Interview with Michael Hoffman, MOLA Chair

MOLA team

Michael Hoffman, MOLA Chair, discusses good business in the not-for-profit world and what’s in store for MOLA…

What drew you to become Chair of MOLA?

MH: I’ve always had a layman’s interest in archaeology. I got involved with MOLA when the Museum of London spun it out – I had been involved in setting up a lot of new companies in my career so this was a natural area where I could be helpful.

Tell us a bit about the MOLA Board

MH: As a new independent charitable company MOLA needed expertise in a variety of functions, both to consolidate and to strengthen the new organisation. We began with good academic skills and financial skills and then added property sector experience – really important because it’s MOLA’s main client base.

So what role does business play in the not-for-profit world?

MH: That’s actually a really interesting thing. It always strikes me that while cultural and other not-for profit organisations [NFPs] have great knowledge in their subject, they are wise to use expertise in business and practical matters that aren’t their core activity. Basically NFPs need to make money and they shouldn’t shy away from that: if they don’t make money they have nothing to reinvest. And business people are usually pretty well geared up to streamlining things and finding ways of becoming more efficient. These things apply just as much to the NFP world – they might not have shareholders or pay dividends, but they do have to operate profitably if they are going to build and develop and meet their purpose.

And what draw is there for corporates to get involved with NFPs?

MH: There are many good businesses out there, led by individuals who believe in playing their part, being good citizens and so forth. We shouldn’t forget that there are important benefits for the businesses too. Corporates getting involved with NFPs usually find it a rewarding experience – sometimes for the individuals involved and sometimes the company and employees, and sometimes both. Increasingly, institutions recognise that they need to improve their reputation and profiles within the communities within which they operate. It’s not for free, and it’s often not purely pro bono – it’s a two-way street and actually that’s what gets both sides properly engaged.

It’s three years now since MOLA launched independently so what’s next for MOLA?

MH: Phase one was getting established as its own organisation, phase two was consolidating and re-setting. MOLA has direct experience of both public and private sector approaches and that’s really helped the team to sharpen up its focus. Now, phase 3 is really about building on our strengths and expanding our footprint – the geographic footprint and the academic and public benefit impact and profile. We have some exciting plans and we’re already on the way with this, with things like the transfer of Northamptonshire Archaeology into MOLA. The team is now focused on building its research and educational side and building even stronger relationships with the clients. After all, it’s the clients who are enabling this research and educational benefit and we want them to get recognised for that.

Michael Hoffman is a well known figure in the European private equity industry having spent the past 28 years, first as a partner with Warburg Pincus, LLC for 12 years and the past 16 years as Co-Founder and Managing Director of Palamon Capital Partners, a London based private equity firm founded in 1998, of which he is currently Chairman. In addition to his investment work, Michael is Chairman of the Philharmonia Orchestra Trust, a Governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Chairman of the Development Board of the Museum of London, Chairman of the Board of Richmond International University, and Chairman of the Board of the City of London Festival. He has also served as a Director of the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company and as a Trustee of the Almeida Theatre.

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