New York Club Holds Joseph Wharton Awards
On September 27, the Wharton Club of New York drew its active membership to honor four of Wharton’s most prominent alumni at the Joseph Wharton Awards Dinner. The guests of honor were alumni Jon M. Huntsman, W’59, chairman of Huntsman Corp., Steven A. Cohen, W’77, chairman and founder of SAC Capital Advisors LLC, Caren S. Franzini, C’80, WG’84, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and Aditya Mittal, W’96, CFO of ArcelorMittal. The awards, which recognize exceptional leaders within the alumni community, began in 1972 and served as the premier business gala in New York until 1991. The event was revitalized in 2006 with a successful sold-out dinner at the Rainbow Room.
This year’s dinner, held at the Pierre, built on last year’s success. The event chair was Wharton alumnus Robert Wolf, W’84, chairman and CEO of UBS Americas, and the president of the Wharton Club of New York is alumnus Kenneth Beck, WG’87, president of Beck Enterprises. Huntsman was presented the Joseph Wharton Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award recognizes alumni who have had a tremendous positive and sustained impact on business and society over the course of their careers.
Cohen was presented the Joseph Wharton Award for Leadership, which recognizes alumni who embody the highest standards of leadership in both business and society. Franzini was presented the Joseph Wharton Award for Social Impact, which recognizes alumni who have had the greatest impact in public service, social enterprise or philanthropy. Mittal was presented the Joseph Wharton Award for Young Leadership. This award recognizes alumni who, early in their careers, have demonstrated the greatest potential for leadership and lasting impact.
Wharton Club of Minnesota Hosts Governor Tim Pawlenty
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty addressed 90 alumni at the Wharton Club of Minnesota’s annual luncheon on October 3. Governor Pawlenty, who succeeded in bringing the 2008 GOP convention to Minneapolis-St. Paul and is rumored as a potential Vice Presidential running mate, mingled informally with alumni over lunch. He then presented his vision for education, health care and the environment—three sources of both pride and concern for Minnesotans. After a thoughtful question and answer session, the club presented the Governor with a donation to the Minnesota Helps Bridge Disaster Fund, a charity he praised for assisting victims of the August I-35-W bridge collapse.
The club is especially thankful to Jeff Greiner, WG’83, for introducing his friend Governor Pawlenty at the event and to Meredith Peetz-Larsen, Associate Director of Alumni Affairs, who flew in from Philadelphia to attend the luncheon and meet with local club leaders. This was one of many fantastic events that the club sponsored in 2007 for Minnesota’s 450 area alumni.
The Wharton Club of Minnesota held its annual economic preview in February with Gary Stern, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The following month, alumni enjoyed a tour, private reception and performance of The Merchant of Venice at the new Guthrie Theater, the first U.S. architectural masterpieceby Jean Nouvel. This popular event was made possible by Janet Kinzler, WG’92, who is also the Chair Emeritus of the club. Karen Listgarten, C’86, G’92, WG’92, arranged a celebration of Earth month in April through a tour and discussion with Dominique Conseil, President of Aveda, Minnesota’s pioneer in environmental stewardship. Summer events took advantage of Minnesota’s balmy climate, featuring annual favorites such the MBA Alliance boat cruise. The Wharton Club’s family-friendly tent at the Polo Classic benefiting the Children’s Home Society & Family Services of the Twin Cities, was once again sponsored by Lowry Hill, thanks to Tom Hull, C’70, WG’78.
The Wharton Club of Minnesota has been active for decades, thriving due to the continued dedication of Wharton alumni, including past club presidents Jim Ulland, WG’66, Jon Goetze, WG’77, Robert Frost, WG’99, and Gail Baumgart, WG’99. Many club members are attracted to this region by corporate giants such as 3M, General Mills, Medtronic, Target, and UnitedHealth. The mission of the Wharton Club of Minnesota is to strengthen the Wharton community here and to enhance the Minnesota experience — fostering friendships and invaluable contacts along with lifelong learning opportunities.
– Carolyn Magill, WG’04
Second Annual Alumni Dinner Brings Entrepreneurs to Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s Union League may date to the Civil War but as the location of this year’s Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference, the buzz was focused on the new and innovative. The conference featured panels, workshops and one-on-one sessions aimed at educating entrepreneurs on how to build successful businesses. Wharton alumni were everywhere and especially visible as panelists for sessions related to such topics as emerging economies, social entrepreneurship, venture capital and real estate.
The conference’s keynote, M&T alumnus Jeff Fluhr, E’96, W’96, imparted inspiration by describing how he surprised even his parents in launching StubHub, an online ticket marketplace. Fluhr told of traveling to state capitals successfully lobbying against antiquated anti-scalping laws. As those laws were revised, StubHub benefited, with the operation becoming profitable and attracting major sports teams and top performing artists. StubHub also attracted acquisition interest, including from eBay. In February it bought StubHub for $310 million.
The evening before the conference, David Marshall, W’61, a Wharton alumnus and real estate entrepreneur, presided as Keynote of Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs’ second annual Alumni Dinner which was held at perhaps Marshall’s most dazzling property, the Rittenhouse Hotel. Dean Thomas Robertson offered the School’s vision for a Wharton Entrepreneurship Institute before nearly 70 alumni ranging from Class of 2008 to Class of 1959. Many also attended a lively pre-dinner session focused on building connections among the entrepreneurial community.
Club News in Brief
The Wharton Club of Houston (WCH) has been a hotbed of connections and deals lately. At the WCH’s UBS Speakers’ Forum Luncheon featuring Frontier Oil CFO Michael Jennings, Wharton School alumnus Bill Fraser, WG’93, was introduced to Chris Krummel, WG’03, by Club President Evan Betzer, WG’99. Fraser’s description of his risk management software business known as Spectrum- Prime Solutions, LP, soon led to a discussion of the need for marketing and sales talent. Krummel recognized the opportunity to make an introduction to a talented individual named David Pierce, W’50, who had just the right kind of professional experience to assist Fraser. Pierce and Fraser met and Pierce is now working full-time for the Spectrum-Prime Solutions.
Former Board Member Alvin Rucker, WG’98, was looking for a business to acquire when he volunteered on the WCH’s Entrepreneurship Committee. Through the club’s activities, he met Charles Boyd, WG’91, and began evaluating franchise opportunities. After considering several opportunities, the pair acquired a group of ten Popeye’s restaurants — and found funding for the deal from a fund managed by another WCH member.
– Evan Betzer, WG’99
Wharton Club of the Middle East members welcomed prospective students in Kuwait when Wharton’s Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, Thomas Caleel, WG’03, held an information session for the second year in a row in Kuwait’s Four Points Sheraton Hotel. Speaking to a diverse group of approximately 50 prospective students, Mohammed Alshaya, WG’84, Chairman of MH Alshaya Co Retail, began the information session by urging the young audience to show passion and zeal, and later spoke about his personal experiences as a Wharton alumnus. Next, Caleel detailed the admissions process and emphasized its transparency.
– Hassan El Houry, WG’07
Connections in Action: David Niu, WG’02, and Andy Liu, WG’02
For David Niu and Andy Liu, Wharton connections began before they were even officially Wharton students. The two men met in 1999 as admitted applicants during Wharton Welcome Weekend.
At the time, neither knew whether they would attend, much less that they would end up as business partners on two successful Internet companies. The latest, BuddyTV, is a two-year-old web community where TV fans read and exchange news and commentary. “We end up sleeping on the couches of two other students who were gone for the weekend,” says David of their first meeting. “Both of us were considering deferring at that time. We both ended up attending, and we bumped into each other in the fall at a Preterm lecture by Professor Peter Fader.”
The two were intrigued by Fader’s research, and eventually turned it into a business called NetConversions that they honed with the help of Wharton Business Plan Competition and other Wharton resources. With Fader and his PhD student, Wendy Moe, plus interest and advice from Wharton alumni and other VCs who visited campus, the venture, which applied Fader’s research toward increasing sales at web companies, showed so much promise that the fledgling entrepreneurs dropped out of school to pursue the company full-time in Seattle, Andy’s hometown. Then the tech boom blew up, and the two moved back to Philadelphia to finish up their Wharton educations. They brought NetConversions with them. “We actually operated the headquarters of NetConversions from a Chestnut Street apartment for a year,” says David.
With another year’s worth of education tailored towards their entrepreneurial venture, David and Andy had their degrees in hand, and a company that was in better shape than ever. They returned to their Seattle operations, then sold the company in 2004 to aQuantive (which was recently acquired by Microsoft) for up to $7 million. After the acquisition, they stayed on as senior executives for 18 months before they were ready for the next chapter in their business lives. “We tried to take off some time to think about what we wanted to do next, what we enjoyed and what we didn’t where we thought there would be opportunities.”
Three or four months later, Andy and David had founded BuddyTV. The new company didn’t take long to get off the ground either. “Everything is much easier the second time around. The experience of the labor pains and growing pains at Net Conversions was something we were able to leverage for BuddyTV to jumpstart the growth and maturation of the company. It was easier to recruit people, it was easier to talk to VCs.”
BuddyTV now averages more than 3 million unique users per month, and in 2007 it attracted a $3 million investment that was led by Gemstar-TV Guide. Andy and David still wear many hats, but their site officially proclaims Andy as the site’s publisher, David as the editor-in-chief, and their team includes about a dozen staffers. “Whenever I talk to people about what’s been helpful, I always mention the experience and the people I met during my time at Wharton,” David says.