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The 20 Most Notable NYU Alumni in the Business World

Since it first opened its doors in 1831, New York University has seen thousands of students pass through its hallowed halls. Not all have gone onto household name status, but a fair number of those who have are the movers and shakers of the business-world. From CEO's to advertising executives, from philanthropists to financiers, the alumni of NYC have done their Alma mater proud. To discover which of the university's students have succeeded the best in industry, let's take a closer look at 20 of NYC's most successful graduates.

1. Leslie Alexander

Attorney, businessman and financier Leslie Alexander graduated from NYU with a bachelor’s degree in economics, before earning his Juris doctor from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
He began his career as an attorney but left the profession in 1980 to establish investment firm, The Alexander Group. Since then, Alexander’s career has gone from strength to strength, taking in a stakeholder share in student loans company, First Marblehead, ownership of the Houston Rockets from 1994 – 2017, and controlling interests in WNBA’s Houston Comets from 1997- 2007. The combined earnings of his ventures, along with the profits from their subsequent sales, have contributed to a net worth estimated by Forbes to be around $2.1 billion.

2. Ursula Burns

American businesswoman Ursula Burns earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from New York University Tandon School of Engineering in 1980. A year later, she obtained a Master of Science in mathematical engineering from Columbia University, and has subsequently achieved honorary degrees from multiple universities, including New York University, Howard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University. Outside of her educational endeavors, Burns has achieved massive success in business, thank largely to her 37-year career with print giant, Xerox. Her first role at the company was in the summer of 1980, when she entered the business as a temporary intern. From there, Burns worked her way up the ladder, culminating in the position of CEO in 2009, and Chairperson a year later. Thanks to her success at Xerox, Burns holds the honor of being both the first black woman to head up a CEO Fortune 500 company and the first woman to succeed another female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

3. Nicholas Berggruen

Sometimes referred to as “the homeless billionaire," Nicolas Berggruen obtained an International business degree from NYU in 1981, and has subsequently achieved phenomenal success as an Investor and philanthropist. His main achievements lie in his role as founder and president of Berggruen Holdings, a private investment company, the think tank, Berggruen Institute, and media publication, TheWorldPost. Along with his accomplishments in business, Berggruen is known as a serial philanthropist: most of his private revenue has been ploughed back into the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust, and he’s also a member of The Given Pledge, an organization dedicated to encouraging the wealthy to contribute to philanthropic causes.

4. Charles Randlett Flint

IBM founder Charles Randlett Flint graduated from New York University Tandon School of Engineering in 1868. Just 3 years later, he took his first major stride in business as a partner in shipping company, Gilchrest, Flint & Co. From there, his career saw rapid progression, culminating in the establishment of the Computing – Tabulating Recording Company. The company was renamed International Business Machines (IBM for short) in 1911, and Flint remained on its board of directors until his retirement in 1930.

5. James B Rosenwald

Co-founder and managing partner of asset management company, Dalton Investments LLC, James B Rosenwald gained a M.B.A from the Graduate School of Business at NYU in 1984. Further to completing his studies, Rosenwald began an investment career with security firm, Sterling Grace & Co, and established his first company, Rosenwald, Roditi & Company, Ltd, In 1992. Seven years later, Rosenwald co-founded Dalton Investments, his most profitable and renowned achievement to date. Alongside his securities investment portfolio, Rosenwald has also dabbled in real estate investment, and together with business partner, Kyle Kazan, has invested in multitudes of residential and commercial properties across China, Germany and the US.

6. Arthur C. Martinez

Businessman Arthur C Martinez worked for numerous companies after graduating from New York University Tandon School of Engineering, but it was in the world of retail that he saw his foremost success. In 1980, he achieved the position of CEO at Saks Fifth Avenue. 12 years later, he took on the head position at Sear Merchandise Group. Three years after that, Martinez attained the position of CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Company. During his leadership tenure, the company saw a major shift in focus, abandoning their traditional reliance on men’s wear to embrace the profitable returns of women’s attire. Despite his retirement in 2000, he continues to serve on the board of several companies, and is still remembered today as the man who revived Sears.

7. Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen’s ventures into the world of iced treats started in his senior year at high school, when he worked briefly as an ice cream man. Coincidentally, high school would also be where he first met lifelong friend and business partner, Jerry Greenfield. After pursing further education at several colleges, including NYU, Cohen initially settled on a career in teaching. However, that journey was cut short when in 1977, Cohen decided to hook up with old pal Greenfield to found Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream Parlor in Burlington, Vermont. Their ice cream went down a storm with the residents of Burlington and, subsequently, with the rest of the word too. Cohen resigned from his position as CEO in 1996, but remains affiliated to the company via his membership on the advisory board.

8. Marvin Davis

American industrialist and philanthropist Marvin Davies graduated with a degree in engineering from NYU in 1947. After graduation, his joined his father in the family petroleum business, The Davis Oil Company. During his time with the company, Davis became known for pioneering the oil deal “third for a quarter” – which, in layman’s terms, allowed the company to drill their own wells with other peoples money. The business provided Davis his primary source of income until 1981, when he decided to sell most of his holdings in a $600 million deal. That same year, Davis bough 20th Century Fox in a deal worth $722 million. Outside of business, Davis was a long-term philanthropist, contributing to multiple deserving causes and setting up his own charitable foundation, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, which raises money towards the research of juvenile diabetes.

9. Ronald Kramer

Business executive Ronald Kramer achieved his MBA from the New York University in 1981. After graduating, he started his career at Citibank, before taking on the position of cooperate finance specialist at New York investment bank, Ladenburg Thalmann. After multiple successes at the bank, Kramer achieved the position of CEO and Chairman in 1995, a rank he occupied until 1999, when he took on the role of Managing Director and Partner at Wasserstein Perella & Co. Three years later, Kramer was on the move again, this time to casino developer, Wynn Resorts LTD. Today, Kramer holds the position of CEO and chairman of Griffon Cooperation, a conglomerate holding company based in New York, as well as Chair of the Undergraduate Board at the acclaimed Wharton School.

10. Harvey R. Blau

After earning his L.L.M from New York University School of Law, Harvey R. Blau entered the legal sector with a clerking post for Judge Irving Ben Cooper. After working as Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York throughout the mid ‘60’s, Blau took on the position of General Counsel at Griffon Corporation (which at that time went by the name Instrument Systems Corporation) in 1966. In 1983, he was promoted to the dual position of Company CEO and Chairman. During his tenure, Griffon underwent radical changes in its portfolio, transforming from a limited interest’s company into a hugely diversified conglomerate. Blau retired from the company in 2008 and was succeeded by his son- in- law, Ronald Kramer. Blau died in January 2018 at the age of 82.

11. Robert B. Cohen

Robert Benjamin Cohen earned his bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1947. Shortly after graduation, Cohen took over his father Issacs’ newspaper distribution company, the Hudson County News Co. As reported, by the 1980’s, Cohen had built the business into one of the largest magazine distributors in the US. In 1985, he expanded his empire through the partnered acquisition of the Metropolitan News Company alongside the New York Times. At around the same time, he also took over Newark Newsdealers, again in partnership with the New York Times. His success was further compounded when his acquired Worldwide Media Service Inc. in 1985. In addition to his successes in distribution, Cohen made great strides in the retail business: his acquisition of a newsstand at Newark International Airport in the mid ‘70’s grew into Hudson News, a line of airport stores that revolutionized traditional airport newsstands. Cohen died at the age of 86 in 2012, and is survived by his wife, son and six grandchildren.

12. Leonard S. Riggio

While still studying at NYU, American businessman and entrepreneur, Leonard S. Riggio, took his first strides into the retail business when he established the Student Book Exchange in 1965. Riggio’s transformation of the small store into a major retailer paved the way for his next project, the acquisition of the New York bookstore, Barnes and Noble. Over the subsequent decades, Riggio went on to acquire more and more stores under the Barnes and Noble name, and by 1997, the company’s 483 stores were pulling in sales of more than $2.8 billion. In addition to his achievements with Barnes and Noble, Riggio has also seen success with his sideline, MBS Textbook Exchange (the country’s biggest wholesalers of college textbooks), at which he’s served as Chairman of the Board since 1985.

13. Jay Schulberg

American advertising executive, Jay Schulberg, is memorable for such advertisements as the hugely successful “Got Milk?” milk mustache campaign, the Excedrin Headache campaign, and the American Express “Don’t leave home without it” campaign. Schulberg began his career after graduating from NYC in 1961. His first position was as a junior copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather, and by the 1970’s he had already acquired a reputation for his concise, witty taglines. In 1987, he was hired as executive vice president and creative director by Bozell, where his work for the National Milk Processors Board would result in his most famous and enduring ads so far. Schulberg retired from the industry in 1999 and died at the age of 65 in 2005 of pancreatic cancer.

14. Kobi Alexander

Founder and former CEO of Comverse Technology, Kobi Alexander, has, in recent years, become a household name for reasons slightly less auspicious than his successful business career. During his tenure as CEO of Comverse Technology, the fortunes of the formerly floundering technology company were transformed, leading to multiple accreditation such a listing in Barron’s 500, inclusion on the Wall Street Journals “Honor Roll” and more besides. The fortunes of Alexander himself took a turn in 2006, when he was charged by the United States Department of Justice on multiple accusations of conspiracy to commit fraud, along with other related offences. After beating a hasty retreat to Namibia (which has no extradition treaty with the US), Alexander returned to the US in 2016, and was subsequently sentenced to 30 months in prison.

15. Alexander Soros

American philanthropist Alexander Soros gained his BA from New York University in 2009, before going on to claim a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018. Since leaving NYC, Soros (who just so happens to be the son of billionaire investor George Soros) has established himself as a successful writer and humanitarian. His writing has appeared in various media outlets, from The Guardian to The Miami Herald, from The Sun-Sentinel to The Forward, while his philanthropic works have taken in a deputy chair position on the Open Society Foundation and an advisory board member position on Global Witness. In 2012, Soros established his own foundation, the eponymous Alexander Soros Foundation, which is dedicated to the furthering of social justice and global human rights.

16. James M. Henderson

Advertising pioneer James Marvin Henderson founded Henderson Advertising Inc thanks to a $500 cash loan from wife Donna. From these humble beginnings, the company grew into one of the leading advertising firms in the US. In 1980, it became the first advertising agency outside either New York or Chicago to claim Advertising Age magazine’s title of Adverting Agency of the Year. Outside of advertising, Henderson dabbled in politics, claiming the position of Assistant United States Postmaster General during Nixon’s presidency, as well as being an early contributor to John B Connally’s 1980 presidential bid.

17. Edward H. Bersoff

NYC graduate Bersoff served as CEO and President of BTG. INC (an information technology company) until its acquisition by Titan Corporation in 2001. After the sale, Bersoff maintained his links to the company with a board position on Titan. Prior to establishing BTG in 1982, Bersoff served as president at the systems integration firm, CTEC Inc, and formerly as a mathematics teacher at New York University and Boston University.

18. Robert J. Stevens

Graduate of NYC Robert J Stevens built a successful career in industry before retiring in 2013. Stevens obtained the position of CEO at Lockheed in 2004, and in 2005, was elected its chairman. From January to December 2013, he also served as executive chairman. Stevens stood down from the company in 2013, and currently occupies the position of lead director of the Monsanto Company, as well as board member for the United States Steel Corporation, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. In addition to his business interests, Stevens is a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society, and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

19. Jake Burton Carpenter

American snowboarder and founder of Burton Snowboards, Jake Burton Carpenter, is widely regarded as one of the inventors of the modern-day snowboard. After graduating from NYC with a degree in economics, Carpenter worked to develop a new type of snowboard, featuring an all new bentwood laminate core and rigid binding. The new boards went into production in the 1970’s, and since then, Carpenter has developed the Burton brand into one of the biggest snowboard and snowboard- equipment manufactures in the world.

20. Thomas E. Dooley

Further to his graduation from NYC in 1978, Thomas Dooley has enjoyed massive success thank to 4-decade long career at mass media conglomerate, Viacom. Dooley joined the company in 1980, and worked in various positions including senior executive VP, CFO and CAO. In May 2010, he was named COO, and subsequently served as interim president and CEO until November 2016. In addition to his achievements at Viacom, Dooley has also served as co-chairman and CEO of private equity firm, DND Capital Partners, and Trustee of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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