Ben Wiener ’96

Roads Less Traveled

Fall 2011

Ben Wiener ’96, the founder of Portofino Equity Advisors, has an affinity for the famed Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken,” particularly the line that reads: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”

When Wiener graduated from Columbia Law School, he intended to follow a set path: work for a big law firm before transitioning into business. But Wiener had that poem in mind when he instead began his career with a clerkship for a judge on Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem. 

During his clerkship year, Wiener spent two months conducting comparative research for Israel’s first-ever sexual harassment case, which stood to establish legal precedent on the issue in Israel. In the court’s final opinion, the judge that Wiener worked for established a plaintiff-friendly standard for sexual harassment offenses based on the American standard. “I had an incidental and unlikely bit part in Israel’s movement to cleanse itself of sexual harassment,” recalls Wiener, now a father of seven.

A year after his clerkship ended, Wiener and his family moved back to Jerusalem, and he has since built a career as an “entrepreneurial dealmaker.” In 2006, he founded Portofino Equity Advisors as a sort of “sweat-equity merchant bank,” he explains. “I create business ventures in partnership with other companies and entrepreneurs. I get great satisfaction when I can spot solid economic opportunities and put the pieces together to capitalize on them.” 

Although Wiener ultimately returned to the life plan he initially laid out, his year-long detour still ranks among his most satisfying decisions. “My clerkship in Israel,” he says, “was an inspirational experience.”