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In a typical week at Harvard College, Michael M. Lynton ’82, who graduated from Harvard Business School in ’87, split his time between discussing classical literature on the steps of Claverly Hall, designing sets for campus productions at the Loeb Theater, and relaxing at the A.D. Club.
The “enormous versatility” that his college friends, many of whom he still keeps in touch with, said they admired has stayed with Lynton in his current position as chief executive officer of the Sony Corporation of America and chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Lynton has maintained not only the relationships he made with individuals at Harvard, but also with the greater University. Currently a candidate for the Harvard Board of Overseers, Lynton said that there came a time when he wanted to give back to the University.
“There’s a point at which you get nostalgic,” Lynton said.
Devoted to both his academics and ever expanding social network, Lynton has drawn upon his internationally minded attitude, charismatic personality, and passion for business to become a leader within the technology and entertainment industries.
THE VERSATILE INTELLECTUAL
At the College, Lynton concentrated in history and literature, exploring his passion for English and American classics.
Carroll R. Bogert ’83 said that Lynton was an anomaly when it came to Harvard houses—each defined by a distinct stereotype in past decades. Lynton, a member of the rugby and ski teams, chose to live in Kirkland House, what was then seen as the “jock house.”
However, Bogert said that Lynton did not let the sports he played define him, as he still was very much an “intellectual.”
After studying at an international school in Holland, where his parents lived after fleeing Nazi Germany, Lynton transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy for his senior year of high school.
It was there that he met Michael D. Guttentag ’82, who said that Lynton’s image as a “learned, wise, scholarly type” was evident even in high school.
David J. Goldhill ’82, one of Lynton’s roommates, remembered when Lynton attended every class he could during the first weeks of the semester.
“He would come back to the room and say, ‘I just listened to the most fascinating lecture.’ I would tell him, ‘You know you’re never going to take those classes.’ And he knew, but he just enjoyed listening to as many intellectuals as he could,” Goldhill said.
THE COLLEGE SOCIALITE
When Lynton arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1978, Christopher M. Kramer ’82, one of Lynton’s freshman year roommates, said that Lynton did not fit the image he had imagined and instead was more of a “New Yorker” at heart.
“When I got the list of who my roommate was, next to Michael Lynton it said ‘The Hague, Holland.’ I was expecting a little Dutch boy. He was far from it,” Kramer said.
During his time at the College, Lynton found a place in a range of social groups across campus—from the “elite euro types” to Kirkland’s “rowdy jocks” to Adams’ “hipsters” to Lowell’s “more straight-ups,” according to Bogert.
John “Janno” N. Lieber ’83-’84 remembered when Lynton helped him find a place to store his dorm furniture for the summer and carry it all across Harvard Square.
“He’s one of those people who was always stepping up to help you,” Lieber said.
But the focus on his friends did not stop Lynton from spending time with his family. Lynton’s younger sister, Carol “Lili” R. Lynton ’83 joined him at Harvard in 1979. Nearly every Sunday, the siblings met to call their parents. They maintained a strong connection to the international community, yet another group that Lynton became a part of.
THE BUSINESS MAN
Soon after graduation, Lynton headed to Wall Street, where he worked as an investment banker.
“That was a riptide that was sucking a lot of people in. It was the easiest thing to do at the time,” Lynton said.
Lynton eventually decided to leave his job and return home to Holland. As he struggled to decide what to do next, Lili suggested that he come back to the United States and enroll at Harvard Business School with her.
Unlike at the College, Lynton’s time at the Business School was not spent pursuing an active social life, but rather engaging with his other passion—business. He and Lili became a two-person study group to get through the rigors of the Business School.
And his drive did not diminish when he entered the corporate world with a MBA in hand.
“Personalities are such an important part of the entertainment business,”said Lisa M. Henson ’82. “He has the ability to move easily among all different kinds of projects.”
Friends said that the dedication and talent that have made Lynton successful were apparent from the time they first met.
“Can you pick out as a kid who you think is going to waltz to the tippy top? Michael was smart, and he has great face. It was clear from the beginning he was on the business track,” Bogert said.
—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at email@example.com.
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