Alumni Association Honors Robert Bass with Arbuckle Award

Investor Robert Bass lays out his "three inviolate principles."

February 01, 2005

The founder of one of the most successful private investment and holding companies in the nation, Robert M. Bass says his job description is simple: Figure out what needs to be done and do it.

Over time, says the founder and president of Keystone Inc., he has distilled and refined the business concepts he learned at Stanford Graduate School of Business into “three inviolate principles”:

“Set out to find people of great skill, integrity, creativity, and judgment. “Put them in situations where the wind is at their backs. “Design a structure that aligns their interests closely with mine, support them when they ask for help, but otherwise empower them to do what they do best.”

Bass made the remarks at a formal dinner Feb. 23 honoring him as the 35th recipient of the Arbuckle Award presented by the Stanford GSB Alumni Association. In accepting the award, Bass, who earned his MBA in 1974, credited faculty members with instilling in him “the core GSB values: uncompromising passion for entrepreneurship, and the efficient functioning of firms and markets.”

Keystone, the firm he founded and heads, invests in a wide range of industries. He is the founder of the Oak Hill family of investment partnerships. He has been a major investor in Washington Mutual, Taft Broadcasting, Westin Hotels, Wometco Cable TV, Macmillan Inc., the Times Publishing Company, Bell & Howell, American Savings and Loan, Oreck, and Williams Scotsman.

Bass was introduced by Dean Emeritus Michael Spence, a partner in Oak Hill Securities, who cited Bass for his commitment to social responsibility. “There is no sharp separation of investment returns narrowly defined and overriding social values,” said Spence. “The organization won’t invest in enterprises that adversely affect the environment, the moral fiber of society, or broadly that impair the health of people.”

Spence also cited Bass and his wife, Anne, for their many philanthropic interests, while at the same time noting their desire not to seek public recognition. “Together they have set the high water mark in philanthropy for insight, impact, leverage, modesty, and humility,” said Spence.

Their interests and investments have focused on education, children’s health, and the environment. Bass said he has taken lessons learned at the school and in his business career into his nonprofit activities. “It has been gratifying to me to be able to make a difference. I have learned a great deal about management from my not-for-profit involvement, not only from addressing a succession of challenging issues but also from experience with very sophisticated, well-run organizations.”

Bass is currently a member of the board of trustees of Stanford University, the board of the Stanford Management Company, and the advisory council to Stanford GSB. Bass is also chairman emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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