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Peter Bloom addressed a Kellogg audience on Feb. 25.

General Atlantic managing director reveals ‘three biggest mistakes’

By Aubrey Henretty

2/27/2008 - When Peter Bloom, managing director of global investment firm General Atlantic, asked Kellogg students how they would handle the strategic and moral quandaries that led him to make the biggest mistakes of his career, he assured them that there were no right or wrong answers.

“Actually,” he added with a smile, “there is a right answer, which is always the opposite of what I did.”

In his Feb. 25 address in the Donald P. Jacobs Center, which was sponsored by Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at Kellogg, the Business Leadership Club and the Heizer Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital, Bloom shared what he called the three biggest professional mistakes he’d ever made to help prepare students for the challenges ahead.

Bloom committed one cataclysmic mistake as a young associate at New York investment bank Salomon Brothers. In his very first transaction with a government agency client, he realized he’d overpaid by $20 million — for the wrong bond.

“I actually for a moment thought, ‘I can get away with this,’” said Bloom. In such a large bank, his mistake would be viewed as a simple clerical error and would almost certainly not be traced back to him, he said. But somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard a little voice: “My little voice is screaming, ‘You’ve got to come clean.’”

Bloom did come clean, and though he was chewed out severely in front of his coworkers, he said he’s still glad he admitted his mistake.

“You’ll face those decisions, and I hope you’ll listen to your little voice,” he said. “Because that little voice is really smart.”

A Northwestern University alum, Bloom has worked with General Atlantic since 1996. He is also the chairman of DonorsChoose.org, a Web site that helps public school teachers find donors to fund small classroom projects.