The Lynches

From the Boston Globe:

The first decision Carolyn Lynch made as president of her family’s foundation was to make her husband, Peter, head of the investment committee.

“I figured I can do no wrong,” she said.

That was 25 years ago, and today the Lynches, through their foundation and personal fortune, have donated more than $100 million to education, becoming a low-key force that has saved inner city Catholic schools and helped reshape charter and district public schools in Boston.

“You cannot go anywhere in the education of children and not find the fingerprints of Carolyn and Peter,” said Jack Connors, a close friend and longtime supporter of Catholic schools.

Peter Lynch, of course, is the legendary Fidelity money manager, the tall guy with a Warholian tuft who became a household name in the 1980s and 1990s, even appearing in TV commercials touting his stock-picking prowess.

At 69, Peter has now spent more time giving away money than managing the Magellan Fund, but he and his wife continue to apply the same techniques to their philanthropy that he used to rack up double-digit returns at Fidelity. They do hands-on research, they look for undervalued programs with big potential, and they track their return on investment.



Disclosure: Peter and Carolyn have given Match a lot of dough.  We're grateful.  Moreover, Pru and I attended a symphony event with them a year or two ago.  Moreover, I served on an advisory board for one of their large recipients, the Lynch Leadership program. 

That said, I'm a Match volunteer now.  So I don't have any official kissing up to do.  Just unofficial, at most. 

1. The Globe article resonates.  Carolyn and Peter hate BS and pretense.  They hired a foundation director, Katie, who hates BS and pretense.  They don't take themselves too seriously.  At some point I remember wanting to create some sort of thank you for them, maybe a framed photo or something, and Katie laughed and said "Don't bother." 

2. The Lynches are practical.  That's not always true in ed philanthropy.  Here's an interview on PBS with Peter from long ago, reflecting on his career as a star investor. 

I had a great luck company called Hanes. They test marketed a product called L'Eggs in Boston and I think in Columbus, Ohio, maybe three or four markets. And Carolyn, ah, brought this product home and she was buying and she said, "It's great." And she almost got a black belt in shopping. She's a very good shopper. If we hadn't had these three kids, she now -- when Beth finally goes off to college, I think we'll be able to resume her training. But she's a very good shopper and she would buy these things. She said, "They're really great."

And I did a little bit of research. I found out the average woman goes to the supermarket or a drugstore once a week. And they go a woman's specialty store or department store once every six weeks. And all the good hosiery, all the good pantyhose is being sold in department stores. They were selling junk in the supermarkets. They were selling junk in the drugstores. So this company came up with a product. They rack-jobbed it, they had all the sizes, all the fits, a down they never advertised price. They just advertised "This fits. You'll enjoy it." And it was a huge success and it became my biggest position and I always worried somebody'd come out with a competitive product, and about a year-and-a-half they were on the market another large company called Kaiser-Roth came out with a product called No Nonsense. They put it right next to L'eggs in the supermarket, right next to L'eggs in the drugstore.

I said, "Wow, I gotta figure this one out." So I remember buying -- I bought 48 different pairs at the supermarket, colors, shapes, and sizes. They must have wondered what kind of house I had at home when I got to the register. They just let me buy it. So I brought it into the office. I gave it to everybody. I said, "Try this out and come back and see what's the story with No Nonsense." And people came back to me in a couple weeks and said, "It's not as good."

That's what fundamental research is.

So I held onto Hanes and it was a huge stock and it was bought out by Consolidated Foods, which is now called Sara Lee, and it's been a great division of that company. It might have been a thirty bagger instead of a ten bagger, if it hadn't been bought out.

Fundamental research.  Kicking the tires.  It's not inherently the opposite as having an approach based on "Theories of Change," but often an investor or philanthropist leans towards one or the other.