They came, conversed, marched, danced, listened and even got engaged during Wharton Alumni Weekend in May.
Close to 500 graduates and guests from the classes of 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986 and 1991 returned to campus for executive education, alumni/faculty exchanges, cocktail receptions, dinners, a picnic, a parade and a brunch. An unusually large number of children joined the festivities.
Participants in the alumni/faculty exchanges discussed “Investing in the ‘90s,” “Cybermarkets in our Future,” “The Changing Face of Banking” and “The Entrepreneur in Asia.”
Below, we highlight some of the events of the weekend and profile six reunion year graduates.
Jacob Wallenberg, W’80, WG’81
Chief Operating Officer, Enskilda, and Executive Vice President, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken
As deregulation, consolidation, mergers and bankruptcies continue to roil the European banking community, the challenges for industry leaders like Jacob Wallenberg can only intensify.
Wallenberg is chief operating officer of Enskilda, the investment banking division of Stockholm-based Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), one of the four largest Nordic banks. Enskilda has 2,000 employees, operates in 15 countries, and specializes in M&A, corporate finance, equity trading, foreign exchange, fixed income and cash management for large companies, among other areas.
Wallenberg is also a member of one of Europe’s leading industrial dynasties: The Wallenberg family, headed by Peter Wallenberg, Jacob’s father, controls an array of Swedish blue-chip companies, including Asea, Electrolux, Ericsson, Astra, Stora, Saab-Scania and SKF, and exerts what is typically described as “unprecedented dominance” over the rest of the country’s economy. Family holdings account for approximately 40 percent of the value of the Stockholm Stock Exchange.
A recent article in The New York Times reports that the holding company for the Wallenberg empire, Investor A.B., had a market value of $6.4 billion at the end of last year and is pushing to extend its reach into a far more global arena — beyond its traditional power base of Swedish industrial companies and into such international fast-growth areas as telecommunications, media, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
“The challenges brought on by deregulation and the resulting consolidation, similar to what you have seen in the U.S., is changing how we do business,” says Wallenberg. “It means we are looking at all kinds of structural opportunities in the Nordic region and pan-internationally.”
Current economic conditions are also triggering “an enormous amount of cross-border business, with Nordic companies acquiring international companies and a tremendous focus on the Far East,” notes Wallenberg. “All our clients are making efforts to develop business in that part of the world, whether it’s establishing joint ventures in India and China or starting their own businesses in Singapore and Japan. Each country offers different opportunities.”
An area that Wallenberg and others are watching closely is the proposal for a European Monetary Union, under which all European Union countries would adopt a single currency. “SEB is one of the world’s 15 largest foreign exchange banks, and as such we are very concerned with the potential of the European Monetary Union to take away some of our business,” Wallenberg adds. “On the other hand, the monetary union will create new business opportunities as well.”
Wallenberg is well positioned to understand the challenges of his industry. After graduating from Wharton, he enrolled in extensive training programs at J. P. Morgan in Manhattan and Hambros Bank in London. In 1984 he joined Enskilda Securities, where he held a variety of posts in their London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Stockholm offices.
From 1990 to 1993, Wallenberg was deputy managing director of Investor, a holding company with substantial interests in several of Sweden’s major corporations, and an SEB client. “Working there taught me what clients look for in a bank and gave me a nutshell view of the competition,” he says. “It was an invaluable experience.”
In 1993, Wallenberg rejoined the SEB Group as advisor to the CEO. In 1994 he was appointed deputy COO of Enskilda and in 1995 was promoted to COO. He serves on the board of STORA AB as vice chairman and is a member of the board of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Norwegian-Swedish Chamber of Commerce.
Before coming to Wharton as an undergraduate, he spent three years in the Swedish Navy, part of that time as the number two officer in command on a PT boat. “I was looking for a U.S. education with a financial focus,” he says. “I chose Wharton because of its outstanding reputation.”
James B. McElwee, WG’76
General Partner, Weston Presidio Capital
His favorite kind of company, says Jim McElwee, a partner in the venture capital firm of Weston Presidio Capital, is “a family-owned or closely held firm that has no other institutional investors, has grown to between $10 and $50 million on its own and is ready to go to the next level.”
Companies like Morris Airlines, a low-cost, short-haul family run airline that was bought by Southwest Airlines in 1993; The Coffee Connection, a Boston-based retail coffee chain bought in 1994 by Starbucks Corp.; Petzazz, a pet supply chain acquired by Petsmart; The Lion, a brewing company that recently went public; The Frontier Group, which develops nursing homes; Restoration Hardware, a rapidly-growing home furnishings retailer, and NeTpower, Inc., a computer systems company focused on high performance graphics — to name just a few of the diverse investments made by Weston Presidio since its founding in 1992.
The San Francisco-based venture capital company has over $300 million under management, an office in Weston, Mass., and limited partners that range from college endowments to large pension funds to other venture capital funds. “We look at approximately 1,000 companies, work really hard on about 30 and then out of those we fund five or six,” McElwee says. “It’s a lot like finding a needle in a haystack.”
Luck helps, McElwee would add. He tells the story of how during a business trip to Las Vegas, a partner in the firm decided to drop by The Sweet Factory, a mall-based candy retailer that was one of Weston Presidio’s earliest investments. The candy shop’s mall neighbor happened to be Just For Feet, Inc., an athletic footwear store owned by a South African entrepreneur based in Birmingham, Ala. “My partner saw right away what an impressive operation it was,” McElwee says. “As it turned out, the owner was visiting the store that day. He and my partner struck up a conversation, and two months later, we invested $2 million in the chain. Six months after that the store went public, and since that time it has been one of the best performing stocks on the NASDAQ exchange. Our price per share was about $2. It’s now trading at $52.”
After graduating from Claremont Men’s College and Wharton, McElwee joined Andersen Consulting where he worked with a variety of clients in the healthcare, retailing and technology industries. He moved to Security Pacific venture capital group in 1979 as senior vice president of Security Pacific Capital Corporation and managing director of its Menlo Park office. The group’s total portfolio of investments in private companies was about $10 million when McElwee started. When he left it was more than $300 million. “I worked on transactions involving 60 different companies,” says McElwee. “It was great experience.”
In 1992, McElwee and two partners decided to test the entrepreneurial waters. They raised $81 million for their first fund, and the first four deals they did either went public or were bought out by other companies within a year. These successes enabled the company to raise a second fund of $225 million last year. “By that time, money was practically being thrown at us,” McElwee says. The firm today has the original three partners plus four principals.
Weston Presidio has deliberately chosen to remain diversified. “We don’t want to get categorized as a firm that invests only in one industry, even though the trend today is towards specialization,” says McElwee. “For example, a firm doesn’t just do software, it does Internet software. That’s not our approach.
“What we consistently look for in a company is the quality of the management team, their knowledge of their specific project and their relative strength in the industry. If you are backing the right people, they will figure out a way to make the company successful. They have staying power.”
Paula Cholmondeley, WG’71
President, Miraflex™ Fiber Products, Corporate Vice President, Owens Corning
It’s called Pink Plus R25 with Miraflex (TM) fiber — an attic insulation product developed this year by a new division at Owens Corning called Miraflex (TM) Fiber Products Business.
Paula Cholmondeley is the 100-person division’s new president, and she’s clearly excited about her job, her colleagues and the future. “I love the new-product, new-technology, new-development side of this business. It’s a lot of creativity, innovation and teamwork. You get to pick what you want the future to look like and then work to make that a reality.”
Cholmondeley brings to the job a wealth of experience dealing with new challenges, ranging from turning around a Manhattan ad agency to spending a year in Washington as a White House Fellow.
Along the way she has earned a wealth of recognition as well. She was featured in “100 Strategists to Watch” in the 1994 Journal of Business Strategy. In 1991 she was named “Outstanding Member in Industry” by the National Association of Black Accountants. She is a member of the Council of Division Leaders and Council on Foreign Relations of The Conference Board, a director of Armco, Inc., vice chairman of the board for Gifts in Kind America, treasurer of The Executive Leadership Council and a member of the board of trustees for the Center of Science and Industry in Toledo.
After earning a BA in accounting from Howard University and an MS in accounting from Wharton, Cholmondeley spent two-and-one-half years at Arthur Andersen in New York City in their small business and consumer products divisions. She moved on to a job as CFO at Zebra Associates, a black-owned ad agency in Manhattan that was, at the time, in financial trouble. “I got things back on an even track and then realized it was time for another challenge,” Cholmondeley says.
Using contacts developed at Andersen, she joined International Paper, an Andersen client, for six years, the last two of which she was manager of budgets and controls for the folding carton and label division. In 1980, she moved to Westinghouse Elevator Co., first as vice president for strategic planning, then as manager of international marketing and Latin American operations, and finally, as regional manager for the capital cities area. During the middle of her six years at Westinghouse Elevator she spent one year in Washington, D.C. as a White House Fellow and special assistant to the U.S. Trade Representative. Her specific responsibility was trade relations with Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia (ASEAN).
In 1986 she spent approximately one year as CFO and senior vice president — finance for Blue Cross of Greater Philadelphia. “I had left the financial field before this, and when I got back into it, I realized I no longer enjoyed it,” says Cholmondeley. “I also found a nonprofit to be too focused on internal operations and politics and not focused enough on the customer.”
She left Blue Cross to take a position as vice president and director – international division for The Faxon Co., a global library subscription agency in Boston. During her fourth year there, the privately-held company was split up into pieces as part of a divorce settlement. The international operations were sold off, and in 1992, Cholmondeley moved on to Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. in Toledo, Ohio.
For her first 14 months she was vice president for business development and global sourcing. In 1994 she became president of Miraflex(TM) Fiber Products, which at the time was a top-secret project that required Cholmondeley to oversee the construction of a new plant, the hiring of a new crew and the record-time creation of a new product. Miraflex, which appeared on retailers’ shelves in 1995, is expected to produce $500 million in sales from a new family of products by the year 2000. Cholmondeley and others expect that it will have uses beyond insulation, including, for example, flame retardant fabrics.
Leading a team that brings a new product into existence “is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Cholmondeley. “There is no greater thrill than working on projects that will become part of the company’s folklore and history.”
She is also a corporate vice president of Owens Corning — the company’s first woman and minority officer — and a member of their Leadership Council.
“I have liked the variety that comes from moving around in different jobs,” says Cholmondeley, who was born in Jamaica and raised in Guyana, South America. “You have to stay in a company long enough to make sure you produce results. But in most places today there is a lot of opportunity to change positions inside the company. That satisfies my need to see many different things and always feel that I am continuing to grow.”
Sam Gorman, W’66, WG’67
Partner, Ernst & Young
When Sam Gorman graduated from Wharton 30 years ago, business schools weren’t yet emphasizing the need for a global curriculum and international business experience.
Yet Gorman, over the course of three decades with the accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP, has experienced his own form of “global immersion.” In the late 1970s and early 1980s, while a senior manager and then partner in Ernst & Young’s Manhattan office, Gorman spent time in Korea, Indonesia and England on client projects. These days, as a partner in Ernst & Young’s Houston office, his work takes him frequently to Western Europe and Mexico and occasionally into the South Pacific.
Gorman’s international background was one of the reasons that Ernst & Young asked him to relocate to Houston in 1985. The needs of the Houston office’s biggest client — Cooper Industries, a multinational manufacturing company with operations all over the world — meshed well with Gorman’s expertise.
At the time, Gorman viewed the move to Houston with some trepidation. “I considered myself a diehard New Yorker even though I had grown up in Providence, R.I.,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Fortunately, Houston turned out to be a pleasant surprise. “It’s a very diverse city with a lot more culture and internationalism than I had anticipated. And because it is the energy capital of the country, many of the corporations headquartered here have multinational operations.”
Gorman has spent almost his entire career working with Fortune 500 manufacturing companies. During his nearly 16 years in Ernst & Young’s New York office, his clients included Western Electric, for whom he eventually became the lead coordinating partner, RCA and Collins & Aikman, a textile company headquartered in Manhattan. Today, in addition to Cooper Industries, Gorman is responsible for Continental Airlines and several other companies, both public and private.
In the early 1980s, Gorman focused on mergers and acquisitions as part of due diligence teams evaluating acquisition targets. He was also a member of what was then Ernst & Young’s Policy Statements Committee, working closely with the firm’s national office on various technical matters. In the Houston office, he directed the 100-person audit department from 1985 to 1988 before deciding to dedicate more of his time to client work.
“As the person responsible for all the professional services provided to Cooper Industries and Continental Airlines, I find there are always new issues to deal with, whether it’s internally related, like a new public financing or an acquisition, or externally related, like analyzing the impact of new SEC requirements or tax and accounting rules.
“In addition, during the course of my career, I have developed extended relationships with a number of clients, which means I know people all over the world and have followed them as they move into new positions or on to different cities and countries. I have built an extended list of contacts, many of whom have become friends.”
Outside of work, Gorman might be said to have two other “clients,” although for them his work is on a strictly volunteer basis. One is Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Gorman has just begun a second three-year term as trustee and serves on the Museum’s audit committee, finance committee, executive committee and exhibition committee. He also chairs the corporate partners leadership committee, and represents the museum on the Business for the Arts board, of which he is director.
His other area of involvement is Wharton. Gorman is chairman of the Alumni Association Executive Committee and has been president of the Wharton Club of Houston since 1992. “I’m at that stage in my life and career where I have the time to do things that broaden me and get me involved in other activities. I think you have to do that. Otherwise you become too narrowly focused.
“The Houston club has helped me increase my networking capabilities. Getting involved in community and business activities outside of your day-to-day job is almost a requirement these days for further development in just about any career you choose.
“I feel very positively about Wharton because of the education and training I received there,” Gorman says. “I have a strong allegiance to the School and all it represents.”
John Paul Basile, W’86
Regional Marketing Director, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
John Paul Basile is one of those lawyers who practiced for a couple of years and then decided he wanted something completely different.
So he joined the circus, in a manner of speaking. In 1991, with a law degree from American University and two years of practicing real estate law under his belt, Basile traveled around the country for four months and then took postgraduate courses in special events marketing at NYU.
That’s where he heard about Ringling Bros. He is now one of the company’s 36 regional marketing directors responsible for promoting the circus as well as Walt Disney’s World on Ice in 10 East Coast markets, including his home base of Philadelphia.
“I have been totally sucked up in the world of the circus,” says Basile, who counts among his closest friends several members of Clown Alley, the company’s 18-member clown troop. “It gets into your blood whether you are a performer or a marketing director. It’s a way of life, not a job. I work 24 hours a day.”
And travel a lot, he might add, spending approximately 60 percent of his time on the road in circus towns like Memphis, Mobile, Syracuse and Rochester. His goal is to “maximize an ad budget and make sure that everybody knows about the show and wants to go see it.”
Specifically that means establishing relationships with sponsors like McDonald’s and Acme, coordinating ad campaigns with local ad agencies, setting up promotions, discounts and sweepstakes, and “generally getting the word out in newspapers and magazines, and on TV, radio, transit buses and milk cartons … whatever it takes,” he says. “We always have a lot of local performers, which helps with the publicity. One of our headliners this year has a dog frisbee act and is from Haddonfield, N.J. That’s a great local news story.”
Ringling Brothers, founded in 1870, and Walt Disney’s World On Ice is owned by Kenneth Feld, who also owns several Broadway productions and produces television shows. The company runs different circuses simultaneously throughout the U.S., and is creating new shows for South America and Asia.
“Each show has its own qualities,” says Basile, “but the biggest component is the group of performers. In South America they may try and focus a bit more on some of the Latin-oriented acts, but it’s important to remember that the whole premise we are built on is being the greatest show on earth and offering people something they haven’t ever seen before. You want to have acts from all over the world with people from different cultures, races and communities.”
Ringling Bros. also tours seven units of Disney on Ice across the world — Pocahontas and Toy Story will debut this fall — and one unit of the Wizard of Oz On Ice. Another branch of the company is Siegfried & Roy, Las Vegas-based illusionists.
Basile himself stages about 125 performances yearly of both the circus and Walt Disney’s World on Ice with attendance of approximately one million annually.
“I’m there for every show, but I never get the same performance,” he says. “The performers have to deal with the audience differently every time. It’s their job to get people up and excited, whatever it takes. From a viewing perspective, I am always seeing something different.”
Including, this year, Airiana, the human arrow — a woman who is catapulted across the entire length of the circus at 60 mph. “It’s truly special. It’s mystery and magic,” says Basile. “She represents the reason people love to come to the circus.”
Anne E.M. Kalin, WG’91
Co-founder and Vice-president, Lynka
The way Anne Kalin sees it, the textile printing company she and husband John Lynch, WG’89, own in Krakow, Poland, is perfectly situated for growth.
“To the East of us are millions of people starved for consumer goods. To the West of us is an entire European community interested in high-quality, less-expensive goods. We plan to expand in both directions, but probably East first, into Ukraine and Russia.”
Lynka has grown in the past five years from six people, one small office and a $40,000 investment into a multimillion dollar business that employs 60 people in three different locations.
The promotional printing side of the company creates and/or stamps company logos and messages on tee-shirts, caps, bags and sweatshirts. Clients include IBM, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, among other giants. “We recently did the entire fleet of drivers and pilots for DHL in Poland,” says Lynch.
The license/tourism, or retail, division has licensing arrangements with six universities and several entertainment companies. Lynka pays The Walt Disney Co., for example, a licensing royalty fee for the right to print Disney characters on clothing which they then sell to more than 100 retail chains and wholesalers throughout Poland. Discussions are currently underway for an agreement with Warner Brothers as well.
Lynka also sells tee-shirts with the names of Polish cities, landmarks and other motifs to hotels and tourist resorts. The company imports some supplies and equipment, including printing machines, inks and screen-printing solutions and chemicals, from the U.S.
Lynka’s excellent distribution network, Kalin adds, has already drawn the attention of companies in need of reliable distribution of their own products. Lynka recently was hired to be a distributor of Russell Athletic’s Jerzees brand in Poland.
Of the 60 people employed at Lynka, four are Americans (including Kalin and Lynch) and the rest Poles. Their average age is 23. “It works well for us to hire energetic young people, even if they have no business background, and then train them ourselves, in everything from how to use a computer to how to sell, do a presentation and handle a negotiation,” says Lynch.
Kalin focuses on the operations side of the business, including production and distribution, while Lynch handles marketing, sales and administration. “I like making things and John loves selling them, so it’s a perfect relationship,” says Kalin.
She and Lynch first came to Poland as one of 40 MBA students in a training program called the MBA Enterprise Corps. The students, selected from the top business schools in the U.S., were sent to Eastern Europe to “teach people about capitalism … Within a year, we had fallen in love with Krakow and decided to stay and start a company,” says Kalin, who earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College.
“The biggest challenge initially was that the entire economy was changing so rapidly, including the legal system, customs procedures and the tax structure. Everything was a moving target. The government was rewriting the books without explaining the new regulations to their officials.
“The keys to our success,” she says, “are first, that we are workaholics, and second, that we speak fluent Polish. Most Americans here don’t. They can order pizza and a taxi to take them to the train station. We learned the language by being on the job …
“I hope I make a lot of money doing this, but I’m not just driven by that. It’s very satisfying growing a business and actually producing something.”
And being always open to new ideas and opportunities. “One of the big beer companies here just ordered 10,000 tee-shirts from us,” Kalin notes. “We also get orders for one tee-shirt. We’re not too proud to take the small orders. Sometimes they turn into bigger ones.”