Meet Robert F. Smith, the billionaire who paid off an entire class’ student loans and reportedly will now pay $140 million to settle a four-year investigation into his taxes

robert f smith morehouse

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Robert F. Smith, CEO and founder of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, will pay $140 million to settle to a four-year-long investigation into his personal taxes. 

Smith became one of the most recognizable members of the three-comma club after announcing during his May 2019 commencement address at Morehouse College in Georgia that he would pay off all the student loans owed by the entire graduating class. Smith later extended the gift, which Morehouse later said totaled $34 million, to cover the graduates’ parents’ loans, too.

Smith is worth an estimated $7.05 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He founded Vista Equity Partners, which invests in software companies, in 2000.

As a high schooler, Smith convinced Bell Labs to give him an internship even though they were reserved for college students. He went on to study at Cornell and Columbia universities, and he worked at Goldman Sachs before starting his own investment firm. 

Here’s a look at Smith’s life and career.

Jonathan Marino contributed to an earlier version of this story.

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Robert F. Smith, 57, was interested in working in Silicon Valley from the time he was in high school.

Smith gave a commencement speech at American University’s 2015 graduation, where he spoke about his earliest attempts to get work in Silicon Valley while he was still in high school. 

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“I dug up the phone number for Bell Labs to ask about summer internships,” Smith said. “They said I could apply if I were a junior or senior in college. I said that was fantastic, because, while I was only a junior in high school, I was getting A’s in computer science and my advanced math courses, so it was like I was in college. Much to my dismay, they disagreed.”

But Smith said he kept calling back “every day for two weeks straight,” and after an intern from MIT didn’t show up, he was accepted as an intern.

Smith spent years working as an intern at Bell Labs and went on to study chemical engineering at Cornell University.

Smith attended Cornell for undergrad but never lost touch with Bell Labs. He continued to work there as an intern during his summer and winter breaks before graduating Cornell with a chemical engineering degree. 

In 2016, Smith donated $50 million to his alma mater.

After Cornell, Smith got his MBA from Columbia University in New York City and then went on to work on Wall Street, taking a job at Goldman Sachs.

“When I finished business school and decided to join the tumultuous world of investment banking, my family and friends spoke up with concerns about my sanity,” Smith said in his American University commencement speech. 

Smith would rise to cohead of enterprise systems and storage-investment …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Finance


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