Darden School Foundation Welcomes New Chair With a Story of Ambition and Change
By David Buie-Moltz
At the Darden School, stories of ambition, legacy and transformation reverberate. One such story is that of Frank M. Sands (MBA ’94), the new chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees. His story is a tapestry of commitment to family, an innovative approach to investment management and a deep-rooted connection to Darden.
Born Into the Darden Community
Frank’s bond with Darden started at birth. Born to Darden alumnus Frank M. Sands Sr. (MBA ’63), he was influenced by the institution’s ethos and values from his earliest days. His father’s tales of Darden, coupled with his experiences as a professional investor, shaped the young Frank’s worldview. The dinner table often echoed with discussions about stocks, business trends and the evolving investment landscape. It was here that Frank first learned about his father’s pioneering growth philosophy in the investment sector, a philosophy that would later become the cornerstone of Sands Capital.
The Genesis of Sands Capital
The early 1980s marked a significant shift. Differences in investment philosophy with his partners led Frank’s father to leave his investment firm and move to Washington, D.C. He joined a small brokerage firm, and further refined his growth philosophy. Frank, then in college, dove into deep discussions with his father, shaping an evolving understanding of the investment world.
In February 1992, Frank’s father launched Sands Capital with a young and enthusiastic Frank by his side. The bold venture started with $57 million under management, a strategy focused on investing in true innovation and concentrating portfolios in the best companies. Frank’s father took considerable financial risks, going without income for three years to ensure the firm’s foundation was solid. The commitment paid off. Sands Capital became not just a business but a dream, a legacy and a testament to a unique investment philosophy.
From Houston to Homecoming
While Sands Capital was finding its feet, Frank sought to broaden his horizons. He left the firm to attend Darden and, between his First and Second Year, secured an internship at the renowned Houston investment firm, Fayez Sarofim & Co. After graduation, he joined the firm full-time and delved deep into the tech world, analyzing giants such as Microsoft, Intel and Cisco during the tech boom of the 1990s. These experiences would later prove invaluable.
Watching Sands Capital blossom from afar, Frank saw an opportunity and felt a calling. At the age of 32, he made a pivotal decision. He chose to return, join his father and take Sands Capital to unprecedented heights. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to both build a business and work with my Dad,” he remembers.
Returning to Roots: A New Era for Sands Capital
In 2000, Frank returned to Sands Capital, then still a small firm with roughly $800 million in assets under management, one investment strategy and a staff of seven. Frank added his experiences from his stint in Houston, a fresh perspective and a global vision. Recognizing the changing landscape of the investment world, Frank pushed the firm to expand its horizons beyond domestic public markets.
Under his influence, Sands Capital began diversifying its investment strategies, venturing into emerging and international markets and exploring private equity and venture capital opportunities. This move was not just strategic but also visionary. Frank saw the potential of global markets long before they became the buzzword in investment circles. He believed that Sands Capital had to become a player on the global stage.
A Decade of Transformation: 2008 and Beyond
The year 2008 marked another significant milestone for Sands Capital. Frank took over leadership of the firm from his father, stepping into the role of chief investment officer and chief executive officer. This transition was more than just a change in titles; it heralded a new era.
With the global financial crisis, the challenges were manifold. But with strategic foresight, Frank ensured that Sands Capital not only weathered the storm but emerged stronger. He introduced innovative investment strategies, expanded the firm’s global footprint and emphasized a client-centric approach.
Frank recalls the early days of his leadership, “We saw more private companies competing with our public companies, and I knew we had to be there.” True to his word, by 2021, Sands Capital was managing roughly $80 billion in public equities and nearly $3 billion in private equity and venture capital. The firm’s global presence was undeniable, with clients in 45 countries and investments in 22 countries.
Faculty Forward: A Vision for the Future
As Frank takes on the mantle of chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, he is deeply committed to Faculty Forward, Milestone II of the Powered by Purpose campaign. Recognizing the pivotal role that faculty play in shaping the minds and futures of students, Frank envisions Faculty Forward as a means to bolster Darden’s academic prowess. “We always want to offer more scholarships and aid to promising people that we want to have be part of the Darden community,” he says. But beyond financial support, Faculty Forward represents a broader vision: to ensure that Darden continues to attract and retain world-class educators, researchers and thought leaders who can continue to deliver Darden’s transformational learning experience and improve it.
Frank’s commitment to Faculty Forward is deeply personal. Reflecting on his own time at Darden, he fondly recalls the faculty members who left an indelible mark on him. Professors such as Phillip Pfeifer, who taught marketing; Bob Bruner, who taught finance; and Alec Horniman, who taught leadership and development, were more than just educators; they were mentors, guiding lights and sources of those “aha moments” that transformed classroom learning into real-world wisdom. “I had moments with them where it was just pure learning,” Frank reminisces.
A Legacy of Leadership
Today, as Frank stands at the helm of both Sands Capital and the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, his journey is a testament to the power of vision, the importance of adaptability and the impact of resilient leadership. From its early days as a “mom-and-pop startup” to its stature as a global investment firm, Sands Capital’s story is intrinsically tied to Frank’s beliefs, ambitions and unwavering commitment to excellence.
A Life Beyond the Boardroom
Frank’s dedication extends beyond the realms of business and academia. He is a cherished member of YPO-Gold, a global leadership community of chief executives, spanning the Washington-Baltimore and Aspen chapters. His leisure moments are often spent in nature, hiking, biking or snowboarding. But relationships hold a particularly special place. He cherishes his family and friendships that have stood the test of time, understanding that long-standing bonds require nurturing. For nearly two decades, he has gathered a close-knit group of Darden ’94 classmates for an annual ski retreat — a testament to the value he places on authentic and joyous connections.
Frank is married to Julie Logan Sands. With a career in healthcare spanning three decades, Julie is an accomplished innovator. She’s an inventor with multiple medical device patents to her name and has shared her expertise globally. As the founder, chief executive officer and inventor of ReValve Solutions, she pioneers technologies to combat cardiovascular diseases. Though her roots trace back to South Carolina, she spent significant years in La Jolla, California. Together, Frank and Julie are proud parents to Jackson, a senior studying biology and technology at the University of Southern California; Ella, a junior studying history at the University of Denver; and Hart, a sophomore at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. The Sands family, based in McLean, Virginia, often finds solace in the serene landscapes of Aspen, Colorado, and the familiar shores of La Jolla, California.
Originally featured in the Fall 2023 edition of Pillars magazine, this story is just the beginning. Read more about Faculty Forward, Milestone II of Darden’s Powered by Purpose campaign.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. 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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