Master Entrepreneur Mangurian – A Legacy of Excellence
Stephen Mehallis

Stephen G. Mehallis

The Ohio State University and Fisher are benefiting from the legacy and generosity of multi-faceted business entrepreneur Harry T. Mangurian Jr.

Mangurian, who died in 2008 from acute leukemia, made his mark in the worlds of retail furniture, real estate development, thoroughbred horse racing and professional sports as owner of the Boston Celtics.

His foundation bestowed a $1 million gift to Fisher to establish the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Professorship in Business—a gift that Dean Christine A. Poon says “will ensure Fisher’s continued success in attracting and retaining faculty who are both extraordinary teachers and distinguished researchers and will influence the corporate community by moving theory into practice.” Fisher is considering the gift to either retain a valued faculty member or attract a new academic to the school, and plans to fill the chair in 2013, upon the official establishment of the professorship. The second gift of $1 million to The Ohio State University Medical Center will fund grants to further research efforts in leukemia and dementia.

“Harry was the epitome of an entrepreneur, and had a deep appreciation for higher education—he wanted to see excellence in everything,” recalls Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Chair Stephen G. Mehallis, an Ohio State graduate and chief financial officer for Mangurian’s ventures since 1972.

Mehallis recalls his friend and mentor as someone who thrived on making decisive business decisions and who had an unquenchable thirst for business knowledge. He also was a World War II veteran who donated $1 million to the New York Heroes Fund, laying the groundwork for others in the thoroughbred business to make similar gifts. In 2002, he received the Eclipse Award for Merit—the equivalent of the Oscars in the thoroughbred industry—for his career accomplishments and generosity.

The qualities Mehallis believes Mangurian would have enjoyed seeing in the first Fisher professorship holder would be an individual who embraces an “entrepreneurial versus corporate philosophy.”

Mehallis has seen both cultures up close, working with Mangurian for nearly four decades and, before that, serving large corporate accounts while with a public accounting firm.

Corporate leaders often can’t act swiftly out of a desire to “do things by the book,” says Mehallis. In contrast, if you have a chief executive who’s calling all the shots, “there aren’t committees to worry about; there’s no corporate structure; there’s no corporate politics.”

Mangurian, whose confidants included Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and long-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, had a knack for getting the right people around him and letting them do their jobs. However, he believed the ultimate decision-making authority was his. When his family’s Rochester, New York-based furniture business expanded to Florida, Mangurian relocated there, too, and started a construction company, where he built more than 10,000 condo units and single family homes. He then established a Lear jet charter operation before going into thoroughbred racing.

The speed by which Mangurian made decisions was illustrated in how he first got into the NBA in November 1977. It occurred after a chance meeting with a prospective home buyer to his property in Ft. Lauderdale: John Y. Brown Jr., co-founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain and owner of the Buffalo Braves.

The two men hit it off, and within a few hours, Mangurian decided to take a half stake in the team. Soon after, the owner of the Boston Celtics offered to swap franchises and Mangurian then became sole owner of the Celtics after his business partner entered politics in 1979. A year later, Mangurian helped secure Celtics legends Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, laying the groundwork for the Celtics’ 1981 NBA Championship.

Mehallis says the unexpected circumstances in Mangurian’s life align with Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times’ bestselling book, Outliers. “This could be Harry’s byline,” he says. “There was a relentlessness with respect to getting things done. He never took the easy path—he was so directed and riveted when he made up his mind to do something.”

Those characteristics served Mangurian well, and offer valuable lessons to Fisher and other business school graduates, whom Mehallis periodically speaks with as a visiting lecturer. If his friend was still here, he would tell students to “never stop being inquisitive—never take the casual approach—if something’s worthy of being done, it should be done correctly,” says Mehallis. “He was just somebody who never did anything half-baked. It was always taken to its full completion and let the chips fall where they may.”

“Harry was the epitome of an entrepreneur, and had a deep appreciation for higher education—he wanted to see excellence in everything.”

Stephen G. Mehallis
Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Chair

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