Gabelli, a philanthropist, investor, and Chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors, Inc., returned to his alma mater to provide some inspiration for the new students as they begin their time at Fordham.
“I couldn’t be more excited to talk to you today; this is an exciting time in our lives,” said Gabelli to more than 500 students in the Fordham Prep auditorium at the Rose Hill campus. He noted that although the pandemic has created a difficult landscape, it has also provided valuable opportunities.
“You want to be learning how to create options for yourself in a time of uncertainty—it’s not as bad as last year—but really it’s a terrific time to learn.”
A native of the Bronx, Gabelli went from caddying at a local golf course and investing in stocks from the age of 13 to earning his bachelor’s at Fordham and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School in 1967. After working on Wall Street as an analyst for a few years, Gabelli launched his own firm in 1976, GAMCO Investors, which now manages more than $40 billion in assets. In addition to investing, Gabelli, a member of Fordham’s President Council, is passionate about supporting education; he often comes back to Fordham to talk with students and share his experience.
‘The 11th Commandment’
Gabelli emphasized that students should always keep in mind his “11th Commandment”—“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
He told a story about visiting an auto parts company in Toronto right after he launched his own firm. He was quizzing the head of the company to learn more about his current situation—what needs he might have, what challenges the industry was facing, etc. After about 30 minutes, the man turned to Gabelli and said, “Mario, I can’t answer any more questions about the Canadian auto market.”
Gabelli then turned to leave. But the man stopped him and said, “You forgot to ask [for the order].” He proceeded to write Gabelli a check and became his first client.
People often have innovative ideas or the motivation to get that next job, Gabelli said, but if they don’t ask for it, they don’t get it.
Gabelli encouraged the students to push themselves to work harder than others and create options and flexibility for themselves.
“You want to have options—you want to do what you want to do, you don’t want to do what somebody else wants you to do,” he said.
He encouraged the students to “increase their flexibility” and to expand their abilities. He told them that they were all “Ph.D.s” already—passionate, hungry, and driven.
Looking to the Future
Gabelli said his company recently launched a new fund called Love Our Planet and People, based on the principles of ESG—environmental social governance, which evaluates a firm’s collective conscientiousness for social and environmental factors.
“Love Our Planet and People will reflect our mandate to invest in companies committed to sustainable practices such as renewable energy and the reduction or recycling of long-lived wastes such as plastics,” a statement about the fund reads.
One of the areas he said they were exploring is rechargeable car batteries for electric vehicles and how to make them better.
“This year we’re talking about batteries—how do you create batteries? How do you recycle batteries? How do you have storage, power, electricity? How do you do that in the car so that you can get it charged in 15 minutes?”
Gabelli School of Business Dean Donna Rapaccioli said it’s this kind of research and questioning that made Gabelli so successful.
“His defiance of conventional investing wisdom and this meticulous research on companies with high cash flow and no competition led to exponential growth,” she said.
‘Integrity, Integrity, Integrity’
When asked for the top three things students should learn during their time at the Gabelli School, Gabelli said, “integrity, integrity, integrity.”
“Your word is so important,” he said. “The notion of learning not only business principles, learning also a common sense of what morality is and what’s right.”
This message resonated with first-year Gabelli School at Lincoln Center student Mashu Nishi.
“I liked how he talked about integrity,” he said. “It’s something that’s been stressed my whole life and to go as a freshman into a school that stresses that so much—it’s comforting.”
Gabelli School of Business at Rose Hill senior Eva Li, who interviewed Gabelli as a part of the talk, had her own advice to give. She said that she was grateful for events like these and clubs that allowed for networking, since that’s how she got some of her internships, which included Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.
“This is advice I give to all freshmen—I joined clubs on campus and through these clubs, I networked with an alumni professional who came back to Fordham to speak,” said Li, a finance major. “From there, I expanded my network and applied [for an internship].”