The students on Hamilton’s New York City Program recently ventured up to Midtown East to visit the corporate offices of one of the United States’ most iconic luxury retailers. Steven Sadove ’73, chairman and CEO of Saks 5th Avenue, Inc., invited the 15 students to his corporate offices for a discussion on the current state of the retail industry.
Sadove spoke about his time at Hamilton, and the valuable skills he took away from the Hill that allowed him to succeed in corporate retail. After Hamilton, he went on to Harvard Business School where he graduated at the top of his class. Sadove worked in marketing at Kraft for 16 years and then became the CEO of Clairol, then a part Bristol-Myers Squibb, introducing such brands as Herbal Essences. In 2006 he joined Saks as CEO.
When asked what skills and tools Hamilton provided that proved most useful in the pursuit of a corporate career, Sadove remarked that a high IQ is not enough to rely upon for a successful career. Rather, the ability to approach problems in an unconventional manner, drive innovation and provide new ideas through creativity is essential. Sadove also stressed the importance of written and oral communication skills, both pillars of a Hamilton education.
Following the discussion at Saks, the Hamilton students visited Priority Capital, a small hedge fund focused on high yield debt securities. Jim Ely and Tom Bergen spoke about Priority’s investment thesis, and the recent trends in the high yield debt markets.
Priority Capital has hosted a number of Hamilton students participating in the New York Program, and has also provided Hamilton students with summer internship opportunities. Ely and Bergen worked previously in JP Morgan’s Leveraged Finance group for many years, and have been a part of both the buy-side and sell-side of the market. They agree that the skills needed for both, while fundamentally the same, do vary, especially in a specialized fund such as Priority Capital.
Though neither Ely nor Bergen are Hamilton graduates, they provide the opportunity for students to participate in a role very different from the typical summer investment banking internship. Leaving school, students begin to build not only their careers, Bergen remarked, but also their professional network, an invaluable and lifelong asset.