Scenes From Harvard’s Super Rich MBAs

Harvard MBA Michael Hess (center)

Harvard MBA Michael Hess (center)

Michael Hess isn’t an ordinary member of Harvard Business School’s Class of 2013. After all, he’s a legacy graduate of both HBS and Harvard University and the son of John Hess whose net worth is estimated at north of $600 million. His father is chairman and CEO of the Hess Corp. which was founded by Michael’s grandfather, Leon Hess.

Hess also lived the good life at Harvard Business School, spending lavishly to travel to exotic spots around the world and party as if he were an undergraduate while an MBA student.

Indeed, Hess was identified by The New York Times today (Sept. 9) in a follow-up article to its Harvard Business School treatise in Sunday’s Times. That story explored the social class divide at HBS between the very wealthy and the rest of the students.

The newspaper singled out Hess as one of the spoiled rich kids at Harvard and a possible member of Section X, a secret society of HBS students known for their decadent parties and travel.

According to the Times, “In interviews, some students mentioned the Instagram feed of Michael Hess, a member of the class of 2013, who has posted photographs of Mick Jagger close-up in concert, courtside seats at a Knicks game and stops on his trips around the world.”

HBS party-goers under the caption "#nerds by day, #lads by night. Last class and party"

HBS party-goers under the caption “#nerds by day, #lads by night. Last class and party”

Within hours of the article’s publication, the numerous photos in Hess’ Instagram feed–documenting a good deal of excess–went private. Those previously public photos provided an unusual glimpse into what it’s like to attend Harvard Business School when you are filthy rich–photos of trips to hot spots all over the world, photos with beautiful women, and photos of plenty of partying and drinking on yachts, in clubs and bars, and even in a swimming pool for what is called a “customary late night post vodka dip.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being among the wealthiest members of a community. Many people who lack that wealth go to Harvard Business School in the hopes of tapping into the network of power, prestige and money that is part of the Harvard brand. But it’s another thing, say students, to flaunt your family wealth on Instagram or Facebook and use it to isolate you from others. Yet, that’s exactly what a small group of highly privileged students and their minions are apparently doing at Harvard Business School, according to former MBA students who have commented on the Times’ website.

The problem isn’t Harvard’s exclusively. Stanford B-School Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer says he has seen similar behavior at his school and believes it is endemic to most top business schools. “Students from all social backgrounds who gain admission to top schools all have the intellectual horsepower to effectively compete with their classmates in academics,” says Pfeffer in an essay published by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “Not all students have equal ability to compete when it comes to participating in and throwing lavish parties…Business school has become way more about the parties than about the course work, which has left poorer students at a social—and professional—disadvantage.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.