Robert F. Smith (investor)

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Robert F. Smith
Robert Frederick Smith

(1962-12-01) December 1, 1962 (age 56)
ResidenceAustin, Texas, U.S.
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materCornell University
Columbia Business School
Net worthUS$4.4 billion (Forbes 2018)[1]
Spouse(s)Suzanne McFayden (divorced)
Hope Dworaczyk (m. 2015)

Robert Frederick Smith (born December 1, 1962) is an American businessman, investor and philanthropist. A former chemical engineer and investment banker, he is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. In 2018, Smith was ranked by Forbes as the 163rd richest person in America.[2] He was No. 480 on Forbes 2018 list of the world's billionaires, with a net worth of US$4.4 billion.[3] Smith was also included in Vanity Fair’s New Establishment List.[4] In 2017, Smith was named by Forbes as one of the 100 greatest living business minds.[5] In a 2018 cover story, Forbes declared Smith the wealthiest African-American, surpassing Oprah Winfrey.[6]

Early life[edit]

Robert F. Smith was born a fourth generation Coloradoan to Dr. William Robert Smith and Dr. Sylvia Myma Smith, who were both school teacher parents with PhDs.[7] He grew up in a predominantly African American, middle-class neighborhood in Denver. He attended Carson Elementary School and a newly-integrated school, Gove Jr. High School in Denver.[7]

When he was an infant, his mother carried him at the March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

In high school, he applied for an internship at Bell Labs but was told the program was intended for college students. Smith persisted, calling every day. When a student from M.I.T. did not show up, he got the position, and that summer he developed a reliability test for semiconductors.[8][9] At Cornell he became a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha.


After working at Air Products & Chemicals, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and later at Kraft General Foods as a chemical engineer,[7] where he earned two United States and two European patents, he attended Columbia Business School.[10] Smith earned an MBA with honors specializing in finance and marketing.[7] From 1994–2000, he joined Goldman Sachs in technology investment banking, first in New York City and then in Silicon Valley. He 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 technology mergers and acquisitions in the San Francisco office.

Vista Equity Partners[edit]

In 2000, Smith founded Vista Equity Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm of which he is the principal founder, chairman and chief executive. In 2019, Vista has over $46 billion in cumulative capital commitments, owns over 50 software companies and has 60,000 employees worldwide[11][12] - making it the fourth largest enterprise software company after Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP.[13] Vista has exclusively focused on the enterprise software, data and technology sectors. Among Vista's portfolio companies are Finastra, TIBCO, Solera, Infloblox, Mediaocean, Vertafore, Ping Identity, Lithium, Cvent and Datto.

In 2017, Vista Equity Partners was reported to have $30 billion under management.[14] and Robert F. Smith was named as Private Equity International's 2016 Game Changer of the Year.[15]

In January 2015, Vista Equity Partners was named the best performing private equity firm for the previous ten years, by the HEC-Dow Jones annual ranking conducted by professor Oliver Gottschalg.[16] Preqin, a consulting firm that tracks the industry, reports 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.[9]

In October 2014, Vista closed its Fund V at $5.8 billion.[17]

Philanthropy and public positions[edit]

Smith is the board chairman of Carnegie Hall; he is the first African American to hold that position.[18]

Smith is the founding director and president of the Fund II Foundation.[19] Under his leadership, Fund II Foundation has invested in organizations such as Cornell, UNCF, National Park Foundation, Susan G. Komen, and Global Wildlife Conservation, among many others.[20]

He is the Chairman of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights,[21] serves on the board of overseers of Columbia Business School, as a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council,[22] and a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco.[23]

In 2018, Smith was City of Hope Gala’s largest individual donor, earmarking funds towards prostate cancer treatment for black men and for breast cancer research for black women.[24] Smith also donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to advance prostate cancer research among African-American men.[25] Also in 2018, Smith donated $1 million to the Cultural Performance Center at the Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Harlem, which was subsequently named the Robert Frederick Smith Center for Performing Arts in recognition of his gift.[26]

Smith was named as one of the "Philanthropy 50" by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2017.[27] In May 2017, The Giving Pledge announced that Smith had joined its ranks as the only African-American philanthropist.[28] Smith is a member of the board of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, the only authentically preserved home of a jazz musician in the country that also manages the Louis Armstrong Research Collections, the largest single jazz musician archives in the world. With Smith’s leadership at the Fund II Foundation, the museum has digitized the entire collection Armstrong left behind and made it available to the public.[29]

In 2016, Cornell University recognized Smith's leadership by naming the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after him.[30]

Among the honors and awards Smith has received are the Morehouse College’s Candle in Business and Philanthropy Award,[31] the International Medical Corps Humanitarian of the Year Award,[32] Ebony’s John H. Johnson Award,[33] Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Chairman's Award,[34] 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.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Smith married Hope Dworaczyk, a former Playboy playmate, healthy living advocate and fashion editor on July 25, 2015.[36][37] Smith was separated from his first wife Suzanne McFayden Smith in 2010 with their divorce finalized in 2014. He has 3 children with his first wife, Zoë Suzanne Smith, Eliana Frederick Smith and Maximos Robert Smith, and 2 with Hope, Hendrix Robert Smith and Legend Robert Smith. Smith owns a home in Austin, Texas,[1] a home in Malibu, California that he bought for $19.5 million from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Hadid Foster and a home in New York City he bought for $59 million.[38]


  1. ^ a b "The World's Billionaires (2016 ranking): #688 Robert Smith". Forbes. March 1, 2016. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  2. ^ "Robert Smith". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  3. ^ "Robert Smith". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  4. ^ "The 2018 New Establishment List". The Hive. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Vardi, Nathan. "Richer Than Oprah: How the Nation's Wealthiest African-American Conquered Tech and Wall Street". Forbes.
  7. ^ a b c d D. Castle, Michael (14 July 2016). Black In America This Century Hurts. ISBN 978-1-365-22265-8.
  8. ^ Reeves, Benjamin (April 8, 2015). "Private Equity's Philosopher | Alumni". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  9. ^ a b David Gelles (April 10, 2014). "A Private Equity Titan With a Narrow Focus and Broad Aims". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  10. ^ Alexander, Keith L. (September 24, 2016). "'Who is this Robert Smith?': A quiet billionaire makes some noise with $20 million gift to the African American museum". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ "Robert F. Smith - Vista Equity Partners". Vista Equity Partners. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  12. ^ "Vista Equity Partners to pay $1.9 billion in private-equity deal for Apptio". GeekWire. 2018-11-12. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  13. ^ "Vista Equity: The Biggest Software Group You've Never Heard Of". PCMAG. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "HEC-Dow Jones Private Equity Performance Rankings: Which Firms Generated Best Performance for Their Investors Over the Past Years?". PERACS. January 19, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  17. ^ Tan, Gillian (October 14, 2014). "Vista Equity Partners Emerges From Private-Equity Shadows". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  18. ^ Smith, Jennifer (June 2, 2016). "Carnegie Hall Names New Board Chairman: Private-Equity Financier Robert F. Smith". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
  19. ^ "Robert F. Smith". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  20. ^ "Now the Richest Black American, He's Also One of America's Biggest Philanthropists". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  21. ^ "Robert Smith | Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights". RFK Human Rights. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  22. ^ "ECC Active Members 2015" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  23. ^ "Board & Trustees". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  24. ^ "Warner/Chappell Music CEO Jon Platt Lauded at City of Hope Gala: 'He's the Obama of the Music Industry'". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  25. ^ "Billionaire, Power 100 Honoree, Robert F. Smith Donates to Prostate Cancer • EBONY". EBONY. 2018-01-16. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  26. ^ "Riverbank's Cultural Center Renamed After $1 Million Gift". Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  27. ^ "The 2017 Philanthropy 50". The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  28. ^ "7 More U.S. Philanthropists Sign Giving Pledge". 30 May 2017.
  29. ^ "Louis Armstrong's Life in Letters, Music and Art". Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  30. ^ "Cornell names Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in recognition of the leadership of philanthropist". Cornell Chronicle.
  31. ^ "". Retrieved 2018-11-18. External link in |title= (help)
  32. ^ "AAC 2018 | International Medical Corps". International Medical Corps. 2018-11-06. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  33. ^ "EBONY Power 100 2017 Honoree - Robert F. Smith". EBONY Power 100 2017. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  34. ^ "President Obama to Deliver Final Keynote at 46th ALC Phoenix Awards Dinner - Congressional Black Caucus Foundation". 24 August 2016.
  35. ^ American University (2015-05-10), SIS Commencement Speaker Robert F. Smith, retrieved 2018-11-18
  36. ^ "Hope Dworaczyk Smith Pregnant With Second Child!". Us Weekly. 2015-09-28. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  37. ^ "'Who is this Robert Smith?': A quiet billionaire makes some noise with $20 million gift to the African American museum". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
  38. ^ "Real Housewives of Malibu Part 2: Yolanda Hadid Foster sells to Robert & Hope Smith for nearly $20 million". 12 May 2016.