Friday, October 9, 2009

Lunch with the FT: David Swensen

For almost one-quarter of a century, David Swensen, head of Yale University's $16bn endowment, has been one of the most influential figures in US finance. Because of his extraordinary success in managing the Yale fund, Swensen has been described as the biggest "donor" in Yale's history.

The 55-year-old divorced father of three arrives for lunch with the FT precisely on time. He has chosen Bentara, an airy Asian restaurant in Yale's hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. As he approaches our table in the near-empty room, he looks more like a college professor than a Master of the Universe. Tall, slender, with an angular face, close-cropped hair and even, white teeth, he wears khaki trousers and a blue shirt, with a Patagonia vest under his black leather jacket to ward off the New England winter chill.

Swensen is greeted with affection – he is a frequent diner here – and as we look at our menus he assures me the food is "delicious and properly spicy". It is also inexpensive: our $23.85 bill would barely cover the tip on a New York power lunch.