As I’ve said to you often, entrepreneurs are the best business people in this country, and the reason they are is they are the ones that are doing the work. They are engaged. They have their hands all over their businesses. They’ve got good hearts, and they work hard at what they are doing, at whatever age they are.
One of the greatest entrepreneurs and greatest human beings I have ever known is Buddy Koffman from Binghamton, NY. He came into my life when I was 27 years old. I was playing for the New York Giants and had started some businesses in Atlanta. I had a lawyer who worked with me who was a good soul and a bright man, and he was going to run all these businesses for me. He did – but he ran them right into the ground!
I woke up one morning in about 1967, and I had a $250,000 note at Manufacture Hanover in New York City, a big bank there, and I had a $50,000 note at the First National Bank of Atlanta that I couldn’t pay. And these people were coming after me. My salary during that time in football was $50,000 a year, and I had $300,000 in debt. Man, I was under water. That is when I decided to become an entrepreneur! I moved that lawyer aside and I said I’m going to take over.
I got introduced to Buddy Koffman, who did not know me at all. We spent a half a day together and he started out by going to Manny Hanny, the bank in New York, and he co-signed on that note, and saved me from embarrassment and going out of business. At the First National Bank of Atlanta, who was also going after me, he co-signed that note. He stepped to the line both because he believed in me, and he believed that I would make this thing work and make it right by him. He didn’t have to do that. We didn’t sign any papers – he just did it with a handshake. Honorable, honorable man.
To make a long story short, we made those businesses work. We paid back the loans, we were able to build the businesses and get him a nice return on the risk that he took with me, and he is the most important business partner that I have ever had because without him I could not have survived.
Buddy Koffman is 82 years old today. His wife Ruthanne, who I have known for years, is off on her own in the stock brokerage business with Bear Stearns and others, and continues to work in that area and is great in it. They have four kids – Betsy, Jeff, David and Steven – I know them all. I gave Betsy a New York Giants jersey when she was a little girl that I’m sure she still wears proudly today. Buddy and Ruthanne also have eight grandchildren, but he has bought over fifty businesses in his lifetime. He was in on the early development of Las Vegas, the El Conquistador Hotel in San Juan was his, and he was one of the first guys to bring Subaru, the automobile company, to America. He’s been in so many different businesses. He has businesses in Utah, he’s got a big liquor distributorship in South Carolina by the name of Ben Arnold, and he’s building super-fast amusement park rides for Six Flags and other parks. He is so totally engaged, and this morning I was talking to him.
He had been in the office since 7:30 this morning. He’s vibrant and enthusiastic talking about all these different businesses. I just ask him what was going on, and he said I’ve got this going on, I’ve got that going on, and he started describing all the businesses and how he is engaged. And it is a testimony to BEING engaged.
Here is this great man who has got this great background, who has made a lot a lot of money. He doesn’t have to go into the office at 7:30 in the morning, but he doesn’t want to go down to The Villages in Orlando and play croquet for the rest of his life. I really believe that Buddy Koffman’s engagement in all of his businesses, his work ethic, his passion for his businesses, his passion for the people he is working with, his passion for bringing value to his customers and his partners, keeps him alive. His passion keeps him vibrant.
What a great time we live in. You know, 20 years ago nobody was doing business when they were in their 80s. We’ve got football coaches today – Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden – who are in their 80s that are coaching major college football. We’ve got people that are running major corporations that are in their 80s, and doing it well. We’ve got a guy running for President of the United States who is 71, and some people say he is too old. Don’t tell John McCain he’s too old! Don’t tell Buddy Koffman he’s too old because Buddy Koffman, arguably today at 82, is better than he was at 52 and 42 and 32…..because he has been engaged.
You ought to hear him talk. He sounds like a 20 year old! Passionate. Engaged. Bringing value. Building. He’s so excited about what he is doing in San Juan – he told me he is building a complex called The Trio. He described how big it was, how it’s going, and how it’s doing. He went through six different projects in about two minutes with me that he is working on. You don’t think that keeps his spirit alive? Keeps his soul going? Keeps his mind sharp? Yes, it does. Because you and I know other people who sit in front of the television all day long, who are complaining and griping about growing old, and they are not happy people. They are not happy with their lifestyle. Not because they don’t have the money, but they don’t have the energy or the spirit to be able to keep them vibrant.
What a great testimony. Buddy Koffman – it is a name for you to remember because all that is good in life is embodied in Buddy Koffman. All that is good in business is embodied in Buddy Koffman. He is and always will be the greatest partner I have ever had, because without him, I would not have survived.
Thank you, Buddy!