Henry Ford: How to improve your finances with these 5 tips

As Patrick Dwyer best describes Henry Ford, he has been a great inspiration for many entrepreneurs, a visionist who dedicated his life to innovation and resourcefulness. As a little boy he learned how things work, a common story in his childhood, tells that when he was 13 years old, he received a watch as a gift for his birthday and intrigued by how it worked he turned it apart and started learning on how machines were designed.

Image courtesy of thebaronhome.com at Flickr.com

Henry Ford could have followed his father’s steps, however, he wanted to explore his own path. He worked for several big companies, like the Edison Electric Illuminating Company, where he learned a big deal about engineering and electricity. In this article, Patrick Dwyer lists 5 tips Henry Ford would give you about finances if he lived in today’s hectic world. Although a lot has changed, he did build one of the biggest companies that is still a leading company in the automobile sector, and his method can help you improve your business finances.  

Be a continuous learner

Without a doubt Henry Ford was a man who was constantly learning, adding new abilities and updating his knowledge, even before starting with his Ford company, he had to be a pupil in Edison’s company, learning all about electricity, and with time he became chief engineer. When he built his company he started with one model, understanding and venturing with new models, came from his need of constant improvement and it’s with an open mind and will to learn that he could envision his new challenges which led him to success.

Who you surround yourself with matters, choose a great team

When Henry Ford started his third business venture, he knew he needed a great team by his side. He had the ability to identify and persuade young talented men who believed in his new challenge. They helped him make his vision come true. Henry Ford would recommend you, to form a great team to back up your company, helping you succeed with your product or service and increasing your income. Dare to hire the best, they are worth it. Hire people with desire to succeed and who believe in your dream.

Plan your taxes, beforehand

A great advice we are sure Henry Ford would give you is, that when creating a company it’s important to understand how the business world works, and that includes your taxes. Make sure you have that clear, what taxes need to be paid and if there are any deductions you can do, that can help you save money. Specially know when they have to get paid, paying them after can cost a big amount in interests. Month by month organize what taxes need to be paid, include them when you are doing budgets since the money needs to come from somewhere. Always have them as a monthly fee that needs to be paid and if you can pay them beforehand, you might even get a discount. Get your documents in order and for sure you will save money if you do them right. You can ask for an accountant for advice, that will save you a lot of headaches.

Image courtesy of Pictures of Money at Flickr.com

Setting up an accounting system is a must

Henry Ford learned after 2 failed companies that your accounting system is a must. Organizing your income and expenses, knowing how much it costs to make your product or to provide your service and how much you can charge, will help you have your finances in order and understand where your revenue comes from.  Now today there are many ways of setting an accounting system, you could still have the traditional writing system of having it all in an accountant book but there are new systems and Softwares that can help you classify your finances. Ford was a technology supporter and he would recommend you get a system and make sure it has all the data you need, to understand where your revenue comes from and how you can increase it day by day.

Budgeting every dollar you spend on your projects

When starting a company, it’s important to have a financial plan, with long-term and short-term goals. With this in mind, the idea of a good budget and to know if your business is viable, you should spend less than what you earn. Analyze your regular expenses and always leave some extra for irregular ones that come along the way, after a few months of tracking how much you spend to make your company work, you will have a very good idea of how you can lower those expenses. When you make the decision of how much the product you’re selling will cost, you need to include all your expenses, that way you can cover them and even have a revenue. Include regular and irregular monthly obligations, not just how much the raw materials cost, how much time does it take to make one product and there you can calculate, workforce, amenities used, among other things you need to produce it, then add a percentage of revenue. As Ford recommended it’s not the employers who pay the wages, it’s the customer who should. Analyze all these expenses and you shouldn’t be struggling to pay your employees month by month and you will be heading to business success for sure.


8 important tips famous financial titans would give you

If there is something business people and entrepreneurs from today should value from important business men that were part of the development of the United States of America, is their experience and their achievements not only as businessmen but as persons, as individuals. More than all the legacy, transformed into companies, banks, buildings and physical assets, is it actually the knowledge behind all of that what is most valuable. The so-called “financial titans”, responsible for encouraging and making this country stronger and more developed are John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Henry Ford.

Everything they learned from their multiple moments of crisis, obstacles and hard decisions they ever faced is what helped Americans build the country of today. Great industrial developments, huge advances in capitalism and more importantly, unique accomplishments in the economy and the history of a country that became stronger because of the actions of a small group of men, who one by one, never gave up or stopped believing in what they were capable of.

Today, and according to Patrick Dwyer, all the lessons and conclusions these men acquired, are tools that can be applied even to the modern world. Take a look at the 8 most important business and life tips these financial titans would give us today if they were alive.

Click here to read our recent post about “Rockefeller: from America’s most hated to America’s greatest donor”

Money does not guarantee happiness

Even though these men were financially powerful, they had the most developed and growing businesses in that moment, nevertheless, they were never popular for having great, happy families or lives. Money seems to be their greatest achievement but that will not always include living in a happy relationship and growing a loving and caring family.

Constant innovation

Rockefeller became rich and famous because he came up with using a product or fuel that during the refining process was being thrown away. After his innovative idea, this fuel became the number one fuel for the first version of carriages that were not pulled by horses. That is how Rockefeller became rich. He invented a better version of something that had already a good place in the market.

If you are going to risk it, risk it big

Everybody knows the bigger the risk is, the bigger the reward will be. It is actually how many things in the world work. Lower risks will offer more stability but if a big risk succeeds, the joy will not only be bigger, it will bring a much-unexpected sensation of happiness and a certain relief.

Keep your eyes open for opportunity

These titans of American history were absolutely visionary. They would recognize the smell of a good opportunity right away. The important thing here is to keep your eyes open and evaluate all the possible options that could bring many business opportunities, without even thinking about it.

Image courtesy of Cheryl Cheeks at Flickr.com

Choose your partners right

Partnerships can determine the future of any organization. It doesn’t mean you found the perfect match just because you like a person. Partnerships go way beyond empathy and in this case, a good networking is actually of great value. Building the right team will start to show the good effects of it. A good partner or teammate is an additional resource you can rely on when you need it the most.

The biggest rule is there are no rules

Everything is possible and allowed, as long as it will bring profit and benefits. Adaptability has a lot do with the plans these businesses are headed to. Since it was the first time for many things, rules didn’t really matter. Any new idea was welcome and everyone tried being open about the new decisions.

Success and wealth come when your product or service resolves a problem or a need many people have

This tip has a lot to do with being visionary, but also with always paying attention to those things people need or complain about. In the case of the titans, for instance, Henry Ford, provided cars that anyone could purchase, because of the low price, but the good quality at the same time, on the other hand, John D, Rockefeller provided kerosene to those who needed the light. This way each one of them became the author of revolutionary ideas that had the power to change the world forever.

Never underestimate consumers

Consumers have the power to transform the importance of a product or service, once a need is solved. They will be the authors of new trends which is why it is so important to always pay attention, to every single step consumers take and therefore how the market starts changing, responding or adapting to the new needs of those consumers that need it the most.

Jim Simons, For the Love of Knowledge and Life

There are not many men in the business world who hold the characteristics James Simons does. The American mathematician is a successful hedge fund founder and manager, having created Renaissance Technologies, one of the most important hedge fund organizations in the world.

Image courtesy of Graham Leuschke at Flickr.com

With a net worth close to the $14 billion dollars, Jim Simons is known for being skilled in solving codes and a specialist in pattern reading and interpretation. He uses his knowledge in mathematics to analyze alternative investments in his company, providing more precise predictions compared to other commonly used methods. He is one of a kind in the mathematical community because of his achievements in a subject different to mathematics.

In this article, Patrick Dwyer will talk about James Simons’ life and most significant achievements through his career as a mathematician, hedge fund founder, and devoted philanthropist.

Childhood and early life

Born in 1938 as James H. Simons to a Jewish family in the small city of Newton, Massachusetts, Jim grew up in a working-class family who was dedicated to producing shoes.

Since childhood, Simons showed a big interest in studying subjects such as nature and mathematics. Despite his geniality, he was kind of aloof and often forgetful. These characteristics had an impact on one of his vacation jobs when at the age of 14 he started to work in the warehouse of a local store. He was distracted enough to forget where things were in the stockroom. Thanks to this, his supervisor instead of promoting him, asked him to become the store’s floor sweeper. When he explained to his supervisor that he wanted to attend to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he couldn’t help it and laughed at him.

Image courtesy of Chris de Kok at Flickr.com

After applying to MIT, Simons was admitted in 1955 and started studying mathematics. He graduated three years later with a bachelor’s degree. During the time he spent at MIT Simons confirmed that he was on the right path and he was destined to become a mathematician.

After going to MIT; he pursued a Ph.D. also in mathematics, this time at Berkeley. During the time he attended his doctorate, he worked for the American mathematician Bertram Kostant, giving him an innovative and more abstract proof of Berger’s segmentation of the holonomy groups theory. In 1961, being only 23 years old, Simons completed his doctorate.

Career and Achievements

Once Simons received the Ph.D. in mathematics, he decided to embrace the academic career. In 1964 he started working in Princeton and became a staff member of the Communications Research Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), working breaking codes. Simons recalls having extremely loved this post since thinking about algorithms to solve particular types of code problems was natural to him.

While working at IDA, Simons gained the knowledge and skills he needed to use mathematical patterns to understand the financial data that would, later on, help him build his business. Also, during his time at Princeton, Jim also became a mathematics professor at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the year 1968, he became chairman of the math office at Stony Brook University where he met the mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern and worked hand in hand with him to create the “Chern-Simons invariants”.

Being a curious individual, James Simons always felt particularly interested in financial concepts. During the 1970’s he started considering founding his own company in the financial area. In 1978, Simons left the academia and opened his own company dedicated to managing hedge funds, naming it Monemetrics, where he understood that he was able to use mathematical patterns to read financial data. Then, he began hiring the most capable minds he knew from his previous time at the academia. He contacted individuals from his time at Stony Brook and Princeton, such as mathematicians, codebreakers, and scientist, data experts and engineers.

His venture was successful enough to give him improved results every year. In 1982, Simons decided to change the company name from Monemetrics to Renaissance Technologies, which prolifically grew over the years. Renaissance Technologies nowadays is in charge of over $22 billion in assets managed by the three funds it handles and works with singular mathematical patterns based on computer codes to forecast price variations in financial tools and uses financial signal decoding strategies like pattern reading which has given the company a commercial advantage over competitors.

In 2009, Simons retired as the company’s CEO and became a board member. Like other businessmen such as Warren Buffett, Jim Simons decided to dedicate most of his time to philanthropic causes such as the funding of his own foundation (the Simons Foundation, created in 1994) with a $60 million donation to found the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook, and the Math for America organization – a not for profit organization dedicated to enhance mathematics teaching in public schools.

To read more about James Simons’ life, work, and legacy, you can click here.

John D. Rockefeller and the power of oil

When we talk about monopoly or oligopoly of oil we must inevitably refer to the companies drawn of the old Standard Oil, a company created after the American Civil War by John D. Rockefeller I.

Rockefeller, in a very short time, became a tacit monopoly of the US oil industry. He came to concentrate in their hands 95% of the exploration, exploitation, distribution and retailing of gasoline in the US He always thought that the oil business should be integrated vertically, that is, the same firm must control all stages of production. And the key business itself was to have under its orbit the distribution process, so he came to get an agreement with significant discounts with the railroads that controlled JP Morgan, agreed that turned to the ruinous dessert for all competitors, to which one to one was moving market, often by applying compulsive methods. That business actions, devoid of moral precepts, or codes, was common in the dozen entrepreneurs who began to control the US economy after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

The Rockefeller clan rose to become a hub in the economy and politics of the United States. Who in the past century were brilliant winners of money, in the 20th century were characterized as the brightest spenders.

But who was really Rockefeller, what its origin was and how he managed to get his wealth:

John D. Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839 and just missed him three years to reach live a century, he died at 97 years old. This is something that men fail at a rate of one in a million. Being very young, her family moved to the city of Cleveland and the boy reached there as collector potatoes go on vacation, so they paid 4 cents an hour. His mother paid him a dollar to help him raise turkeys and memories of his childhood, when he was already a millionaire, always had a turkey farm on his estate. Then, as a teenager, he was employed on a farm where he was paid 37 cents a day.

Finished their basic studies, John D. would have none of University. He joined a good business school and after a few months of study, their teachers said it was able to be used. They helped him enter as a subordinate employee in a broker firm, where he soon prospered, he became cashier and later in counter. At that time and for the rest of his life, John D. was always interested in the affairs of the Church, so that Sundays were spent teaching doctrine in the Church of the town.

In 1859, when he was 20, he formed a brokerage firm with his friend Maurice B. Clark, but the money he earned not invested in loans, which was a very slow way to make money. John D. had a nose for fast business and decided to get into the oil business. The year was 1862 and there was room for everyone.

In 1866, the company was expanded. Later the younger brother, William Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews joined, and the firm was called William Rockefeller and Company. In 1870, the company became a corporation under the name of Standard Oil Company of Ohio, which joined other partners who contributed $ 1 million.

In early 1872, Rockefeller helped create the South Improvement Company, a partnership that included the major oil refiners Cleveland, reaching agreements with railway undertakings to obtain large discounts for members of the association. This agreement was annulled legal way three months later, over the protests of the people, but by then almost all competitors Rockefeller had been forced to sell or to associate with him. In 1878 Rockefeller controlled 90% of the oil refineries in the US and soon after had a monopoly of distribution channels.

Massachusetts Tercentenary Celebration_John D. Rockefeller_american financial titan_patrick dwyer merrill lynch
Image courtesy of Boston Public Library at Flickr.com

In just over 10 years, the young John D. had become a businessman and drove millions. A truly meteoric career that could only happen in those times. By 1873, almost all oil companies that refine it had joined Standard Oil, whose capital had increased to 3 and a half million dollars. The new company had to appoint trustworthy people who will take care of handling properties that could not be incorporated into the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, but in 1882, all of these properties were combined into a giant Standard Oil Trust, which was dissolved ten years later to form the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, which also had to leaving office in 1911 because the Antitrust Commission of the United States considered monopolistic. At that time, it was estimated that the Standard Oil Company owned three quarters of the oil states. For many people it had become the symbol of the concentration of US commercial power.

To read more about John D. Rockefeller, visit my post: Rockefeller: from America’s most hated to America’s greatest donor.

Abigail Johnson, everything you need to know about this brilliant businesswoman

Abigail Johnson, or Abby as her friends call her, is an American businesswoman and president of Fidelity’s Employer Services Company, considered the largest mutual fund company in the U.S. She has an estimated net worth of $17.58 billion, being the sixth wealthiest woman in America. Regardless of being the daughter of Edward C. Johnson III, the owner and the man who runs Fidelity Investments and Fidelity International, just like Jamie Dimon, Abigail started working for the company from the bottom, answering phone calls at the company’s customer-service department.

american businesswoman_Abigail Johnson_patrick dwyer merrill lynch
Image courtesy of Jim Sher at Flickr.com

She is known for being a fund observer and a hard worker who has led the company to be the industry powerhouse holding $1.4 trillion of the mutual fund business. Despite the fact that Abigail is one of the wealthiest people in America, she lives a simple life, spending eleven hours at the office every day and eluding publicity and occasionally giving interviews.

In this article, Patrick Dwyer will talk about the most significant achievements of Abigail Johnson as an executive of Fidelity.

Born to be part of the game

Abigail was born on December 19, 1961, in Boston as Abigail Pierrepont Johnson. She comes from an old Boston family with Brahmin roots, whose history in commerce in New England dates back to 1800s. When she was born, the mutual-fund firm Fidelity Management and Research (FMR) was already the family business, founded by her grandfather back in 1946. While she was a teenager, FMR emerged as one of the leading companies in the finance sector, as a mutual fund dedicated to pool and manage investors’ money with the help of a professional portfolio manager, or team of managers.

In 1977, her father, Edward C. Johnson III, took over the company and gave Abigail her first job at the company right after she finished high school in 1980. She was in charge of answering phones in its customer-service department. But she didn’t stay in the company for too long. She enrolled at Hobart and William Smith College and majored in art history. Later, she would attend Harvard Business School, from which she earned an M.B.A. in 1988. After obtaining her M.B.A., Abigail joined Fidelity Investments and started working full-time as a modest stock analyst, just as her father once was. Johnson became a portfolio manager and proved that she was a fund overseer who achieved solid, though not extravagant, results for Fidelity’s clients.

Financial District, Boston, Massachusetts_Abigail Johnson_patrick dwyer merrill lynch_american businesswoman
Image courtesy of Ken Lund at Flickr.com

Climbing to the top

Johnson was made an associate director of the company in 1994. A year later her father divested himself of a significant portion of shares, giving them to FMR, the original company. This move allowed Abigail to become the largest shareholder and probably the next person in the family to someday run the company. Later on, in 1998 Johnson was promoted to senior vice president.

In May of 2001, Fidelity made a big announcement: Johnson would succeed Robert C. Pozen as president of Fidelity’s mutual fund division. Even though the news was a bit shocking for Wall Street, Abigail’s new position made her number three at the company, after her father and Robert L. Reynolds, the chief operating officer. She was now in charge of an important area: investment operations.

The 280 mutual funds run by Fidelity at the beginning of the 21st century were in trouble. Still, Abigail’s company remained an industry powerhouse, holding more than $900 billion of the American mutual-fund business.

Abigail’s perspective on the company’s growth

Abigail’s father approach to business was based on the old Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, which states that small steps should be taken in order to change the circumstances and growth come slowly with those tiny steps. With a more Americanized point of view, Johnson’s approach was rather fearless and aggressive. She believed that growth should not come slowly, stating that “Sometimes you can gradually improve things, but sometimes, they don’t work, and you’ve just got to just say: Let’s grind this baby to a halt.”

Thanks to this perspective, Johnson encouraged her portfolio managers to be more aggressive when it came to buying and sell stocks, rather than just follow the stock market indices like must mutual funds do. Thanks to this risky strategy Fidelity expanded and was involved in real estate, temporary employment, venture capital, and even a motor coach business. In 2005, Johnson was named president of Fidelity’s Employer Services Company, which provides retirement, benefit, and human resources services to companies. Other family members started running the other division of the company at the same time she took the President positions for the Employer Services.

Awards and honors

Abigail Johnson serves as a member of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation. Also, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) and she is the first and only woman to serve on the board of the Financial Services Forum.

She has been recently ranked by Forbes as the 16th most powerful woman in the world.

Paul Allen, an entrepreneur from the tech world

Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft, the hugely successful software company, along with Bill Gates. Today he is a successful businessman with shares in large Internet and entertainment companies that he controls from his firm, Vulcan Northwest Inc.

Allen was born on January 21, 1953 in Seattle, the son of a teacher and a librarian. He completed his high school studies at Lakeside, a school that was precisely one of the first ones to have access to a computer, and there he met Bill Gates, a boy two years younger than him. In 1969, Allen, Gates and two other students founded a company in which they, for an entire year, they committed to testing computer equipment from the Computer Center Corporation. They did it without pay, just to have access to the computers.

Microsoft begins

Later, Gates entered Harvard, while Allen started his college studies at the Washington State University. However, both dropped out of school, and in 1975 they founded Microsoft (originally spelled MicroSoft), with the development of an operating system for the Altair 8800 PC. The company then began its career by selling a BASIC language interpreter.

Allen was instrumental in buying the QDOS operating system, which cost $50,000, and was the basis for the future Windows operating system. Microsoft got a contract that made them responsible for the development of the OS of IBM’s revolutionary PCs. This was without a doubt the impetus they needed.

However, by 1982, Paul Allen, at age 29, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, which forced him to distance himself from Microsoft to undergo a serious treatment. In 1983 he had to leave the company. Nevertheless, he remains a partner of the software giant with a major stake.

A successful businessman

In 1986 Allen founded the firm Vulcan Northwest Inc. in Washington, which helps fund projects and companies. Allen has earned the fame, through his firm, of being one of the most successful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. He holds stakes in more than 50 companies in sectors such as technology and entertainment. Entertainment Properties Inc, Experience Music Project, First & Goal Inc., Vulcan Ventures Inc, and Clear Blue Sky Productions are just some of them.

He is also the owner of the NFL Football team Seattle Seahawks. Some time ago, Allen sold several of Microsoft’s shares for about $8 billion. Part of such a fortune was used to invest in young and promising companies in the Internet sector such as Click2learn, Priceline, Net Perceptions and many others.

He was one of the first to bet on AOL when no one knew it and AOL boss Steve Case was desperate not to end up working as a sweeper in the old streets of the Bronx. Other famous companies that benefitted from Allen’s magnanimous monetary contributions in Silicon Valley included Metricom and Dreamworks.

One of the few mistakes that Paul Allen admits to is not investing timely in eBay.com, one of the most successful, thriving and profitable companies in the Internet sector. Vulcan Ventures, Allen’s firm, is always keeping a close eye -and wallet- on where the best opportunities are. Not only does it fund new and promising startups, but it also buys shares in companies that are already listed on the US stock market. The experience and success of Allen in recent years is quite an eyeopener for more than one investor in the United States.

Scene from Paul Allen Interview at CHM
Image courtesy of Don DeBold at Flickr.com

When Wall Street gets the news that Allen plans to invest in a particular company, private investors, who are not at all slow, try to get in the business because they trust blindly in the entrepreneurial instinct of Bill Gates’ former business partner. Depositors in the US and in other parts of the world know that Allen, Gates, and Co. are true machines when it comes to doing business and making money. Every time that any of these characters makes a move, Wall Street’s speculative machinery is set in motion and it is not uncommon to see prices skyrocket and go through the roof. Experts and analysts call this the “Paul Allen factor.”

Allen’s investment strategy focuses on companies with future technology. Allen is convinced that the next boom will take place in the interactive sector. And this will happen as soon as the digital infrastructure based on glass fiber, with optical transmission opportunities, is completed and readily available. Already in 1990, long before Wall Street analysts discovered the growth potential of firms working in the field of digital communication, Paul Allen held shares in them. And as long as the Internet revolution and technological advancements in the field of communications are going strong, the greater will be the value of his investments.

About his fortune

In the early 2000s, before the beginning of the fall in stock markets, Bill Gates’s fortune amounted to about $85 billion. At that time, Paul Allen had about $40 billion in his bank accounts.

Related content

Read Patrick Dwyer‘s “The Most Aggressive Corporate Raider in Finance”

One Of The Best Examples Of A Modern Financial Titan

Who is Leon Black?

Leon David Black is the man behind Apollo Global Management. A figure that has left many scratching their heads after he continues to make headlines for investing in assets that seem downtrodden to most, yet he hasn’t disappointed with his results. Back in February, the company saw its lowest numbers in the last three years, yet they began purchasing back their shares with a robust plan in place of repurchasing more than $250 million back eventually. Black’s bold has definitely paid off since shares have gone up consistently and considerably in the third quarter of the year. He strongly believes that the current prices of shares are not indicative of the true strength of the company’s business model and the growth opportunities the firm offers in the long term. This sheer tenacity and confidence is enough to gain the admiration of many and the trust of their shareholders.

Leon D. Black_american financial titan_businessman_patrick dwyer merrill lynch
Image courtesy of Dow Jones Events at Flickr.com

What about Apollo?

Apollo Global Management, LLC is an American private equity firm, co-founded in 1990 by Leon Black along with John Hannan, Craig Cogut, Arthur Bilger, Antony Ressler, Marc Rowan, Josh Harris and Michael Gross. The majority of them, worked together with Black in Drexel Burnham Lambert, the investment back. Apollo focuses in leveraged buyout transactions and buying distressed securities that involve corporate rearrangement, unusual situations, and industry partnerships. The firm is based out of in New York City, but it has offices in, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, London, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Singapore, Hong Kong and Mumbai.

The fact that Apollo managed more than US$186.3 billion throughout its credit funds, real estate, private equity has made it one of the largest alternative investment management firms in the world as of August of 2016.

Novitex Enterprise Solutions, Norwegian Cruise Line, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Claire’s, and CORE Media Group are some of the most popular companies currently owned by Apollo.

The company’s bold moves and excellent investments have not ceased to amaze.

Personal Life.

Leon Black is the son of Eli M. Black, a respected Polish-born American businessman who controlled the United Brands Company. His mother was Shirley Lubell, an accomplished artist from whom he inherited his appreciation and love for collecting impressive pieces of art.

Black graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in History and Philosophy in 1973 and with a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard University in 1975, the same year his father committed suicide.

For thirteen years starting in 1977, Black worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert as managing director, lead of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group, and co-lead of the Corporate Finance Department. It was in 1990 when he finally left and along with some of his co-workers from Drexel, co-founded Apollo.

Leon Black is currently married to Debra Ressler who is the sister of Anthony Ressler, one of his co-founders at Apollo. She is a Broadway producer and together they have four children.

GSK Melanoma Blogger Summit_Philanthropy_Leon Black_patrick dwyer merrill lynch
Image courtesy of GSK at Flickr.com


Leon Black’s approach to philanthropy took a dramatic personal shift after his wife became a melanoma survivor. It was reported that he felt that his relationship with charity was a bit disengaged before, but the personal nature of the situation inspired the couple to become very active in their efforts to support the cause of cancer research. When Debra contracted melanoma, they donated $40 million to the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) over a four-year period, and she also became an active member of their board of directors. Stem cell research is another cause supported by Black’s efforts and donations. He is also a member of the board at FasterCures, an organization focused on enhancing the efficiency and speed in which cures are found by funding research, academic efforts and governmental entities dedicated to finding cures. Black also donates to a few Jewish organizations and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation that promoted interfaith dialogue.    


One of the most fascinating aspects of Leon Black’s personality is his love for art. His mother who was an artist and his aunt who was a gallery owner probably had a lot to do with his respect and high regard for the arts. In 2012, Black was revealed to be the anonymous bidder who paid $120 million for one of the four copies of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. This was the highest price ever paid for a work of art at an auction.

In 2013, Black also bought Head of a Young Apostle, the work of Raphael for £29 million and it 2015 made headlines again for purchasing at auction a complete set of the Daniel Bomberg Babylonian Talmud for $9.3 million. This was another record-breaking purchase as it was the highest amount ever paid for any piece of Jewish ceremonial art.

For more information and articles about the legacy left behind by the men who built America, check out our entries at Patrick Dwyer Blog.