Per Wimmer, Scott Mead, Bill Hambrecht – A New Breed of Business Leaders

The direct translation of the word, polymath, is ‘having learned much.’ That idea eventually found its full expression in Renaissance Italy, with the lofty notion best expressed by 15th century humanist, Leon Alberti, ‘man can do all things if he will.’ Most of us work, pay the mortgage, stock the fridge and perhaps occasionally indulge in the purchase of a lottery ticket – harboring the dim hope that all of the numbers will add up, thus allowing us to proceed down a mythical marbled corridor to Valhalla, forever eating the fruits of fortune. That isn’t an expression of curiosity or a passion for living, but just the suggestion that wealth is enough. What seems to be increasingly apparent within the top tier of business leaders is that that is just as much a part of the journey as anything else. It’s not the endgame.

The media has recently carried the high-profile philanthropic activities of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and their attempt to get other billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes away – and it’s proving to be an exciting, progressive turn. These gentlemen have worked their tails off to achieve their status, and are now driven, I’d imagine, by the desire to not only help people, but change the landscape around them for the better; restless spirits always wanting to do more and embrace new challenges – whether that is in the field of business or not. Money, I’d imagine, was never the object for people like Steve Jobs, or Warren Buffett. Creativity, ingenuity, and desire should be mentioned when an entrepreneur is celebrated, and now, altruism can sit alongside those traits.

There are some interesting businessmen in the current landscape that have made their fortunes, and like the aforementioned, are now pursuing other areas of interest, often with startling results. Per Wimmer‘s biography reads like a character sketch from a Bond film and is certainly a case study of how to squeeze the most out of everyday, or as Dylan Thomas famously said, ‘to rage against the dying of the light.’ A ‘global financier, an entrepreneur, an adventurer, a pioneer and a philanthropist’ as his biography page says. Besides beginning his career in law, he has come to prominence through his own investment bank, Wimmer Financial, but has also made history by completing the world’s first sky dive over the highest point of Mt. Everest – effectively jumping out of a plane at 29,000 feet, at minus 50 degrees C. Wimmer’s new focus is space travel and he seems much more preoccupied by galactic pursuits than his abilities working in major investment houses like Goldman Sachs or in financial consultancy for Collins Stewart. He has completed space training and anticipates being one of the first Danes on the moon. You’ll also find on one of Wimmer’s site pages a list of seven values that the polyglot espouses, the first being ‘Allow yourself to be inspired. Think out of the box.’

Much like Per Wimmer, Scott Mead has been very successful in business (also having worked at Goldman Sachs, eventually being named a partner and managing director in 1996) and has continued to have a full and varied life outside of the boardroom. Besides achieving renown for his handling of many high profile clients of Goldman Sachs, Mead has been a tireless fundraiser and philanthropist for many organizations including the famed Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London. Besides his work in the charity community, he has also recently begun again to work in his original career field, as an art photographer, and has had a recent London show exhibiting some of his early work, much of which was inspired by his two illustrious mentors. The teachers in question happen to be none other than William Eggleston and Emmet Gowin; the first is the American icon synonymous with legitimizing color photography and Gowin is known for his use of large format cameras for his shots. Like both of his teachers, Mead’s work shares an uncluttered sense of space, and a natural feel for the surrounding environment, with his latest show in London being an archival journey, exploring New England in the 1970′s. Throughout all of his years in business, Mead never stopped photographing and had two of his pictures recently shortlisted for the Royal Academy’s 2010 Summer Show.

Another active renegade, Bill Hambrecht, may not be as inclined to scale the highest mountains or attempt to see through the lens of a vintage Hasselblad, but his progressive approach to business helped change the way stocks are bought, opening up shares to the public – initially only the province of industry insiders. His open Initial Public Offering Model (Dutch Auction style-starting with a high price, then descending) has helped startup businesses raise more money than they were able to before. And he is also known in the business world as having the prescience to foresee where technology was heading well before we were all clutching for our iPhones. Hambrecht was leading the charge with Apple back in the eighties, in the last decade, and now, after being at the forefront of egalitarian investing, he decided to throw his oar into something completely different: Hambrecht began a new football league to compete with the NFL. Both AOL Chairman, Tim Armstrong, and billionaire, Mark Cuban, are also among the investors.

All of the individuals profiled here continue to be involved in the world of business, but the desire to grow and be challenged beyond the confines of investments and the banking industry has led each of them to contribute in unique ways to fields far removed from where they began; an exciting and inspiring cast that are paving the way for future industry leaders – always restless, always challenging, and never content sitting still.

William R. Feins is a freelance journalist currently living in London; he received his B.A. degree in Economics and his Masters in Sociology. William has always been interested in the mechanics of business and the inspiration of original thinkers, and firmly believes that the former can’t succeed without the latter. In his spare time, he enjoys the ridiculous spectacle of watching table tennis on a big screen (preferably at a pub) and reading weighty tomes about World War II.