Rajat Gupta was born in December 1948 in Kolkata, 14 months after India became independent of British rule.
His father, a journalist who worked for two newspapers, fought for India’s independence and was jailed several times for his political activism. His mother was a teacher in a Montessori school. The family moved to New Delhi when Gupta was five.
Orphaned at 18 after both his parents died of natural causes, Gupta persuaded an unmarried aunt to live with him and his siblings, according to a 1994 interview he gave to Business Today, an Indian magazine.
He said he was shattered by his father’s death and became very studious, careful never to make a mistake that could cost him his scholarship to the Modern School, one of India’s few English-language, Western-style high schools.
He ranked among the top 20 of hundreds of thousands of Indian youth who took the entrance examination in 1966 for a spot at the elite Indian Institute of Technology, according to an interview he gave to the Economic Times of India when he became head of McKinsey.
Gupta chose the Delhi campus and in 1971 he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. His first job offer came from ITC Ltd, a British-owned company that sold cigarettes and ran hotels. He turned it down when he was admitted to Harvard Business School on scholarship.
Gupta became a Baker Scholar, a distinction earned by the top five per cent of students in his graduating class in 1973.
Hired by McKinsey in New York, he advanced steadily, becoming a partner at the consulting firm in 1980 and moving to Copenhagen the following year. In 1984, Gupta began overseeing all of the firm’s business in Scandinavia. He moved to McKinsey’s Chicago office in 1987 and became its head in 1989.
McKinsey grew rapidly under his leadership beginning in 1994. He won re-election twice, and during his three terms at the helm, the maximum the firm allows, revenue increased to $3.4 billion from $1.2 billion.
The number of partners rose to 891, according to Kennedy Information LLC, a research firm that tracks the consulting industry.
After retiring in 2007, Gupta divided his time between his Connecticut home, a Manhattan apartment and a Florida getaway. He travelled to India to look for investments for New Silk Route Partners, the private equity firm he started with Rajaratnam and others, and paid visits around the world to the public companies and nonprofit boards on which he was a director.
By April 2008, his net worth was $84.1 million, according to his personal banker’s testimony at the trial.
Gupta’s relationship with Rajaratnam put him in the government’s crosshairs.
FBI agents listened in on a July 2008 phone call in which Gupta discussed Goldman Sachs business with Rajaratnam and the two bantered about Gupta’s interest in joining KKR & Co, the buyout firm.
Even after Rajaratnam lost the $10 million Gupta gave him to invest, Gupta continued to leave friendly messages, wishing Rajaratnam a happy New Year in January 2009.
Another McKinsey executive caught on the Rajaratnam wiretaps was Anil Kumar, who co-founded the Indian School of Business with Gupta. Kumar pleaded guilty to leaking tips to Rajaratnam, against whom he testified last year, and on June 5 Kumar took the witness stand against Gupta.