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  Gund Family
  The Gund family has supported entrepreneurship at Kellogg. Clockwise from left: Llura, Zack, Grant and Gordon  Photo © Art Durity

Theory into practice

Gund brothers make Kellogg and entrepreneurship a family affair

By Rebecca Lindell

Friends as well as brothers, Zack '00 and Grant Gund '97 attended high school and college together, and envisioned someday going into business together.

So when Zack was deciding where to earn his MBA, the Kellogg School, from which Grant had graduated just one year earlier, seemed the logical choice.

Not that Zack didn't consider other top-tier schools. But the vibrant Kellogg environment, coupled with Grant's strong endorsement, sealed the deal for the younger brother.

"I really liked the team aspect of learning at Kellogg, and the chance to focus on a variety of opportunities beyond investment banking or consulting," Zack says. "There was an interesting mix of people there from different backgrounds."

Today the Gunds are founders and managing partners of Coppermine Capital, a private equity firm outside Boston. The brothers say their shared Kellogg experience provided a crucial foundation for their success. "There are so many lessons that we apply every day," Grant says.

In fact, it was in Clinical Professor Steven Rogers' entrepreneurship classes that the idea for what would become Coppermine Capital began to take shape. In classes several years apart, the Gunds listened as Rogers and guest speakers described the risks, challenges and rewards of owning a business. Both grew intrigued by the notion of working with entrepreneurs.

After graduation, the two pursued their individual paths for a time. Grant worked at an independent record label and then at a venture capital firm. Zack, meanwhile, worked in business development for a home networking software company.

In early 2001, Zack approached his brother with the concept for the firm.

"We talked about it and realized it was what we both wanted to do," Zack says. "The question was not if but when."

Now the two work together to acquire small- and mid-sized manufacturing and services companies for long-term growth. They say they draw frequently on their lessons from Rogers' Entrepreneurial Finance course. "It was all about taking an existing business and growing it, which is what we're doing every day," Grant says.

The Gunds also tout Clinical Professor John Ward's lessons on family business, which Zack says have been invaluable in guiding the pair past the potential pitfalls of launching a venture with a brother.

"One thing Professor Ward stressed was the importance of communication and being open," Zack says. "It's easy to fall into a routine and not say if something is bothering you. But your success depends as much on your ability to communicate as it does on the financial part of the business."

The Gunds' relationship with Kellogg continues. Zack will return to Evanston in the spring to participate in the school's family business conference. Grant, whose wife, Lara Talbot Gund '97, is also a Kellogg grad, took part in a panel discussion on family business at his 10-year Kellogg reunion in May.

The brothers have even inspired their parents to get involved with the school.  Gordon Gund, founder of Gund Investment Corp. and an owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team, and his wife, Llura, have bolstered the school's entrepreneurship program in numerous ways.

The couple established the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Chair in Entrepreneurship in 2002, which is now held by Rogers. Gordon Gund has also shared his business and life lessons through the school's Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series.

Blind for the last 37 years, Gordon Gund is a co-founder of the Foundation Fighting Blindness and speaks publicly about practicing integrity, overcoming adversity and building trust.

"I like the team approach at Kellogg, and the relationships formed with professors and classmates have been very positive for both Grant and Zack," Gordon Gund says. "Both my sons matured and gained confidence while developing strong business capabilities and excellent relationships. I was very impressed with the experiences they enjoyed, and I wanted to show my appreciation."

Those connections with Kellogg seem likely to endure.

"Kellogg is not just a two-year experience," Zack says. "It's good at fostering that family feeling, especially if you meet with your professors and get to know them and talk to them. You can have an ongoing relationship with the school."

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