London Business School today named (July 25) current University of Wisconsin School of Business Dean François Ortalo-Magné as its ninth dean, effective August 1, 2017. Ortalo-Magné will succeed Sir Andrew Likierman, who will step down on July 31, 2017, and who has been at the school’s helm since 2008. Likierman will return to his previous role on the school’s faculty.
In making the move across the pond, Ortalo-Magné will take on the leadership of one of the world’s premier business schools. London Business School offers the most highly ranked two-year MBA program outside the U.S. and often is neck-and-neck with rival INSEAD in rankings for having the best non-U.S. MBA experience. For the Wisconsin dean, the new job represents a return to Britain’s capital city. After earning his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Minnesota in 1995, his first job was as a lecturer at the London School of Economics, a job he held for nearly eight years.
“We are thrilled that François will be joining us next year,” says Apurv Bagri, chairman of London Business School’s Governing Body, in a release from the school. “During his time at Wisconsin he has demonstrated an ability to grow and strengthen faculty, raise substantial funds, improve the student experience and enhance the organization’s brand. He is ideally placed to take us forward and build on the great work that Sir Andrew Likierman has achieved. London Business School goes from strength to strength and I’m confident that François will continue to enhance its reputation for academic excellence and the delivery of world-class degree and executive education programs.”
During his five-year term as dean of Wisconsin’s Business School, Ortalo-Magné has positioned his school as one of the more innovative players in business education. A change agent, Ortalo-Magné led an innovative curricular change called KDBIN (pronounced “K-D-BIN”). The clunky acronym stands for knowing, doing, being, inspiring, and networking, and was implemented to create consistency and purpose within the Wisconsin MBA experience.
MASSIVE UNDERGRADUATE GROWTH AT WISCONSIN
Ortalo-Magné was less successful on the rankings front. Wisconsin slumped eight places in Poets&Quants’ composite rankings from 24th in 2011, when he became dean, to 32nd in 2015. In fact, the school has lost ground in four of the five most influential rankings of full-time MBA rankings in U.S. News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Financial Times, and The Economist. Only Forbes has the school in exactly the same place it was when Ortalo-Magné became dean: a rank of 29th in the U.S. The biggest drop occurred on the Businessweek list, where Wisconsin lost a dozen spots since 2011, to 46th from 34th.
Those results must come with some frustration for Ortalo-Magné, given the dean’s public stance on the importance of rankings. “Rankings do matter,” he said in a video interview in 2012. “They present a certain image or perception of our performance. Rankings take a snapshot of our perfromance in a particular point in time. The major measure in those rankings is salary at graduation. We strive to set our students on the path to success beyond the first job.”
Outcomes for Wisconsin’s MBA students, meanwhile, have clearly improved as the U.S. economy has recovered from the Great Recession. Last year, for example, average starting salaries reached $100,653, up from $91,2229 in 2011, while 93% of the graduating class last year had jobs within three months of graduation, up from 91% in 2011.
While the school’s full-time MBA program has remained small — enrolling not much more than 100 in each class — the student population in the school’s undergraduate business program has ballooned. During the past two years, the three-year degree program has surged by a third, to 800 per class from roughly 600. In 2011, the school began a direct-admit program for high school seniors. Traditionally, the school required an application during freshman year. When the program was implemented in 2011, the cap was 20 high school seniors. In 2015, Wisconsin direct-admitted 120. All told, the undergraduate population jumped from around 1,800 in 2012 to 2,500 in 2015.
“We have not lacked any resources,” Ortalo-Magné told Poets&Quants about the growth last year. “We are delighted that we can satisfy more students and satisfy the employers. At the same time I get to grow the faculty.”
STEPPING INTO A LUCRATIVE SITUATION
Since 2010, when Poets&Quants began ranking international MBA programs, London Business School has flip-flopped multiple times with INSEAD for the best program outside of the U.S. Not only will Ortalo-Magné be taking over a much larger MBA population — LBS had more than 400 incoming MBAs for its entering class of 2015 — Likierman will be leaving with the school’s pocketbook in better shape than ever, and with an aggressive expansion plan in place.
In 2013, the school announced a five-year plan to raise £100 million, which at the time was about $160 million. Not much more than a year later, Likierman told Poets&Quants the school had raised about £69 million. And this past month, the school announced it topped out at about £125 million — smashing its goal two years early. No doubt, Ortalo-Magné will be charged with expanding the school’s faculty, something he did at Wisconsin, as LBS completes the Sammy Ofer Centre, costing £40 million of the £125 million the school has raised and expanding teaching space by 70%. A hefty portion of the amount will also be divvied into scholarships to help offset rapidly rising tuition fees, which total £70,800 for this year’s entering class.
REAL ESTATE TO FINANCE
Ortalo-Magné, whose main research focus has been on real estate and housing markets, will have to switch into London’s finance-heavy tradition. Before joining Wisconsin’s faculty in 2011, he was a tenured faculty member in the economics department at the London School of Economics. Prior to that, Ortalo-Magné received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1995 and a master’s in agricultural engineering and management from France’s Ecole Supérieure d’Agriculture de Purpan in 1990.
“I am delighted to be joining London Business School, an institution with an enviable reputation as one of the world’s leading business schools,” Ortalo-Magné said in a prepared statement from London Business School. “It has achieved so much in its short 50-year history and I’m excited by the prospect of leading the school to even greater success as it embarks on its next 50 years.”
Wisconsin will begin a search for his successor this fall, with the goal of appointing a new dean by the time Ortalo-Magné departs for London Business School in July 2017.