“Many of society’s most intractable problems—from addressing the environment, to revitalizing decaying infrastructure in developed and developing nations alike to national security, to the hunger for innovation to stimulate economic growth—resist easy solutions. Rather, they can only be addressed with the thoughtful application of time and money,” write Victoria Ivashina and Josh Lerner, both Harvard Business School professors.
The authors cite the Rockefeller family’s wealth as an example of the use of patient capital. The patriarch, John D. Rockefeller, turned a $4,000 investment in the oil refinery Standard Oil into the initial source of the family’s vast holdings. Two generations later—led by his grandchildren, especially Laurance—long-term capital brought about the development of Eastern Air Lines, a carve-out from General Motors; military contractor McDonnell Aircraft Corp., which eventually was folded into Boeing Co.; the unfolding of tourism and conservation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including building the exclusive and environmentally friendly Caneel Bay resort on St. John Island; and providing critical funding for the expansion of national parks in the United States.
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