Bloomberg Chairman Peter T. Grauer stressed the personal and professional value of relationships and the critical thinking skills he gained in his Carolina liberal arts education at the Frey Lecture on Sept. 12.
The Frey Foundation Distinguished Visiting Professorship Lecture, established in 1989, brings to campus renowned leaders in a variety of fields, including government, public policy, international affairs and the arts. Alumnus David Frey (B.A. ’64, J.D. ’67), who chaired the foundation for many years, died in June.
Grauer spoke to an engaged audience at the FedEx Global Education Center in a fireside-chat-style conversation with Dean Jim White. The 1968 alumnus majored in English at Carolina and graduated from Harvard Business School’s Program for Management Development. He said his time at UNC-Chapel Hill “has been seminal in my life.”
“My liberal arts background as an English major has enhanced my communication skills and my ability to engage with other people,” Grauer said. “I think it has made me a better thinker, and that ability to communicate successfully with other people and to build relationships has been critical to my personal and professional life.”
Grauer has been a member of the Bloomberg board of directors since 1996 and was named chairman of the board of the global financial technology, data and media company in March 2001, succeeding Michael R. Bloomberg. He joined Bloomberg full time as chairman, president and CEO in March 2002.
Grauer said one of the most rewarding things about working for Bloomberg has been the company’s focus on having a charitable impact worldwide. The vast majority of profits from Bloomberg LP goes to support the work of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which invests in 700 cities and 150 countries around the world. The philanthropic arm focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: arts, education, environment, government, innovation and public health.
In 2022, Bloomberg distributed $1.7 billion globally, and “to date we have given away $14.4 billion,” Grauer said to a round of applause. “That’s the higher purpose we serve.”
Grauer said one of the most challenging but meaningful moments in his career was when an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March 2011; at the time, Bloomberg had 600 employees in Tokyo.
“I was on an airplane coming back from the Middle East when I got a message from my colleagues in New York that this had happened. I made a quick decision when I got back home that I was going to get a fresh change of clothes and fly back to Tokyo,” he said. “I spent the next few days [in our Tokyo offices] going desk to desk assuring our people that we were going to get through this and that we would protect them and their families.”
White asked Grauer about his role with the 30% Club, a group of chairs and CEOs committed to working toward more equitable gender balance at all levels of their organizations and to improving diverse representation in senior leadership roles. Grauer was founding U.S. chair of the group, which started in London.
“At Bloomberg, our goal is to attract the best and the brightest people with different backgrounds and abilities,” he said. “For us it’s a business imperative. It’s not just the right thing to do; it makes for a better [work] environment.”
Grauer has been a loyal supporter of UNC. He is a past member of the Board of Trustees and former longtime chair of the advisory board of Honors Carolina; Grauer’s philanthropic gift to Honors endowed the associate dean position currently held by Jim Leloudis. He is a recipient of the University’s William Richardson Davie Award and the College’s Dean’s Distinguished Service Award and was also inducted into the North Carolina Media and Journalism Hall of Fame.
In taped remarks to open the lecture, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz heralded both Grauer and the Frey family for their generosity to UNC-Chapel Hill. Several endowed professorships in the College of Arts and Sciences bear the Frey name.
“Before he died in June, David [Frey] knew that we were bringing Peter Grauer to campus to be the fall Frey lecturer. He had recommended Peter as a speaker, and I know he was pleased that we were able to make tonight happen,” said Guskiewicz.
By Kim Spurr, College of Arts and Sciences