As the chair of the University of Pennsylvania board of trustees faces accusations of a weak response to antisemitism on the Ivy League campus, insiders say his day job on Wall Street looks poised to become painfully awkward.
Scott Bok – who has fended off calls to resign from UPenn’s board from deep-pocketed donors including Jon Huntsman Jr., Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Ron Lauder – is CEO of Greenhill & Co., a boutique investment bank in New York.
Earlier this year, Greenhill announced it had agreed to be acquired by Japan-based Mizuho Securities in a $550 million deal that’s seeking regulatory approval.
According to public filings, Bok will become chairman of the M&A and restructuring advisory business, which “will sit within Mizuho’s banking division, led by Michal Katz, Head of Banking in the Americas.”
Katz, it happens, is an Israeli-born banker who is outspoken about her Jewish roots. In a 2017 interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Katz drove home how important it is to have Jewish bankers working with Jewish companies.
“Israeli companies still appreciate banks that invest in Israel and are involved in activity in Israel,” she said. “The directors of Israeli companies like working with Israeli bankers, because the cultural connection helps.”
Headlines coming out of UPenn this week include a longtime rabbi at the school lamenting that Jewish students “could not find a safe place on campus” since the Oct. 7 attacks. That’s after Jewish students complained of chants at pro-Palestinian rallies such as “There is only one solution: intifada resolution.”
Meanwhile, Apollo Global Management — whose billionaire CEO Marc Rowan is leading the charge for Bok’s ouster at UPenn and has urged fellow donors to “close their checkbooks” — is an important client of Mizuho, according to a source close to the firm.
Part of Mizuho’s reason for an acquisition is to beef out its ranks so it can do more with the likes of Apollo. Earlier this year, MIzuho hired Jeff Jaenicke, the former global head of fund financing at Credit Suisse, for his relationships at PE giants, the source noted.
“Half of Wall Street has written letters calling for his removal from Penn,” one source said of Bok.
Others claim Bok didn’t necessarily have that impressive of a client roster to begin with.
“Greenhill hasn’t done a notable deal in years,” one source remarked. “They never got the traction that others, like a Moelis & Co. got.”
“No one has ever said I need Scott Bok on the phone,” another source added.
Earlier this month, Steven Solomon, a professor at Berkeley School of Law suggested in a LinkedIn post that because so many “prominent donors are calling for his ouster” Bok is “suffering substantial reputational harm in his ability to do future investment banking resulting in material harm to Greenhill.”
“We have made great progress working closely with the senior team at Mizuho and expect to complete our transaction within weeks,” Bok said in a written statement, declining to comment further.
A Mizuho spokesperson confirmed the deal is moving forward but declined further comment.
Still, the likelihood of Mizuho scrapping the deal entirely — especially based on the material adverse clause — seems unlikely at this point, some legal experts said.
“If I was a buyer I’d be calling Bok up and asking him to change his tune,” Perry Mandarino, Co-Head of Investment Banking at B. Riley Securities said. “But to say this is a material adverse clause… unless all their clients actually fired them, that would be a difficult thing to prove.”