Advanced Seminar Brings Practitioners to the Classroom

By Kelly Andrews; Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

N. Bulent Gultekin describes the new Advanced Seminar on Private Equity as a “a very applied course.”

N. Bulent Gultekin’s Advanced Seminar on Private Equity is one hot ticket. So hot that 100 students applied for the course’s 70 slots, despite demanding prerequisites. So hot that Fadi Arbid, WG’03, booked a flight to Philadelphia from Saudi Arabia, where he is Executive Vice President for private equity firm Amwal Al Kaleej, just so that he could speak to the class as a guest lecturer.

Offered for the first time in Spring 2010, the experimental course is fulfilling pent-up demand for expanded private equity course offerings at Wharton, which already boasts one of the most demanding finance curricula in the world. The seminar differs from other offerings because it is an applied course, presenting material on the entire private equity cycle through the experience of high-level practitioners, including Arbid and Ammar Al-Khudairy, CEO of Amwal Al Kaleej.

The course grew out of a request by Dean Thomas S. Robertson and Deputy Dean Mike Gibbons, who had been seeking a way to tap into the expertise of Wharton’s alumni network in private equity and have students learn firsthand from successful practitioners.

Explained Gultekin, Associate Professor of Finance: “They wanted to develop an experimental course a bit different from other offerings. Since our alumni were very supportive, we would bring them into the classroom. I developed some teaching materials, including some cases, and invited alumni to address each topic—how they did it, how they do it, comparing across companies.”

Marc Wolpow, W’80, co-CEO of the Audax Group and a member of the Wharton Undergraduate Executive Board, was eager to participate because his firm hires Wharton undergrads and MBAs. “Dean Robertson has as a priority building curriculum for private equity,” he says. “It’s necessary. The hope is that we can familiarize students with the challenges they will face if they choose careers in private equity.”

In order to make the applied course function smoothly, Gultekin demanded difficult prerequisites—Advanced Corporate Finance and the Financing of Buyouts and Acquisitions—and combed through applications to choose the MBA and undergraduate students who seemed most deserving, based on coursework, grades and demonstrated experience in private equity.

Although the new course is considered experimental, Gultekin taught a seminar for MBAs with a similar structure on privatization when he was Chief Adviser to the Ministry of Privatization in Poland, flying back to Wharton from Warsaw every weekend.

“It was a very applied course—not so much the theory but how do you do it,” says Gultekin, who has also served as Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, among other international consulting roles. “What I did was bring some people who were working with me in Poland and Turkey—advisers and investment bankers working on large privatization projects. We went over the transactions and they conducted the course with me.”

This new course draws from the perspectives of U.S. and international private equity investors, private equity fund sponsors and managers of the portfolio companies to address the full private equity cycle.

“It’s not that it’s different from any particular class. It’s that it’s different from all of them,” says Arbid, who is also a member of the Wharton Executive Board for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and the president of the Wharton Alumni Club of the Middle East. “It’s always great to have a practitioner’s view, and it was needed for private equity. You have the whole value chain of private equity from fundraising to exiting to structuring transactions in the U.S. and various international markets. It’s a phenomenal class when you think about the depth and the breadth offered.”

Private equity funds currently have around $2 trillion in capital committed globally, and buyout funds manage about two-thirds of the capital in this sector.

Arbid and Al-Khudairy plan to address the difference between private equity in the U.S. and the Middle East, which he says is at the stage where the U.S. market was the 1960s and 1970s. “It’s very relationship-driven,” Arbid says. “The model has to factor in the cultural and social landscape. You can do private equity in the U.S. if you’re from the Czech Republic or Russia, but in the Middle East, you need to be Middle Eastern or at least have lived here to understand the social sensitivities and culture before being able to transact.”

Other participants in the course include a who’s who of private equity: Jack Daly, Managing Partner, Goldman Sachs & Co.; Antoine Dréan, WG’92, Chairman and CEO, Triago; Anthony R. Ignaczak, W’86, President, Quad-C Management Inc.; John R. Jonge-Poerink, WG’05, Managing Partner, Linley Capital; Ed Mathias, C’64, Managing Director, Carlyle; Billy Quinn, Managing Partner, Natural Gas Partners; Josh Harris, W’86, President and Founding Partner, Apollo Management; Chang Sun, G’89, WG’89, Managing Director, Warburg Pincus Asia; Jean Philippe de Schrevel, WG’96, Eric Berkowitz, WG’98, and Natalia Mouhapé, WG’01, of Bamboo Finance; and Octavio Lopes, Executive Officer and Member of the Board, GP Investments.

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