In an industry where many travel extensively, Wayne Harber stood out as a genuine globetrotter. As head of business development outside the United States for alternative asset investment group Hamilton Lane, he covered what to some would be a dauntingly large territory – all of Europe, all of Asia, Australasia and the Middle East. Wayne being Wayne, he managed to keep on top of it.
His mobility really was quite astonishing. Whichever private equity centre you happened to visit, you became accustomed to hearing that rumbling chuckle and receiving a resounding slap on the back: Wayne had already arrived. During his many years on the road, he developed close relationships with industry professionals the world over, and many of them turned into enduring friendships. Those who knew him well remember the big bag full of papers he carried everywhere, his capacity to listen as well as speak and an appetite for knowing people that extended well beyond just the professional.
A Greek-Roman wrestler in his college days, Wayne found professional success as a private equity enthusiast. He took pride in the work he and his colleagues at Hamilton Lane were doing with GPs and LPs around the world, and never tired of spending time with newcomers to the industry and walking them through the mechanics of the asset class.
I first met him in Zurich in 2000 at the first industry conference I ever covered as a reporter. I was fairly clueless at the time, and he was one of the people who helped me understand the business of private equity and everything that goes with it. He enjoyed sharing knowledge and providing insight without seeking publicity in return.
As we at PEI developed our publishing activities in private equity, catching up with Wayne at industry gatherings everywhere became a welcome part of our routine: colleagues in London, Singapore and New York all knew and liked him. And he made a point of responding to questions big and small, wherever he was in the world. A journalist's fact check in London could well elicit a blackberried reply that not only answered the question but also invited a conversation the next day – once Australia had woken.
He was personable and easygoing. I once spotted him in the front row of a big crowd at the cocktail reception of an EVCA event in Vienna, listening distractedly to some luminary's welcoming speech. I went over to say hello, he turned around, arms opened, and what I had intended as a mere handshake somehow ended up as a full-blown bear hug in full view of half of Europe's private equity community. I had met Wayne only a few times by then so it could have been an awkward moment. But he thought nothing of it. We simply untangled and ignored the raised eyebrows on the faces around us.
Two years ago, Wayne and his wife Nancy suffered a devastating blow when Caroline, their nine year-old daughter and only child, died suddenly of an infection. Weeks after her death, Wayne was back on the road. Friends say the travel helped him cope with the loss, but they also acknowledge that he never fully recovered from the tragedy.
On March 16, Wayne died of a heart attack aged 53. Many in private equity will be remembering him with deep affection. A truly global network of friends let alone business associates is part of what he leaves behind.
Hamilton Lane has set up the Wayne Harber Memorial Fund, which will support the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information and to make a donation, please find the fund on the internet.