A few months ago, Ivor Braka called me to ask if he could visit my office. Ivor is the older brother of a high school friend I haven’t seen or heard from for many years. Ivor’s family for many generations had been unusually successful in a variety of businesses. As a result, his family has become among the most prominent in the small, middle class, Jersey Shore, beach town where I grew up. Although I could not recall having spoken to Ivor since 1961, when I graduated from Asbury Park High School, I invited him to lunch.
When Ivor visited, we spoke principally about his family’s business interests. Under his entrepreneurial leadership, the value of his family’s assets had grown materially. The assets for which he is now responsible comprise interests in real estate in New York and other gateway cities around the world; international banking; and, most recently, shipping. I asked him about his staff of advisors and how he achieved the expertise I believed was necessary t o invest in such a diversified group of businesses. “Like you, I invest in people,” he began. “I invest with people in whose skills I am confident and whom I know well. In most cases, we also knew their grandparents well. If I am uncomfortable with a potential partner’s grandparents’ ethics, integrity and character, we don’t invest,” this successful entrepreneur told me.
Ivor’s family is a close knit one. Many of his forebears had been associated with the forebears of the families of his present business partners for more than 500 years!!! This is because around 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Sephardic Jewish ancestors of these individuals were forced to flee their homes in Spain. If they had not left their homeland and had attempted instead to continue to live in Spain without converting to Christianity, they would have been tortured or killed! After leaving Spain, many of this clannish community remained closely associated with each other for the followin g five centuries! While we pride ourselves in knowing manage! ments well, we clearly can’t compare our associations to Ivor’s 500 year relationships. But, we nevertheless do share with him the same ideas about investments in people and “trust.”
“We invest in people, not just buildings”