John Powers is going home again. On June 26 the 53-year-old head of research at Offit Hall Capital Management will become president and CEO of Stanford Management Co., the $15 billion endowment of Stanford University, where he earned his MBA in 1983. He succeeds Mike McCaffery, who is leaving to set up Makena Capital, an investment fund for wealthy investors.
"My personal life and my experience and memory of Stanford are completely interconnected," says Powers, who earned a bachelor's degree from Cornell before heading to Stanford's business school, where he studied microeconomics under Nobel laureate Bill Sharpe. Powers also met his wife, Millicent, a fellow business student, at Stanford. "This is a dream job," he says.
Powers's passion for Stanford gave him an edge in the competition for the job, which began in January with some 200 names and wound down to five finalists in March. "Not all finalists had a connection to Stanford. Having one was clearly an advantage," says Hank Higdon, head of Higdon Partners, the New Yorkbased executive search firm that managed the recruiting process.
Powers's job at Offit Hall, a $19 billion-in-assets San Francisco firm that caters to wealthy individuals and institutions, is similar to his new position. Neither firm manages any of its money in-house, preferring instead to research and invest with an assortment of the best outside managers. "Our portfolios are customized," Powers says, "but when you blend them all together, they look like a sophisticated endowment portfolio."
About the only negative that Powers will concede is his new commute. Instead of a short jaunt between his home in San Francisco's lush Presidio Heights neighborhood and an office in the Financial District, he'll face a 45-minute-plus drive to and from Palo Alto. But that's a sacrifice Powers is more than willing to make for his dream job. "I look forward to a beautiful drive down Interstate 280 every day," he says.