Peabody Hutton (MBA ’75/JD ’77) has more than three decades’ worth of expertise in Asian regional cross-border funds, private equity, capital markets and corporate law. The Darden Global Advisory Council member resides in Hong Kong, where he is a partner of and general counsel for Orion Partners Holdings Limited, an alternative Asia-focused investment firm. The quadruple ‘Hoo — who earned his MBA, JD, master of arts and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Virginia — was previously the principal of Hutton & Co., a law firm specializing in advising fund management groups. Prior to that, he was a partner of the international law firm Bryan Cave.
What were your early years like?
I grew up in a foreign-service family, mostly overseas, living two years here and three years there, until returning to boarding school in the U.S. at the age of 14. It all started in Guatemala, which we left for a posting in Istanbul when I was only six weeks old. That was followed by several years in London, a year in sweltering Guayaquil, Ecuador, and then a mid-winter move to Winnipeg, Canada. All of these transitions seemed normal to me at the time and were made easier by my mother’s ingenious way of preserving continuity in our family life regardless of where we lived. We had the same maroon living room curtains in all of our homes — only the hems changed.
How has growing up overseas impacted your worldview?
I’m certain that growing up overseas has led to a lifelong urge to work abroad, first in Germany and Thailand while in the Army, then in Switzerland during two graduate school summers — one as an assistant to Darden professor Bill Rotch at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, and another in the legal department at Nestlé in Vevey — and, finally, when I began practicing law. But coming from a government family with deep ties to the United States Armed Forces, I’ve nonetheless always had a strong American identity. The principal effect of having lived overseas for more than three-quarters of my life is probably that I see America from a more detached perspective. It’s a bit like looking at our planet through a telescope, rather than standing on it and looking at other planets.
What were some early leadership lessons you learned?
My first real leadership experience was as a young second lieutenant in the Army, in charge of six sergeants and a dozen German civilians who supervised stevedore operations in the military port in Bremerhaven, Germany. It was immediately clear to me that I knew nothing whatsoever about running a port and was totally at the mercy of those reporting to me — all individuals from cultural and educational backgrounds worlds apart from mine. Success required earning their respect and trust, which in turn meant treating them with respect and demonstrating loyalty to them, particularly when dealing with my superiors.
When and where do you do your best thinking?
I blow off steam every Saturday afternoon with a one-hour run in one of Hong Kong’s stunning country parks. I find this to be a particularly good time to collect my thoughts and reason my way through thorny problems.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being happily married for almost 47 years and having three grown children, who claim to enjoy my company.
How do you maintain balance?
The greatest influences are a strong family life and a supportive spouse, who is also a lawyer, still works full time and encourages me every evening to tell her about my day. Also, it’s important to put aside at least one day a week as a non-working day, even if that means going on “radio silence,” and to plan something fun for the weekend. Weekends are tremendously restorative. Regular exercise also helps a great deal.
What advice would you give new MBA graduates?
Don’t follow the herd, and certainly don’t just follow the money. Do what really interests you, even if there is less money in it. Life’s too short to spend 12 hours a day or more doing something you don’t really like. Stay focused, and don’t try to do too much at once. Put family commitments ahead of work commitments. At 80, you’ll take more satisfaction from a happy family life than from a stellar career.
What’s next for you?
I don’t exactly know, but I’m certainly up for another adventure.