our hearts are heavy at RJO as we mourn the loss but honor the amazing life of Robert J. O’Brien, Sr., the patriarch of the O’Brien family who laid the foundation for the firm we are today. At the age of nearly 104, Bob was an inspiration to so many in the futures industry. His integrity, market knowledge, and the knack to connect with market participants was unmatched. Bob continued to inspire us all with his profound integrity and sharp wit. He took tremendous pride in our organization and, of course, in his loving family that meant the world to him. We are truly grateful for his guidance over the years and blessed that we were able to celebrate our Centennial with him in 2014.

“On behalf of the firm, we extend our deepest condolences to his children and grandchildren – several of whom remain our majority owners, employees and active Board members today – as well as his great-grandchildren. We will miss Bob dearly, but it helps to know that he and his wife, Gerry – who passed three years ago just eight days shy of her 100th birthday – led such full and wonderful lives together.”

RJO is the last surviving founding member firm of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, now CME Group. Robert O’Brien, Sr. served two consecutive terms as the exchange’s chairman during a pivotal time in the history of the exchange, playing a significant role in making the governance structure more democratic and professional. He was on the Board of CME from 1964 through 1977 and was inducted into the FIA Futures Hall of Fame in 2007.

“A true pioneer of finance, Robert J. O’Brien, Sr. was instrumental in expanding futures trading to new users around the world,” said Terry Duffy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CME Group. “Under his leadership, R.J. O’Brien & Associates grew into the largest independent futures brokerage and clearing firm in the United States. During his long and storied tenure, Bob made many significant contributions to our industry, serving as Chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange from 1967-68 and sponsoring the first woman to work on the trading floor. His legacy is a testament to the value he created in his firm as well as the many relationships he built with his employees, clients and – most importantly – his family.”

Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus of CME Group, said: “I am deeply saddened. Bob was instrumental in joining me in the 1950s and ‘60s to revolutionize the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Throughout his life, Bob O’Brien was a pillar of honesty and dignity as reflected in his firm, R.J. O’Brien & Associates. I commiserate his loss and stand ready to celebrate his life of wisdom and integrity.”

O’Brien is survived by five children, 22 grandchildren and 33 great grandchildren. A native of Chicago, he returned to the city after serving in the Navy in World War II and graduated from DePaul University.

Memories shared by O’Brien when he was 96 about the firm’s first 100 years in business can be found in the RJO Centennial video at