December 4, 2000
By Eric Rangus email@example.com
isitors entering the downtown Decatur office of Wayne Coon, Emorys chief investment officer, would swear they entered the abode of a lawyer.
Theres also the wide variety of law firms that already populate
One Decatur Town Center. They hide behind intimidating wooden doors embossed
with serious-sounding names like: McLarty, Robinson and Van Voorhies,
and Weeks and Candler (yes, one of those Candlers).
But make no mistake, its not the law that Coon lays down. Instead,
its tracking Emorys billion-dollar investments that make Coons
world go around.
What a lot of folks wonder is are we long-term players?
Coon said, quoting one of the most common questions from possible donors.
We have millions of dollars worth of buildings. We are long-term
players. An endowment, frankly, is probably the longest term player there
When Coon came to Emory in July 1989, the Universitys endowment
was less than $1 billion, with the majority of Emory money invested in
Coca-Cola stock. Upon his retirement at the end of this yearroughly
four weeks from nowthe endowment checks in at roughly $5 billion.
Much of that, Coon said, is because of the Universitys increased
diversity of its investments.
And much of that has taken place under Coons watch.
In fact, we can probably now say we have a full range of investments,
Coon said. Our position in Coca-Cola stock has been reduced somewhat,
but we have increased our investments and allocations in real estate,
venture capital, oil and gas, and international investing. Im leaving
quite comfortable that we are positioned very well for the 21st century.
Frankly, we are in very good shape as I leave this place.
Not only are Emorys coffers almost unrecognizable from when Coon
took charge of the Universitys investments, but the office itself
is quite different. In 1989, it consisted of Coon,one management person
and a secretary. Now the office numbers seven positions.
The move to Decatur three and a half years ago was made in part to accommodate
When Coon started, he said, the office was located in the Administration
building. From there, it was a move to the Darden building, which is on
N Decatur Road. Then he packed up and headed to the then-newly opened
Human Resources building. As chairman of the benefits funds committee,
Coon said the HR location was a good match.
But in 1997, he and his office got their own place. And the Decatur location
is ideal for meeting with potential donors and with investment managers
employed by the University, Coon said. It is walking distance from a MARTA
line, so visitors have easy access from the airport, restaurants are on
every corner and the main Emory campus is a short drive away.
Why do people give us money? Coon asked. What motivates
people to give us money? You find by and large that these are absolutely
wonderful people who really care about the university.
But we get gifts from people whove never been at Emory. We
also get gifts from people who I dont know if any of us ever knew
And as most everyone on campus knows, much of that endowment money is
invested in Coca-Cola stock, and the relationship between Emory and Coca-Cola
has always been strong.
Contrary to what some may believe, there is no limit on the amount of
money Emory can invest in Coke. Basically, the trustees and the investment
office agree on a target amount.
We try to determine to what level we think it ought to be,
Coon said. Theres no clear answer. If you knew Coca-Cola was
going to grow exponentially, you would just have all Coca-Cola and nothing
else. You have to say, What do you think is prudent? What should
the total percentage be? Its a tough question.
Prior to joining the Emory staff, Coon was chief financial officer of
Middlesex Mutual Assurance Company, and prior to that, Coon had an extensive
career in finance, risk management and investment. He also lived abroad
in places such as Hong Kong and Switzerland, and that international experience
served him well when he came to Emory.
In 1990, we started a program to really build our commitment to
international investing, Coon said. According to Coon, about 12
or 13 percent of the endowment is invested internationally; up from 1
or 2 percent prior to his arrival.
Coon will remain as a special consultant to the investment office. Although
his specific duties remain to be defined, Coon said he will help the new
CIO, Mary Cahill, who comes to the University after 10 years at Xerox
in Connecticut, ease into the job.
Coon said he hopes to spend his actual retirement time traveling with
his wife Patricia.
They have four children and six grandchildren (ranging in age from 2
to 12) spread out from Georgia to Illinois to Pennsylvania, so varied
destinations are not a problem.
He also sits on several boards, including that of the Toigo Foundation,
an organization that supports female and minority MBA students. Its
work that he is particularly proud of.
Students get a financial contribution, they get a mentor assigned
to them and also help finding internships, Coon said. Atlanta
is the only city in the country with two schools in the program: Emory
and Clark Atlanta. Emory is currently in its second year of accepting
The foundations other 13 partners read like a whos who of
business schools: Penn, Duke, Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and Northwestern
are just a handful. In addition, Coon will have chances to do more outside
consulting, not only with other schools, but private firms and nonprofit
organizations as well.
Its fun to have people say, Can you give us some help or some insight in what you think we ought to do? Coon said. I find that very rewarding. If something like that comes along, Im going to do it.