BOSTON -- When he stepped down as president of the Boston Co. last year, William J. Nutt said he wasn't sure exactly what he would do, except to take a chance on something different.

Now, Mr. Nutt, 49, has his hands full of risk - of the financial sort - in a pair of start-up ventures he is running out of Boston.

Both are of interest to bank investment units. One operates a mutual fund distribution business that counts Mellon Bank Corp. as its biggest client.

The other aims to become a giant in institutional funds management, competing with bank trust departments and others in the fragmented money management business.

"I had always wanted to do something entrepreneurial," Mr. Nutt said, explaining his move from corporate chieftain to small businessman.

Of course, he also got a push from Mellon, which acquired Boston Co. last year. Mr. Nutt said Mellon didn't want him to stay on as president because it wanted to run its own show. But Mellon and the management of Boston Co. welcomed his ideas on starting a new venture.

The plan: to buy a unit of the Boston Co. that Mellon didn't want, namely, the broker-dealer Boston Institutional Services, and to buy another that Mellon, by law, can't own, namely, the mutual fund sales specialist Funds. Distributor Inc. Mr. Nutt would then combine them into a single-enterprise called Boston Institutional Group.

Terms were not disclosed for the two transactions that accomplished the plan last year. But Mr. Nutt said the units were bought

by him and two senior managers of Boston Institutional with their own money and a bank loan.

Proving that the deals were amicable, Mellon recently signed up Funds Distributor to do distribution work' for its recently acquired Dreyfus Funds, which had $66 billion of assets at July 31, according to the Investment Company Institute.

With the Mellon contract, Mr. Nutt said Boston Institutional Group is on track for revenues of $58 million this year, split equally between the broker-dealer and distributor. The firm, he said, is profitable, though "not wildly" so.

But Boston Institutional isn't the only entrepreneurial meal on Mr. Nutt's plate. At the beginning of the year, he launched a partnership with respected venture capitalist TA Associates, also of Boston, to go after money management business.

TA has put an undisclosed sum into a start-up called Affiliated Management Group, which Mr. Nutt is running as president.

With Affiliated, Mr. Nutt has set his eyes on the booming success -- of -- United Asset Management, also of Boston. The latter company has become a darling of Wall Street, and a giant in pension fund management, by buying boutique money managers eager to cash in on their success.

Affiliated has similar plans, though it will insist that money managers remain part-owners of their firms, unlike United Asset, which takes full ownership.

"I think it's going to be a substantial public company someday," said P. Andrews McLane, a TA managing director and Affiliated director.

Mr. Nutt said he thinks the venture "is an improvement on the UAM model."

Mr. McLane, like others who have worked with Mr. Nutt, used terms like "well-respected" and "excellent manager" to describe him.

That Mr. Nutt should be moving among - and admired by the Brahmins of Boston's financial elite is a remarkable story in itself.

The 49-year-old Pennsylvania native grew up on his father's dairy farm; at one time, he wanted to be a veterinarian.

A few midnight calls on suffering cows rid him of that dream, and he went on to study, law instead.

Mr. Nutt became a partner in a leading Philadelphia law firm, Ballard, Spahr, Andrews, & Ingersoll. He moved on to the Boston Co. in 1982.

His separate ventures have him migrating among three offices in Boston. A well-mannered man with glasses that give him an owlish look, he insists that he lets his employees run the show.

One of his offices supports that claim. It is spartan and small and, on a recent day, sported a seemingly unused desk and a flip chart obstructing a solitary plant in the corner.

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