After purchasing his first stock at the age of 10, Seth Klarman knew that he was hooked. He would later go on to act as CEO and portfolio manager for The Baupost Group, one of the largest and best-performing hedge funds in the entire industry, with several tens of billions of dollars under management.
Despite his unconventional strategies, the "Oracle of Boston" consistently achieved high returns, earning him a cult-like following within the so-called value investing circle. To wit, Klarman has an out-of-print book that he wrote early in his career, Margin of Safety, which now commands over $1,500 for a paperback copy on Amazon. The billionaire businessman is also an avid philanthropist. In 1991 he helped establish the Klarman Family Foundation, with assets hitting the $520 million mark as of the latest public filing. He is also vice chair of Beth Israel Hospital’s board, among many other charitable board positions. In 2020 Klarman was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Looking back, Klarman credits much of his professional success to the time he spent at Harvard Business School. Despite the decades that have passed since his MBA days, the investing guru still draws on "experiences from business school to handle complicated managerial situations." And it was on the Cambridge campus that Klarman met Professor William Poorvu, who recruited the star pupil to manage a pool of newly formed capital. This gave Klarman a platform on which to use his value investing strategy, effectively turning several million dollars of his professors' money into the multibillion-dollar empire that would later become The Baupost Group. In 1982, Klarman received his Harvard MBA, graduating as a Baker Scholar.
In some ways, Klarman has never really left his alma mater. Not only does he still maintain a nearby residence in Boston, but he is not shy about breaking out the checkbook for his beloved university. In 2012 and 2014 Klarman's Family Foundation was responsible for filling Harvard's coffers. First there was a $32.5 million grant to fund a new Cell Observatory at the Broad Institute, and then came the shocking announcement that the Harvard alum was giving his school $120 million to build a state-of-the-art conference center that would bear his name.
The project was completed in 2018. Following the dedication and ribbon-cutting was a symposium on democracy that included university faculty members, journalists, and other thought leaders in the field. Although it was a joyous occasion, Klarman still took the opportunity to address his fears that the political disarray of his country was eroding American ideals such as liberty and freedom. “I'm concerned that democracy can easily be taken for granted by those who have not had to fight to secure it."
In addition to his many charitable donations, Klarman also serves the Harvard community as a member of the HBS Board of Dean's Advisors. In 2011, he received the HBS Alumni Achievement Award, the School's highest honor.