Fun and ‘luck’ in a glittering career

Fun and ‘luck’ in a glittering career

A spirit of adventure pervades Professor Richard Brealey’s life. A distinguished financial economist with an impressive CV that features senior appointments in business, the Bank of England and academia, Prof ‘Dick’ Brealey (OE 1946 – 1954) has nonetheless eschewed any idea of a career plan.

“Some people have a clear goal in life; others go where the wind takes them. I fall in the latter camp,” he explains. This spirit is also, perhaps, demonstrated in his love of outdoor activities, including rowing, climbing, skiing and riding his horse.

Professor Brealey went to Exeter College, Oxford, where he read Politics, Philosophy & Economics. “On leaving college I joined the investment department of a Canadian insurance company, partly because they offered immediate responsibilities and partly because they promised me a year working in Canada. Visiting companies as an investment analyst and later managing the UK equity portfolio was great fun, but towards the end of my time there I became interested in some of the exciting new theories about portfolio management.”

To pursue this interest and try to apply these theories, Dick got a job in the United States. “My three years in the States involved getting to know many of the academics working in the area and, when I got an offer from the newly established London Business School (LBS) to join their finance faculty, I became an academic myself.” Apart from a secondment as a special adviser to the Governor of the Bank of England, he has stayed at LBS ever since.

He believes he has been lucky throughout his adult life: “I was lucky to join LBS during the golden age of financial economics. I was lucky to help build a classy finance faculty and to team up with a friend from MIT to write a textbook that 30 years later is still the most widely used finance text [Principles of Corporate Finance, with S C Myers and F Allen, 10th ed, 2010]. During my time at LBS I have had plenty of opportunities to travel, and to consult and provide expert testimony in many countries.”

Now Emeritus Professor of Finance at LBS, he holds positions including: Director of the Swiss Helvetia Fund and deputy chairman of the Balancing and Settlement Code Panel; Associate Editor, Journal of Applied Corporate Finance; Advisory Editor, Economic Notes and member of the Advisory Board of International Finance. His career has included visiting appointments at the University of California (Berkeley), University of British Columbia, University of Hawaii and Australian Graduate School of Management.

“My wife, who would probably once have been horrified at the thought of marrying a professor, is now reconciled and grateful that, although I may be forgetful, at least I do not have a wispy beard,” he concludes.