Billionaire Paying Off College Students’ $40 Million Debt Has Ties to Insurance Industry

May 20, 2019

The billionaire technology investor and philanthropist who has promised to assume the $40 million student debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse College has ties to the insurance industry.

Robert F. Smith, who addressed the nearly 400 graduating seniors of the all-male historically black college in Atlanta on Sunday, is founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in software, data and technology companies.

Among his firm’s investments is Vertafore, a leading provider of software to the property/casualty insurance broker and carrier market. Vista Equity Partners and Bain Capital completed a buyout of Denver-based Vertafore in June 2016.

Vista Equity also owns Orlando, Florida-based PlanSource, which supplies software for benefits administration and human resources professionals. Vista Equity acquired PlanSource in April 2019.

Vista Equity’s insurance portfolio also includes Texas-based Solera, a digital technology firm that owns automotive and home-related businesses, including insurance services firm Enservio, which offers claims management software for carriers. Vista Equity completed a take-private of Solera in March 2016.

Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of more than $46 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 50 software companies.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith told the graduates. “This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

The pledge to eliminate student debt for the class of 2019 is estimated to be $40 million. Morehouse said it is the single largest gift to the college.

Smith told the graduates he expects them “pay it forward” and he hopes that future classes have the same opportunity.

Smith trained as an engineer at Cornell University, earning his BS in Chemical Engineering. Following his MBA from Columbia Business School with honors, he worked at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two patents.

In 1994, he joined Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking. He advised on over $50 billion in merger and acquisition activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo. He was the first person in San Francisco at Goldman to focus solely on tech mergers and acquisitions.

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