After serving in the military in the Pacific during World II and graduating from Syracuse University with a BA in business administration in 1949, Martin J. Whitman worked for several investment firms in New York City and Philadelphia. He began as a security analyst at Shearson Hammill before working for the Rosenwald family of Sears Roebuck fortune, where he was introduced to investment banking.
He ventured out on his own in 1974 and founded M.J. Whitman LLC, a full-service broker-dealer. Ten years later, he participated in a takeover of Equity Strategies, an open-end investment company, and became its CEO and president.
In 1990, Whitman started Third Avenue Value Fund, which, today, manages more than 21 billion USD of assets for private and institutional clients. He has served on numerous corporate boards, including Nabors Industries Limited, the world's largest land drilling oil service company.
In his six-decade career, Whitman has scaled the heights of his profession as a theorist, practitioner, innovator, and maverick. He has refined the principles of classic value investing and is widely regarded as its foremost proponent. He has presided over a diverse, innovative, and highly successful financial services organization that he built from scratch, while pioneering strategies in bankruptcy and other forms of "distress investing."
Whitman has spent hours in classrooms sharing his knowledge and expertise with future business leaders. He has taught as an adjunct professor at the Yale University School of Management and at Syracuse University's School of Management, which proudly bears his name.
In 2003, Whitman and his wife, Lois, made a 23 million USD donation to help fund the creation of a new state-of-the-art home for SU's School of Management. Aside from the naming gift, the Whitmans endowed two scholarship funds to help MBA students who are members of minority groups. Their commitment to making education accessible doesn't end at the Whitman School. In 2008, they founded The Lois and Martin Whitman Scholarship Fund at Tel Aviv University to support the educational needs of Arab-Israeli students.
On philanthropy, Whitman has said, "Giving back is a very satisfying experience. Lois and I are fortunate to be able to support the causes that mean so much to us. But what's exciting is the knowledge that by giving back, you're empowering others, mostly young people. You're leaving an imprint on the future."