Alumni profile: Martin Brand

4th November 2019

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Wadham alumnus Martin Brand (Mathematics and Computer Science, 1995) is the man behind one of the highest profile private equity deals in recent years.

  • Martin Brand

    Martin Brand 

  • Martin Brand at graduation with his father (top) and former Wadham porter, Bill (bottom).

In his role as Senior Managing Director, Private Equity at Blackstone in New York, Martin recently hit the headlines for his leading role in Blackstone’s acquisition of a 55% share in data company Thomson Reuters/Refinitiv, for $20bn, in a deal closing in October 2018, and Blackstone’s largest private equity deals since the financial crisis.

By August 2019, the media reported that the London Stock Exchange had agreed a takeover of the data company for $27bn in a move which, according the The Guardian, “will transform it into a UK-headquartered, global rival to Michael Bloomberg’s financial news and data business.”

Martin’s first job after Wadham was as a derivatives trader at Goldman Sachs in New York and Tokyo, and then with McKinsey & Company in London, before her moved on to join Blackstone.

Martin admits that he “fell in love with Oxford on my first visit - the beauty of the town, the colleges, the intellectual air.  I had won the German math competition in high school, and thought I would become a mathematician, so I wanted to go to a college that was strong academically, in particular in maths and computer science. Also, being from abroad, I was looking for a place that was welcoming and open minded.”

Wadham prepared him well for this career path:  “My tutors at Wadham were outstanding. In my first year I had three tutors: Bill McColl, who later became head of the faculty of Computer Science, Nick Woodhouse, who later became head of the Oxford Maths Institute, and Andrew Hodges, who did research with Roger Penrose on twistor theory. It was an incredible group of tutors to meet on a weekly basis in two-on-one tutorials as a first year undergraduate. Some of the teaching is also relevant for what I do now, for example courses I took on complexity theory and distributed systems allowed me to understand the infrastructure underpinning the block chain.”

Stand out moments from his time at Wadham include the Maths Dinner in Hall. “The dinner was with Roger Penrose, whose books I had read before coming to Wadham, and whom I greatly admired. After the dinner we played some silly games, and I am thinking to myself, I can’t really believe it, here I am with the author of the Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems playing “head in the box” in the back quad.”

Another highlight was the 2015 Oscars. Martin’s tutor Andrew Hodges had written the Turing biography, The Enigma, which formed the basis for the screenplay of the movie The Imitation Game. “The adaptation won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay in 2014. And then, in that same year, two other Wadham alumni were nominated: Rosamund Pike who was the year below me at Wadham, for Gone Girl, and Felicity Jones, for The Theory of Everything. I thought between the screenplay based on Andrew’s book winning, and two of the Best Lead Actress nominees being Wadham alums, it was pretty wild.”  In a further “it’s a small world” connection, The Imitation Game  was produced by Teddy Schwarzman, son of Blackstone’s CEO Steve Schwarzman, who separately made headlines earlier this year by making a record £150 million donation to Oxford to establish the Schwarzman Centre for Humanities. The Schwarzman Centre will have a particular focus on the responsible introduction of Artificial Intelligence, a topic Martin is keenly interested in and in which he hopes to remain engaged with as he continues his lifelong connection with Oxford.

Biography

German born Martin received a BA/MA in Mathematics and Computation, First Class Honors, from Wadham College and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. 

He leads Blackstone’s private equity investments in technology, media, telecom, and financial institutions. In addition, he is a member of the Investment Committee of Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities funds. Since joining Blackstone in 2003, he has been involved in the execution of the firm's investments in Thomson Reuters/Refinitiv, Ultimate Software, Paysafe, Vungle, JDA, Viva, NCR, Optiv, First Eagle Investment Management, Kronos, Ipreo, Knight Capital Group, Lendmark, Exeter Finance, BankUnited, PBF Energy, Performance Food Group, Travelport, New Skies, Cine UK, NHP, Kabel BW, Kabelnetz NRW, Primacom, and Sulo.