Prominent Wall Street dealmaker Ken Moelis has been a major player in the high-stakes world of investment banking for more than four decades. Following a successful career as an executive at multiple large national banks, Moelis founded his own firm, Moelis & Company, in 2007. Despite the fact that he was launching a boutique investment bank in the middle of a global financial crisis, the company thrived under the veteran's leadership, going public seven years later in 2014.
Some of the firm's milestones include handling the record $2 billion sale of the Dodgers in 2012 and advising Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company on the biggest IPO debut in history. In addition to his commercial interests, Moelis also serves on numerous non-profit committees, including the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Board of Advisors.
Much of Moelis's success can be traced back to a chance encounter that he had as an undergraduate at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. When the young man arrived on campus in 1976, he had planned on becoming a lawyer. But this all changed during a class he was taking on investment banking at Wharton. To his surprise, the head of capital markets for Morgan Stanley came down to Pennsylvania and went through the IPO economics on what was considered a hot IPO of the day — Apple. After that Moelis changed gears, eventually graduating in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, then earning his Master of Business Administration degree from Wharton in 1981.
"The school has kind of been over the years like a home away from home in that we have used it to celebrate so many family milestones," Moelis said, explaining his connection to his alma mater, and why he continually returns each year for recruiting sessions. "I love being on campus and still feel like I am one of the students."
In keeping with this sentiment, Moelis is also a member of Wharton's Board of Overseers — a board he has served on for over a decade — and is a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania.
But through the years, he's been generous with more than just his time. In 2008 he donated (along with his wife, Julie, a fellow Wharton grad) $5 million to the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, funding that supports business education and research on the emerging sports industry. Then in 2017, Moelis and his wife doubled that with a whopping $10 million donation that established the Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis Advance Access Program, a deferred admission opportunity that provides a pathway to a Wharton MBA for Penn undergraduates outside of the traditional business and economic majors. Now future generations of Moelis Fellows may be able to turn other degrees into the same billion-dollar empires constructed by their benefactor.