About 20 years ago, MIT professor Stuart Madnick sold his interest in a company and found himself with some extra cash. So he did something so completely out of character that he surprised even himself. He bought a 14th-century English castle.
Madnick, who holds four degrees from MIT in electrical engineering and computer science and a fifth MIT degree in management, is a professor of information technology and engineering systems, as well as codirector of the Productivity from Information Technology (PROFIT) program at the Sloan School. He has founded or cofounded five high-tech firms and written more than 250 books, articles, and reports. His research centers on using data strategically–a theme he applies to everything he does, with the exception of buying Langley Castle. “I stopped by to see it, fell in love with it, and just bought it without knowing what I’d do with it,” he says. “Normally I’m a very careful, planned person. A colleague once described me as someone who would wear a belt and suspenders.”
Before long, however, Madnick returned to his usual habits and set out to learn everything he could about the castle. His research revealed that the title of Baron of Langley had been separated from the land 300 years ago when the last baron was beheaded in an unsuccessful rebellion against the government. Madnick was recently able to acquire the title from the British government, becoming the new Baron of Langley.
“Part of my thought was to bring all of the aspects of Langley Castle together, and the barony was an important historical aspect,” he says. “My research is primarily about integrating information. This is kind of an exercise in integrating Langley Castle.”
Madnick’s integrating technologies have been applied in financial services, counterterrorism, transportation, and manufacturing. One application–a global shopper–collects pricing information about any product sold around the world and converts these prices into consistent monetary units so anyone can compare costs. Another assembles a composite picture of an individual’s financial status by gathering data from databases and the Internet. Madnick’s group is studying the legal and organizational aspects of collecting and reusing information. “Organizations can be myopic, looking very narrowly at information,” he says. “A key theme of my work is helping organizations pull it all together. I often say I work in technology, strategy, and policy.”
As for Langley Castle, Madnick and his wife, Yvonne, operate it as an award-winning hotel and restaurant. He has successfully integrated other spheres of his life into the endeavor. Yvonne is involved with redecorating. Of his three adult children–Howard ‘87, Michael, and Lynne–two plus a daughter-in-law have worked there. For guests affiliated with MIT, which Madnick calls his “center of gravity,” Langley Castle offers a special discount.
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