August 2011: David B. Wyshner '85
David B. Wyshner ’85 is an executive vice president and the chief financial officer of Avis Budget Group, Inc., a publicly traded Fortune 500 company that provides car and truck rental services around the world. Throughout his career, first as an investment banker and then as a corporate executive, Wyshner has focused on applying problem-solving skills to help businesses overcome obstacles, grow profitably, and strengthen their competitive position.
At Hotchkiss, Wyshner had a distinguished academic career and was an active member of The Record staff. He won the First Scholar Prize in his upper mid and senior years, was inducted into the Cum Laude Society, and earned book prizes in chemistry, English, physics, and computer science. At graduation, Wyshner received The Albert William Olsen ’13 Prize and the Bausch & Lomb Science Medal. After Hotchkiss, he went to Yale, where he continued to dabble in journalism as news editor of the Yale Daily News. But economics was his destiny. Wyshner says, “I was fortunate to write my senior paper for, and to be mentored by, David Swensen, the head of Yale’s Investments Office, well before he was widely recognized as an endowment-management guru.” Wyshner was graduated magna cum laude in 1989 with a B.A. in applied mathematics. He received his M.B.A. in 1993 from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he achieved the status of Palmer Scholar.
Wyshner’s career developed quickly. During his eight years in investment banking with Merrill Lynch, he developed a strong reputation for his work on complex and innovative transactions, especially in financing and mergers & acquisitions, and gained the distinction of being promoted to vice president while still in his 20s. Wyshner left Merrill Lynch in 1999 to join long-time client Cendant Corporation (a conglomerate with holdings such as Avis, Budget, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Orbitz, PHH, Ramada, and Super 8), becoming, at age 31, a senior vice president of one of the 150 largest U.S. corporations. At age 33 he was promoted to executive vice president, a role in which he oversaw company-wide financial planning and development. He then was given the added responsibility for acquisition and divestiture activity, including work that eventually made Cendant, in addition to its other businesses, the largest timeshare company in the world. In 2004, Wyshner became the company’s treasurer and chief financial officer of the company’s mortgage-finance subsidiary. As treasurer, he was instrumental in the implementation of the break-up of the company into one privately held and six publicly traded corporations in 2005 and 2006.
In conjunction with the split-up of Cendant, Wyshner became chief financial officer of Avis Budget Group in 2006 at age 39. Avis Budget provides car and truck rental services either directly or through licensees in more than 100 countries around the world and is responsible for three of every ten car rentals at U.S. airports. Wyshner has responsibility for all company financial functions, from investor relations to accounting to mergers & acquisitions, as well as for the company’s information technology activities and shared-services operations. He oversees a team of more than 800 employees. Wyshner played a pivotal role in guiding the company through the 2008-2009 recession when demand for travel services dropped dramatically, two of the company’s principal vehicle suppliers filed for bankruptcy, and the shut-down in the financial markets made it challenging for the company to fund its fleet of roughly 300,000 rental vehicles. More recently, Wyshner was at the center of Avis Budget’s efforts to acquire its long-time European licensee at a cost of more than $1 billion. The acquisition is expected to close in October 2011 and should increase Avis Budget’s annual revenues to roughly $7 billion.
Instrumental in establishing and implementing the company’s strategies, Wyshner comments: “I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with outstanding people and at a senior level, even from a fairly early stage in my career. I really enjoy the challenge of working together as a team to build value in our company and in our brands by considering alternatives rigorously, making decisions smartly and executing strategies tenaciously.” Wyshner has been recognized for his efforts: While chief financial officer of Avis Budget, he was named four times one of the “100 Most Influential People in Finance” by Treasury & Risk magazine, a list that typically also includes the president of the United States and the Federal Reserve chairman.
Along with his wife, Mary Ann, whom he met when both were students at Yale and reporters for the Yale Daily News, Wyshner is a resident of Short Hills, New Jersey. The couple has two children, Andrew (11) and Elizabeth (8). Wyshner spends much of his free time coaching Little League baseball.
Hotchkiss remains important to Wyshner. He and Mary Ann were married in the School’s chapel in 1995, and Wyshner serves as a class agent for the Class of 1985 and as a member of the School’s audit committee. He is grateful to several faculty members who were influential during his years in Lakeville, including Robert Hawkins, Joe Merrill, Larry Becker, Sarah Tames, and George Stone. “All were phenomenal teachers who had different ways of strongly encouraging intellectual rigor and individual responsibility. In my case, they helped me understand that I had both the ability and a responsibility to do more than I previously realized.” Wyshner is also a big believer in the value of dormitory living. “There is nothing like living with fellow teenagers in a dormitory to make you understand the ways in which you’re like other kids, make you appreciate the ways in which you’re different, and make you take responsibility for who you are every day.”