Carlyle Group CEO to UVA Darden School: ‘An MBA is a License to Make a Difference’

23 April 2015

With more than 250 professionals and students from around Grounds in attendance, University of Virginia Darden School of Business Dean Robert F. Bruner credited the good work done by the student-run Darden Private Equity Cluband its alumni advisers for making the fourth annual Darden Private Equity Conference the largest ever.

Of course, he added, the presence of billionaire keynote speaker David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, might have helped attendance, too.

Rubenstein was the highlight of a busy program that included an analysis of the state of the capital markets as well as panels on the impact of alternative lending platforms on private equity, real world case studies, and opportunities and challenges in private equity investing. However, Rubenstein’s most important message had little to do with private equity, but instead focused on what the students in the room could do to ensure the money they earned in their professional lives brought them happiness.

“You shouldn’t view an MBA as a license to make money, but as a license to make a difference,” Rubenstein said. “Make a decision to do something with your money, time and ideas that will help people or the country where you live.”

A generous philanthropist who has earned recognition for giving large sums to patriotic causes, Rubenstein discussed his decision to join other billionaires in making The Giving Pledge.

“After I realized I had more money than I deserved or needed, … I decided to give all of my money away. I’m trying to do that now,” Rubenstein said. Among the more impressive gifts, Dean Bruner noted in his introduction that Rubenstein had paid to repair the Washington Monument after it was damaged and shuttered following an earthquake, donated a large sum to the panda habitat at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and has even supported Monticello by paying for repairs to the home of Thomas Jefferson and the surrounding grounds.

“Thomas Jefferson is a person who is a unique American, and I wanted to do something to help people remember him and the values this country was founded on. What America is all about is what he encapsulated when he wrote the Declaration of Independence,” Rubenstein said, noting he was honored to speak at Darden because UVA was one of Jefferson’s “great pleasures.”

As one of the most respected and successful figures in the leveraged buyout world, Rubenstein’s insights and prognostications on private equity were highly anticipated. He said his sector must do three things well to thrive or else “wither on the vine”:

  • Continue producing higher returns than the broader market average
  • Stay on the good side of the government, particularly international governments
  • Change the industry’s image for the better by convincing people private equity does not destroy companies, but instead adds value

Tipton R. Snavely Professor of Business Administration Susan Chaplinsky, who works with the Private Equity Club and the alumni advisory board to organize the conference, said Rubenstein’s remarks emphasized the investor mindset to follow opportunities where they arise. “When he started Carlyle in 1987, all of his investments were in the United States. Going forward, the opportunities in PE are in the emerging markets, where the industry’s scale is small in relation to the growth in those markets,” she said.

Rubenstein recognized several opportunities for the field of private equity, including emerging markets, reaching currently nonaccredited investors and sharing industry expertise to help make national economies better. He pointed to carbon-related energy and health care as areas ripe for investing.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia