Richard Rainwater's MBA classmates and friends of more than 40 years gathered on a cool February night to toast the man one called "the legendary financier of our generation" as the Stanford GSB Alumni Association named Rainwater the 2010 recipient of its Arbuckle Award.
"The Arbuckle award is designed to inspire people by example, and I think Richard's example inspires all of us," said Garin Staglin, one of numerous members of the MBA Class of 1968 who heaped accolades on Rainwater, a man who developed his love for finance and investing as a young Texan attending the business school on a scholarship.
Art of the Deal
His undergraduate studies at University of Texas, Austin, were in mathematics and physics, but Rainwater credited his brother with inspiring him into his broad business career. "My brother said, 'Don't be mediocre at anything; be remarkable at something.'"
"For the balance of his career no one knew who Richard was," said classmate John Scully, who joined in painting a picture of a man who excelled equally at spotting economic opportunities and talented individuals to take advantage of them. "He has an extraordinary ability to judge people and the genius to let them go," said Scully, quoting Rainwater as saying: 'We like you, we like the deal, now run with it.'
"You've been a people person and taken great care of everyone who worked with you," said Scully. "What created that sense?" Rainwater replied simply: "My mother."
Another classmate, Randy Chappel, noted that Rainwater has "a way of making people believe they could do things they didn't know they could do, and then go out and do it." But Rainwater's sense of fun is equally memorable to his classmates. "He has a sense of whimsy and enjoyment about what he's doing," said another classmate, Jim Bartlett, whether it's setting up a bowling alley in a corporate office or hosting business lunches at taco stands in Fort Worth.
From 1970 to July 1986, Rainwater served as the chief investment advisor to the Bass family, whose overall wealth increased dramatically during his tenure. He then founded ENSCO International Incorporated, an oil field service and offshore drilling company. Rainwater began purchasing Texas real estate in 1990, and in 1994 formed Crescent Real Estate Equities, Inc. He had spotted the growing demand for energy.
"You're able to see things 3, 5, 10 years before other people do," said classmate Reece Duca. In the mid '80s, said Duca, Rainwater watched the fall of the Berlin wall and growing market demand in Eastern Europe and told him: "The world is changing and a lot of people in these new markets are like the people in the class of '68. They're going to build wealth, and their actions are going to impact the demand for energy." Ken Hersh, MBA '68, recalled Rainwater telling him: "Whenever there is chaos, there is opportunity. When everyone is running away, there's opportunity — there's got to be a nugget in there somewhere."
In introducing Rainwater at a dinner held on the Stanford campus, business school Dean Emeritus Robert Joss recalled how the Texan got him fired up to build the Knight Management Center, now under construction. In August 2007 Joss recalled Rainwater challenging him: "Tell me what is the most important thing I can do for you — and think big."
"Two days later I sent him a big proposal," said Joss, "and four days after that he gave me the go ahead for what became the Rainwater challenge — a $50 million commitment to the new campus if we could raise an additional $50 million." The school raised $60 million.
During his two years in the MBA Program, "Stanford became everything to me, my heart and soul," said Rainwater revealing deep emotions. "That's why I contributed so much to the school. I want no accolades. I did it out of deep feeling." The MBA class of 1968 proudly and frequently calls itself The Greatest Class Ever. Rainwater added to the class's aura.
One of the seven buildings in the new Knight Management Center due for completion early next year will be known as The Class of 1968 Building.