This fall, Darla Moore became one of two women to gain entrance into one of the country’s most exclusive boys’ clubs. The Augusta National Golf Club invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Moore to become its first female members. Being a pioneer is nothing new for Moore. In the 1980s, she became the highest-paid woman in the banking industry and was the first woman to grace the cover of Fortune magazine.
Moore rose through the ranks of Chemical Bank (now JP Morgan Chase) and eventually became managing director. Back then, she was an innovator in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing used in bankruptcy proceedings, which earned her the nickname, the “Queen of DIP.”
These days, Moore focuses primarily on philanthropy. She is the top donor to her alma mater, the University of South Carolina business school. She has given $75 million to the school, which returned the favor by renaming itself after her. In a controversial move last year, Governor Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) replaced Moore on the university’s board of trustees with a campaign contributor. Moore promptly gave the school $5 million to establish the McNair center, an aerospace research center named after Ronald McNair, an astronaut who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.
Moore also serves as president of Rainwater Inc., a private investment firm founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater, the dealmaker credited with bringing Michael Eisner to the Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS). It was Rainwater who introduced Moore to golf. Sadly, he suffers from progressive supranuclear palsy, an incurable and untreatable degenerative brain disease.
Moore holds no punches. In 1996, she “booted T. Boone Pickens as the leader of natural gas and oil producer Mesa Inc., a company Pickens founded but had led into debt. Moore invested $66 million in the company, took control, and made money in the turnaround,” according to Times NewsFeed.
“Augusta National has always captured my imagination, and is one of the most magically beautiful places anywhere in the world, as everyone gets to see during the Masters each April,” Moore says in a statement about the Augusta, Ga. course. “I am fortunate to have many friends who are members at Augusta National, so to be asked to join them as a member represents a very happy and important occasion in my life.”
Former Augusta chairman William “Hootie” Johnson, who 10 years ago said he wouldn’t admit women “at the point of a bayonet,” nominated Moore. Augusta came under fire this year, because the new chief of IBM, a Masters sponsor, is a woman, Virginia Rometty. IBM’s male CEOs have been invited to join the club. Here’s hoping Rometty will become the third female member.