Profile: American billionaire, Smith, sponsoring Chibok schoolgirls

Photo credit: Black Buzzworthy
Photo credit: Black Buzzworthy

An African American billionaire, Robert Smith, is sponsoring the education of 24 Chibok schoolgirls in American University, Yola, in Adamawa State.

His identity was revealed today by Garba Shehu, senior special assistant on media to President Muhammadu Buhari, at an interaction with journalists in Abuja.

The billionaire, Mr. Shehu also revealed, is offering to take responsibility for the 21 girls freed in October and all the others who will hopefully be eventually set free.

WHO IS ROBERT SMITH?

He is a 54-year-old businessman, who attended good American colleges such as Cornell and Columbia universities. At Cornell, he picked a bachelor of science in chemical engineering and an MBA at Columbia. He lives in Austin, Texas.

According to a short bio written on him by Forbes, he was the son of PhD holders and was bussed across town to his school in the early days of desegregation.

“He later convinced Bell Labs when he was in high school to give him an internship typically only available to college upperclassman by calling them weekly for five months.

“Smith quit Goldman Sachs to open his own private equity shop, Vista Equity Partners, in 2000.

The company is said to be worth over $26 billion.

“Neuberger Berman bought a stake in the $16.9 billion (assets) Austin, Texas firm, best known for fixing up enterprise software outfits, in July 2015,” Forbes reported.

“That same month, Smith married 2010 Playboy Playmate of the Year Hope Dworaczyk in Italy

Forbes listed him as the 274th richest man in the United States as at December 27, with a net worth of $2.5 billion. He is ranked 688th in the world. Some other reports put his net worth at $3billion.

He is a self-made man, who made his money in private equity investments.

And before then, he struggled early to get what he wanted.

According to his story, as a junior at Denver’s East High School in the 1970s, he showed a fascination for the geekiest subject there: Computer science.

“The transistor held particular wonder for him. This small device, a crucial valve controlling the flow of electrons within a computer, had been invented at Bell Labs. Bell had a nearby office. Maybe he should work at Bell, too.

“After securing the number, Smith phoned and inquired about a summer internship. Yes, Bell did have one, he learned, but only college upperclassmen could apply. Smith had straight A’s in math and computer science. Would that count? No, Bell said, it would not. Undaunted by this initial rejection, Smith called back every day for two weeks—HR stopped answering after Day 2—and then cut back on how often he called …to every Monday for five months. Eventually, he was rewarded for his doggedness. After an MIT student didn’t show up in June, Bell called Smith. Could he come in for an interview?

“I ran my own race. I knew what I wanted, and my persistence paid off, and I came in and interviewed. They liked me, and I got the internship,” Smith said in a commencement address at American University in 2015.

“In fact, I worked there for the next four years during summer and winter breaks.”

After leaving Cornell, he worked at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two United States and two European patents.

He then attended Columbia Business School, where he graduated with honours. From 1994-2000, he joined Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking, first in New York and then in Silicon Valley.

“As Co-Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage, he executed and advised on over $50 billion in merger and acquisition activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo. He was the first person at Goldman Sachs to focus solely on Tech M&A and foreign countries.

In 2000, he set up his own company, Vista Equity Partners.

Vista is said to have exclusively focused on the enterprise software, data and technology enabled solutions sectors. Among Vista’s portfolio companies are Misys, TIBCO, Solera, Active Network, Bullhorn, Omnitracs, and Newscyle.

In January 2015, based on its performance over the last 10 years, Vista Equity Partners was named the world’s Number One performing private equity firm, according to the HEC-Dow Jones annual ranking conducted by Professor Oliver Gottschalg.

Preqin, a consulting firm that tracks the industry, reported that Vista’s third fund returned $2.46 for every dollar invested, better than every other big fund raised between 2006 and 2010, the boom years for private equity.

In October 2014, Vista closed its Fund V at $5.8 billion, its largest fund to date.

As a successful African-American, Smith has been generous hearted.

In January this year, he announced a $50 million gift to his alma mater Cornell University, which renamed its school of chemical and bio-engineering after him. In June he was named chairman of Carnegie Hall.

In September, he donated $20 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. His private gift, as reported by Washington Post, was the second largest behind Opral Winfrey, the richest African-American, who gave $21 million.

Smith has received the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation, and the Ripple of Hope Award from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

Smith was also awarded an honorary Doctorate of International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service. He founded Project Realize– termed “Free Market Philanthropy”– in order to combine the best elements of the American free enterprise system with the core American ideals of giving back and lifting others up.

No wonder, he is willing to lift the Chibok schoolgirls out of their predicament and give them a dream education.


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  • Aremu Mathew Okikiolu

    Where are the pompous, self opinionated rich folks in our midst? Thank you brother!

    • Rico

      What I have been thinking.

    • Tunsj

      They are hiding under the rocks.

    • Rommel

      The rich folks amongst you never made their money through hard work,all stolen money so Imagine someone like Ibori or Atiku sponsoring those girls,won’t their future be bleak? this man is said to be a self made man

      • Col. Nemesis Mariam

        Is Ibori a billionaire by chance?
        Why mention his name here when there are other big cats who are richer?
        Like IBB, Obj and people like that.

        • Naijaman

          Convert $15 million that he used to bribe Ribadu & tell us how much that amounts to. That’s more than N7 billion today. Billiion na billion in any currency! His thieving name should be mentioned!

  • Sam

    This is not about Tithe and Offering.

    This man understands the secret of giving.

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  • thusspokez

    Trump appoints some Nigerian to a minor role, and Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama goes hallelujah Trump-be-praised hysteria. Here is an African-American doing so much for Nigeria, and no one is singing his praise.

    • Tunsj

      Who are the Nigerians that Racist Trump appointed? I agree with your last sentence.

      • marc umeh

        When tragedy strikes in Africa . you notice that donations will come from white people but not from African who may be making more money than the white.
        Somebody explain.

    • marc umeh

      They all censure when the view is too uncomfortable.

  • Obosi Warrior

    But we have Adboyes, Oyedepos, Oritsejeafor, and the rest big daddy pastors, all they want is the little that the poor masses have got. Even their school are far from the poor. Now, tell me, assuming their is heaven (just assuming), whom among these people, pastors and Mr. Smith would occupy the rooms in the majestic heaven.

    • marc umeh

      If you haven’t noticed , the black African is a different specie entirely.

      • Obosi Warrior

        I have every reason to believe you!!

      • Du Covenant

        Extremely wicked to their kind!.

  • Burning Spear

    he should make sure he pays the fees himself—————–if not some Fulani persons from Mali will be exchanged with the fake chibok girls

  • Tokumbo

    where are other nigerians billonaires???? selfish pple,,dey only put dere money where dey know dey will benefit

    • MammanJiyaVatsa

      Money wey dem no even work for… looted money !

      • Du Covenant

        The thieves in Nigeria have even refused to believe that the chibok girls were ever missing. A sitting mad man as a governor to mention one of them…What a shameless society!.

  • MammanJiyaVatsa

    Nigerian millionaires (looters) are known as, in…. Yoruba Language=Ole, Igbo Language=Ori, Hausa Hausa=Barawo, English Language= Thief.

    One example, Jimoh Ibrahim.

  • Curtx Maccido

    so until an american come to the rescue of these girls to sponsor their education, yet the same government will be spending over N500 million to buy cars for ex-presidents, N1.28 billion to maintain the presidential fleets, N2.6 billion for presidency foods and drinks….God why did you allow these horrible/wicked/bastards to be Nigerians?

  • Wale Allen

    How come Mallam Dangote couldn’t do what Mr. Smith just did?

    • dare ojo

      I think he is trying his best too in rehabilitating the north east destroyed by evil boko haram.

      • Naijaman

        Yeah, he’s trying to price the ordinary Naija person out cement that he cornered the Feds to hand him control of the market. That’s really a way to help his poor countrymen and women. Let’s clap out loud for him!!!

  • sammyctu ode

    This is a lesson to all Nigerian billionaires but I know they are too selfish and self centered to do what this great African American did for the chinos girls. Mr. Smith may you continue to be successful in all your endeavors. I hope you will contest and become the next President Obama. Bless you beautiful soul.

  • Man_Enough

    Imagine that! He is worth just 3 billions of hard earned dollars and yet he has a heart large enough to take care of people who are not even from his country. Here we have we have a generation of looters who didn’t work for it but stole many times more yet they won’t even let a fly perch on their excrement. Yet these are the politicians some of ny fellow country men spill their blood for. What a shame!