The Boy Wonder: Tom Gores
Here’s a must read on how Tom Gores of Platinum Equity started with next to nothing and became one of today’s best examples of a self-made tycoon.
Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:
Dropping in on Platinum Equity is an adventure in cognitive dissonance. It’s a tad odd in such an opulent setting to hear Tom Gores, founder and chief executive of the buyout firm, talk about getting his hands dirty running a garbage truck maker, a troubled real estate business or a distressed auto parts distributor.
It’s a long way from working in his father’s grocery stores in Flint, Mich. His family emigrated from Israel. Tom, the fifth of sixth children, hustled his way through Michigan State working as a janitor and telemarketer. After a short stint at Continental Telephone (where he met his future wife, Holly), Gores helped found a lumber-logistics software firm with his older brother Alec (currently the billionaire head of rival buyout firm the Gores Group LLC). In 1989 Tom and Holly drove to Los Angeles in a used Cadillac to run West Coast operations. Gores lost big at the blackjack tables in Las Vegas. Near the California border he stopped at a casino for one last game–and won $4,500.
Perhaps nothing typified Gores’ moxie better than his furious attempt to grab Pilot Software (now a unit of SAP) from Dun & Bradstreet . Over a frantic weekend in May 1997 Gores scrambled to put a fresh gloss on his threadbare offices as he learned that a group of Pilot executives would fly out from Boston for a meeting that Monday. “We thought, ‘Who the hell are these guys in suits from L.A.?’” recalls Philip Norment, who worked for Pilot at the time and is now a Platinum partner. “We went out to see if these guys were real.”
Gores knew his cramped eight-person Encino, Calif. headquarters wouldn’t cut it; they shared the building with a doctor’s office and a gym. He quickly sublet a corner lair in a sparkling Century City office tower, rented furniture and recruited his wife and other employees’ spouses to mind phones, pour coffee and pad the thin personnel roster. According to company lore, they slapped a freshly made “Platinum Equity” sign on the door just as the d&b group entered the lobby. Gores closed the deal that August.
Tom exemplifies the Tycoon Playbook approach to growth. Read the full article Ready to Play here.