In 1969, Howard Marks (Trades, Portfolio) — armed with degrees from Wharton and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business – was still unsure what career he wanted to pursue. He interviewed for “literally seven different jobs in seven different fields,” including consulting, accounting, treasury management and investment banking, among others. There was one job, Marks said, that he wanted more than all the others. He did not get it.
“Thirty years later, I happened to correspond with the guy from that firm who was the recruiter back in 1969,” Marks recalled. The recruiter remembered him and offered to reveal why he was not hired. “He told me, ‘The partner in charge came in that morning hung over and made the wrong call.’” Then Marks delivered the punch line: “If it hadn’t been for that bit of bad luck, I could have spent 30 years at Lehman Brothers,” the defunct banking giant whose catastrophic 2008 collapse marked the beginning of the subprime mortgage crisis.
Marks clearly felt much luckier to have become co-founder and chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. He founded Oaktree in 1995, and according to Forbes’ profile of Marks in “The World’s Billionaires,” the firm — which went public in April 2012 — has $76 billion in assets under management, including money from 75 of the 100 largest U.S. pension plans.
Marks’ speech inaugurated Wharton’s Howard Marks (Trades, Portfolio) Investor Series, slated to bring high-profile investors to the school to share real-world investment perspectives with graduate and undergraduate students.
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