tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg April 7, 2021 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT
♪ david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i've often thought, was private equity. [laughter] david: and then i started interviewing. i watched your interviews, so i know how to do some interviewing. i learned from doing interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked how much he wanted. he said 250. i said fine. i did not negotiate with him. and i did no due diligence. david: i have something i would
like to sell. and how they stay there. you don't feel inadequate being only the second wealthiest man in the world, right? one of the most impressive men i have ever met is wes moore. he grew up in baltimore, scholar, white house fellow, war veteran, and he has been running robin hood. he is stepping down and likely to run for governor of maryland. he will make a mark in this world, and he has already done so. welcome to our show. wes: it is great to be with you. thank you. david: tell people what the robin hood foundation is. some people think of it in stock trading, but that is not what you do, right? wes: that is not what we do. during the gamestop episode, people were saying, unblock my traits. i said, i have no idea, but i wish you luck. the robin hood foundation is a
32-year-old organization with the goal of ending poverty. it was started by paul tudor jones and a collection of other people who were in the investment business. they started this foundation and said we want to take metrics and best practices and invest in the organization we think has the highest probability of being able to end poverty. they started off making $40,000 worth of investments. now, we have allocated just shy of $4 billion to this work and fight. we fund everything from education, housing, transportation, mental health, physical health, criminal justice reform, anywhere poverty is the cause or consequence. we will find funds, build, if necessary, all these mechanisms that create a more equitable society. david: how much money does robin
hood giveaway annually? wes: when we think about the last year, we raised around $240 million. since i've been ceo, we have raised over six under $75 million -- $675 million, but there are those that would take a portion of the endowment and allocate that to grand making. the robin hood endowment is essentially zero. every dollar we get in, it will go out within the next calendar year, so on january 1, it is like preston cope again. -- press go again. we race and get the money out as quickly as possible. david: who pays all the administrative costs?
that can be 5% to 10%. wes: if not more. the other unique mechanism of our model is that our board covers operational expenses. david: covid must have made it difficult to raise money and run the foundation remotely, so how did you do that? wes: covid in this past year was remarkable. there was a lot of uncertainty about what does that mean in terms of how we continue to move at a fast pace. how do we consider the fact we knew how damaging this was going to be on our communities. we saw 11 years of job growth go away in 11 weeks. we knew which communities would be hit hardest by that. and so, but i am so proud of the way we responded and rebounded. we activated the relief fund,
for only the third time in the history of the organization. once was after 9/11, hurricane sandy, and now, covid-19, where we had a few specific focuses. one, supporting the nonprofit sector, which we knew would take a hit, and all the organizations doing the social work in the city and beyond that needed it. the second was emergency cash, just getting cash into people's hands. we knew from data that we funded that over 40%, about 42 percent of people could not afford a $400 shock. that shock was here, it a lot more than $400, so you had to get cash to the people that needed it the most, and specifically where government intervention was not touching. david: many nonprofit
organizations have suffered during covid, because donors don't feel as wealthy as they did before. do your donors say not right now , or did you get more money from donors? wes: we saw people who stepped up significantly. there are a couple of things that we learned with that. one was that the reality was that everyone was getting financially hurt. well you did have certain people who did see incomes decrease or go away, you saw some that actually saw their businesses increase in businesses jump, and part of the challenge we continue to see is how the separation and wealth divide shows itself, so you had people where it showed itself in philanthropic giving. the second piece is we saw a measure of human pain and a
david: let's about how you became the head of the robin hood foundation. you worked in new york, but you are from baltimore. you are minding your own business, living in baltimore. had you been doing anything like this that would have given you the qualifications for them to think you are the right person? wes: i am the most accidental foundation head you could
possibly imagine. i had no background in philanthropy. they were like we would like you to consider being the ceo of robinhood. i said i don't know. i said i can think of a bunch of reasons, but then they give you three. the first is either than baltimore. i don't plan on moving. i don't know how i would run a new york-based organization. the second was i am enjoying the work here in maryland. the third is i have been critical of philanthropy. the head of the search community said it is all over the internet. we have seen it. wes: have you realized you could not -- david: did you realize you could not persuade him? [laughter] most people when they hear about your story, they say, how could anybody do that? you were born in baltimore.
your father died when you were young, is that right? wes: when i was four years old in front of me from a rare but treatable virus. david: your mother said we will move you to new york. did you move to the bronx? wes: yes, she was having a difficult time with the transition. she became a widow in her 20's with three children and have a difficult time. she called my grandparents, who lived in the bronx. my grandfather was a minister in the south bronx. my grandmother was a schoolteacher for 25 years in the south bronx. both immigrated to this country. their house is big enough -- barely big enough for him, but they made it big enough for all of us. david: you are the perfect child and you never got in trouble, right? wes: right come in my own life. [laughter] that was a hard transition for
me. i found people who did love me, so the first time i was handcuffed is when i was 11 years old. by the time i was 13, after years of threats sending me awake at this cooler that school or whatever it was, when i was 13, my mom sent me to military school. david: you went to military school. i assume you are not dying to go to military school. wes: it was not my first choice. david: did it straighten you out? wes: they did. it took a while. iran away five times in the first -- i ran away five times in the first two -- four years. honestly, many people in my life, a lot of the men in my life who were my mentors had one thing in common, they all
wore the uniform of this country, so i joined the army and went to the military. david: then you went to johns hopkins, is that right? wes: that's right. david: you must have done well because you were a rhodes scholar. some rhodes scholars go to oxford, get a degree don't get a degree, then come back and go to harvard, yale law school, go to something important like private equity, whatever it might be, right? what did you decide to do? why didn't you go to law school? why did you do something that not many were doing? wes: i went to the world of finance and was there for a little while in london, great, nice. i remember getting a phone call. i was a brand-new analyst working on the deal. it was from my buddy, a major
with the 82nd airborne division. he said something to me. so when are you going to get into the fight? that was exciting for me. i train. i am a paratrooper. i have gone through all my training with my soldiers, and my soldiers are now in afghanistan, deploying to iraq. i was working in high finance. i went back and thought about it, prayed on it, and called him back up a couple days later and said, mike, i am in. i ended up doing, they did a request for me, and i left and joined up with the 82nd airborne division. i went to fort benning to do my training, then around nine
months after that conversation in the stairwell, i was getting ready to deploy with the 82nd airborne. david: you go to afghanistan. did you ask for an office job, something where you could not be shot at or something like that? wes: not at all. i was clear. i'd led a group of paratroopers as a special operations officer, information operations, psi ops, psychological operations, and we were in the field. so much of that conversation in 2005 was iraq. we had 150,000 troops in iraq at the time. in afghanistan, only 17,000 troops. i remember when i got the appointment orders for afghanistan, people were like, at least you're not going to iraq. not knowing the fighting in afghanistan at that time. within the first days of afghanistan, i started seeing
firsthand a firefight, just what was going on. david: how long were you there? wes: shy of a year. david: you came back to the united states? wes: yes. david: then what did you do? wes: first, a white house fellowship. my friend was a former white house fellow. i came back from a mission and he said i want you to apply for this. he said it is important for people in washington to get a first-hand understanding of the year you are having right now, so they can see what is going on on the ground so i applied for a white house scholarship, and i had the honor of working under condoleezza rice and her team, which was unbelievable in a life-shifting experience to go through that. david: after your white house fellowship, working for condoleezza rice, did your
mother say can you get a serious, full-time job, make some money? what did you do? wes: i did. my mother was like, slow down, start preparing a family. i was married at that point, so now you are thinking about, what are the things you want to be able to do? i started to think about my interests, skill set, so i decided maybe i should try to give finance a shot. i had the pleasure of working at citibank as an analyst associate and vice president. david: you move to new york? wes: yes. i was living in maryland, then moved to new york for a few years. david: when did you move back to baltimore? wes: i had a conversation with another mentor, a person who was running investment banking, now
running for mayor. i went to him and said i think it is time to do something different. i just finished writing a book, which was an important process for me to be reflective about my own life, and that is when i said i made the decision i really wanted to leave finance and focus on these issues that are my life's burning issues. david: so now you will be leaving shortly robinhood. will you pursue a higher calling of private equity, or something else? wes: i know the work i want to do. i'm thinking about what is the right platform. ♪
white house fellow is not enough , you have to write a book and make everybody look bad. tell people who are watching who the other wes moore was. wes: after i got the scholarship, i wrote this article about this local kid who just got an award and was going to england on the scholarship. at the same time, they are writing a series of articles about four guys who walk into a jewelry store, and attempted to rob it, and it was botched, and someone ins up murdering an off-duty police officer. after that, all four guys were caught. one was a guy, we were living in the same area, around the same age, and his name was also wes moore. i reached out to him and rode him this note. he wrote me a note back, and
that turned into dozens of notes , dozens of visits. i have now known him for almost two decades. at the same time i was getting ready to go to england, he was starting wes moore his life sentence in prison. wes moorethe other was the result of the split between these two kids. david: you have written five books. one is about freddie gray, a person taken into a vehicle and on the way to the police station died in caused riots in baltimore. what is your own view about the situation in the u.s. because of examples like freddie gray or george floyd have gotten worse? do you see any progress being
made? wes: i see the potential for progress being made, and the potential for progress being made is the fact that we are now understanding and talking about this as not isolated instances, but the longevity of this. the damage that george floyd was not the fact that we watched a homicide on camera, but the fact his name gets added to a much longer lineage of names weather has been no accountability. it comes down to the fact that we watch how these acts and issues of systemic racism show themselves, and not just in policing, education, wealth, whether you're talking about mortality, basic asset allocation. it is race.
it is impossible to understand this without disaggregating the importance of it, so the platform for progress is the fact we are now having a mature and honest conversation about what is it going to take for us to move into better space, and a place where we watching not just this population demanding it, and that is the power of it. david: many african-american men of her age and older have told me that their own life experiences where they were stopped by police. have you had those run-ins since you have been an adult? wes: absolutely. absolutely. it is both a fact we have had these interactions, and the fact that the sound of a police siren has a different pitch, depending on what neighborhood you are in, and your heart rate speeds up in
a different way when you are anticipating the fact that this encounter could go wrong, and how it could be interpreted by the people, but also the fact that i as a father, i know i will be forced to have conversations. david: now you will be leaving shortly robin hood, live in baltimore. will you pursue the higher calling of private equity? or are you thinking of doing something else? i've read in the newspaper that you're thinking of running for governor of maryland? wes: i am exploring that. i'm thinking about it in terms of i know that i want to focus on true systems change. we are at a crucial point where on issues where i have spent my entire adult life on, ending child poverty, whether
eliminating the racial wealth gap, education, conducting it in the fairway, that we are providing real pathways for our students. these are issues right in front of us, and we are making generational decisions right now. i know the issues i want to get done in the work i want to do. i'm thinking about what is the right platform. i think there is not just take unique potential, but a unique way to do that. david: suppose the president of the united states says, running for office that is tough. why don't you come in and i will give you a senior job in the administration. would you go in, or do you really want to run for office in the governorship in maryland? wes: i have a deep admiration for all people who choose to serve in administrations. i am at this stage of my career where i know my skill sets. i know what i am good at.
i am a pretty good executive. i know how to run things. running large organizations, and i have worked with and in government my entire career, and for me, this is not about going into politics. for me, this is about the fact that the executive role that controls the budget has a chance to change the destiny for children and families, that makes my heart beat faster and is exciting. david: people are watching would say, ok, after he got his life together, road scholarship, white house fellowship, five books, happily married, two kids. make us feel that we are not so inadequate ourselves. tell us something you are doing that didn't work out for you failed so we can feel like were not watching a superhuman. is there something you can say
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>> in the fight against covid-19 worldwide bill and melinda gates foundation is committed a staggering $1.5 billion to vaccine development, distribution, treatments and more. it is one of the largest funds for any philanthropic effort from around the globe, but while mass vaccinations are rapidly underway, the pandemic is far from over. >> there is a clear problem that low and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccines.