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49th Annual Management Conference

2001 Distinguished Alumni Awards

class notes
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Robert C. McCormack, '68

 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

1968-1981
Dillon Read

--senior vice president of Chicago office

1981-1987
Morgan Stanley
--vice president, principal, and managing director of Chicago office

--cofounder of Morgan Stanley Ventures

1987-1990
U.S. Department of Defense
--deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial and international programs

--deputy assistant secretary of defense for production support

1990-1993
U.S. Department of the Navy
--assistant secretary of financial management and comptroller

1993-present
Trident Capital
--founding partner

 

 

2001 Distinguished Alumni Awards

The IT Man
Robert C. McCormack, '68, secured his success in the information technology and business services arena at the start of the Internet age, when the words "new economy" were still new and the market had not yet soared.

Called "Mac" by his friends and colleagues, this year's winner of the Distinguished Entrepreneurial Alumnus Award has a talent for spotting tomorrow's most lucrative business opportunities today.

As a managing director at Morgan Stanley in the 1980s, McCormack helped build Morgan Stanley's technology investment banking group. Later, as cofounder of Trident Capital in 1993, he had a front-row seat at one of history's most important technological shifts.

One of the first venture capital firms to specialize in information technology, Trident invested in such companies as MapQuest, CSG Systems, Questra Corporation, and Cognizant Technology Solutions.

Thirty-five years ago, McCormack arrived at Chicago GSB with few entrepreneurial intentions. "I was interested in finance and very quickly got interested in investment banking," he said.

After graduation, McCormack pursued this interest in investment banking and accepted a position at Dillon Read. During his 13 years with the firm, McCormack worked in corporate finance for the Chicago and New York offices, gaining experience in domestic and international financing and cross-border mergers and acquisitions.

As senior vice president at Dillon Read, he oversaw its midwestern corporate finance business. Later, McCormack moved to Morgan Stanley, where he served as vice president, principal, and managing director for the firm's Chicago office.

But it was at Dillon Read that McCormack discovered his proclivity for entrepreneurship. "I started in the health care financing business, building it up from scratch. Before that, it didn't exist--anywhere," he said. "I just evolved into entrepreneurship. It was fun to start things." He also was also an original investor in his classmate Dennis Keller's company, which later became DeVry.

With the success of Trident Capital, a private equity investment firm he started with one of his Morgan Stanley colleagues, it is hard to deny McCormack's gift for spotting the next big thing.

Trident's investment helped launch MapQuest, a digital mapping company that America Online acquired in June 2000 for nearly $700 million in stock. The electronic product, which provides maps and driving directions and is entirely free to Internet customers, was a novel idea. So novel, in fact, that even the nation's largest mapmakers hadn't considered it, McCormack said.
"I just evolved into entrepreneurship--it was fun to start things."

"Not many people understood that there was a real market for digital geographical information," he added.

According to McCormack, the traditional map publishers didn't understand how they would make money on a free product. "What they missed was that whenever you call a major corporation call center--when you call Sears to talk about your stove not working, for example--the person you call has MapQuest on their screen, so they know where your house is and where to pick up the unit," he explained. "Companies pay a lot for that."

Recognizing the important and profitable role digital mapping would play in the Internet economy, MapQuest convinced numerous Internet portals to sign long-term contracts just as the World Wide Web was taking off.

"MapQuest was the sole supplier of geographical information," McCormack said. "The only two [portals not signed on] were Microsoft and AOL. We had everybody--Yahoo, Lycos, Excite--everybody... And then, of course, AOL bought the business."

Trident invests at all stages of business maturity--from start-ups to established companies--and currently works with more than 50 corporations in such sectors as the Internet, infrastructure management, outsourcing, transaction services, and wireless.

Asked to account for Trident's impressive portfolio, McCormack stressed drive and teamwork. "We concluded at the very beginning that we had to be very focused on what we did. All the partners would participate with the due diligence because it's not your deal, or my deal--it's our deal."

Continued >>

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