Entrepreneur & Philanthropist Frank Morsani
It's the 1940s in Oklahoma. With his dad away for months on a welding job, 14 year old Frank Morsani is running a full bailing crew on his family's 400 acre farm. With no plumbing, electricity or even a tractor, the eldest son simply did what it took to get the job done. Though such a scene is unlikely in this century, it catalyzed a work ethic for the ages. In this episode we linger in the first half of Frank's life to better understand the experiences that built the man that has given so much to our community.
Joining me on SPX today is the venerable Frank Morsani. Welcome, sir.
Thank you. pleasure being here.
So I think by most measures, you’ve had a pretty decent life.
Oh, the world’s been good. Yes sir, yes sir.
So I’d like to go back and see if we can’t trace your journey a little bit, maybe extract a little insight and wisdom from your experiences that we can all enjoy. So way back when, you were out in the mid Midwest is where you were born and grew up. And your father, he was a pretty skilled guy?
Yes. Well, Dad was one of the best skilled laborers there ever was. That’s correct.
And tell me a little bit about, I know that made a big impact on you his level of skill. And interestingly, in there, he made a little transition to management, which he didn’t enjoy, and then went back to playing in where he was really home?
That’s right. Well, my dad, as I said, he was finest man I’ve ever been privileged to know. The most successful, there never was financial success. He never got out of the sixth grade. But he was a very hard worker. And I think that’s what he taught me, work hard. And that’s all I’ve ever done is work hard. I’m the work was always been my vocation and avocation. I love to work when it was when I was manual labor, or when I got into management over the years, building companies, but people say what hobbies you had, I’ve never had a hobby, except work.
And when you think about that sort of core tenant in your life, what drives it? Is it duty? Is it the pleasure of work? Is the accomplishment? How do you unpack that?
Well, kinda all three of those you’ve said I suppose. Accomplishment. And, you know, people like in business I’ve owned an awful lot of companies. I mean, a lot of companies, almost 50 companies over time, all kinds of different kinds of companies primarily as you know, I was an automobile dealer. That was the basis for me doing other things. But that was always a reason why there were opportunities, you’re willling take a risk. So you move from living on a farm where I did where, you know, I grew up in an era, we didn’t have any indoor plumbing or electricity or anything like that. And we worked horses, we didn’t we didn’t get a tractor until quite late. First of all, it teaches you to innovate, you’ve got to do everything, you got to fix things, you got to make it happen. And all that translates into whatever I’ve done later on as far as the word success, meaning, just working as been my, as I said, My avocation and vocation,
And with that upbringing, having, you know, whatever it takes to get it done, it’s essentially entrepreneurship, right? You have to be flexible, and you have to be responsible for pretty much everything.
Absolutely. And I go back to the risk. Not everyone wants to do what I did, I understand that. It’s not a track that you would want to get an MBA someplace that wouldn’t be on their tracks. That would be foreign, and pardon the pun, but that would be foreign to an MBA.
And when you talk about risk, though, in that sense, you know, you had to sort of I just have to get done very kind of a pragmatism. And so what other people saw as risk, does that not really impact you as really being risks as part of the task?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s like in the military, the Navy, I volunteered, it asked for volunteers, I’d volunteer. Now I didn’t get all the things I volunteered for, which is probably good. And being a 19 year old kid, they wanted underwater demolition men. So I volunteered. They didn’t take me, and it’s probably the best thing that happened to me. Underwater demolitions. Today, it’s called the Seals, but at that time, it was called underwater demolition,
Well there’s always still time.
You know, I don’t think so.
No need to scratch that itch. Yeah. Well, you were over in Korea about four years working on an aircraft carrier. How did that impact you? Was that transformative?
Oh, yes, the military. I always look at anything, here’s an opportunity. So how do you exploit, in the right sense that word an exploitation? exploit these opportunities? How do you learn from that? So I was on an aircraft carrier for almost two years, and the rest of the time I was on station in Moffett Feild. California. But I learned a lot. I learned all about management. And then I was often said that my management skills throughout my job career has been based on what I learned in management in the military. Passing things to lowest common denominator. That’s what the military does. If you’re an infantry man, and your captain gets killed, you take over for him, you, and so on and so forth. So I always looked at that as opportunities. And as an example, when I was in Moffett Field, California, I was working on airplanes. So I was on the aircraft carrier, repairing aircraft. So I said, Well, I’m not staying in the military, I’m going to get out when my four years are up. So I’m working on airplanes. So I found out that San Jose State had a aviation program, you could go there. So I did. I went there at night. And I got my license to commercial license where they call A and E license, airframe and engine license to work on all types of commercial aircraft. So when I got out, I would have a job, I could go to some airline and say, I’ve got my A and E license. And that is, not everybody gets that. So I prepared myself all the time for things like that
Interesting. And sort of, you know, eventually, you have such a unique management style, and you were beloved by the people in your company. And, you know, try and look back, as you know, you had mentioned that your, your dad didn’t like management, right? So a lot of times that’s impactful. But then you had this experience in the military. So, you know, do you remember what your sort of relationship was with being in charge of people and motivating people before the military kind of coming out of your upbringing, and then how that was impacted by the military?
Well, when I was 14 years old, my dad he was gone eight months of the year, he was a welder on pipelines. And we lived in the country we had 400 acres of land that he had purchased. So we lived on that and I was the oldest at home. So why we grew oats and wheat and so on, so forth, and few cows and things. In the summertime, I ran a baling crew, my mother and I went bought a hay baler. So I was running crews about 10 or 12 men when I was 14,15 years old. It seemed like it was normal, it wasn’t a stretch of what I could do.
And what that age difference, obviously, you know, you control the purse strings. To some extent.
But you also were a lot younger than the people you’re working with. And therefore, learning how to lead in a way that, you know, in that unique situation of having people potentially significantly older and you listen to you, that’s a unique skill to develop?
Well, I guess it was, but there was a period of time and, you know, early 40s, mid 40s, I was accepted. I think most everyone worked for me, except some high school boys, were all older men. But there was never a discussion. No one thought about re about leadership, the job was to get done. So everybody did it. And everybody had their function and they just functioned.
So with that, you know, as you build your companies, you maintain a relatively flat management structure. And you had folks, you know, that they may be washing cars, but they’re also in charge of ordering their own supplies and things of that nature. So was that just sort of a byproduct of your formative experience? Or was that intentional? And how did that evolve as you got bigger companies?
Well, I guess most things in life are evolutionary.. You can’t get a target date, generally. But again, that goes back to the military, as well as my upbringing. And passing going back to my other cliche about passing to the lowest common denominator. Everyone wants to excel. Everyone in every job wants to excel. So how do you let people excel? And so I found early on, because in the Navy, let people excel. And that’s what I’ve always done. And forgive me, you know, we never operate with cross words, or I hate to use this chewing somebody out, that never was my style of management. We have a problem I sit down, discuss the problem as grown ups.
That makes sense. And that’s interesting, because when you really mean maybe flowery language, but you honor the person in the role, right, and realize that they’re human with aspirations, and they’re not just their role, and you want to give them a chance to be the I guess we’ll throw in the army phrase, be all they can be in that role as you exist, especially when you know, you’re it was a little bit smaller. Were you really digging in with each individual? Or were you setting the system up in infrastructure that just said, I let you be autonomous and you go?
Well, I set up a system. As an example, in every business, there’s just as I hate to use the word discipline, but I always taught my managers, okay, so somebody doesn’t function the way you want to, and you need to figure out how to be critical. That is the old sandwich method, you just tell them the good things, you tell them the bad news to tell them the good. But the thing ‘ve always done. I was saying if you are across a table from me, I’d sit in another chair, as you’re sitting there, we’re going to talk about the person in this chair over here. This person here is a great person. They’re doing a good job. They’re working on this first note, here’s got some, you got some hair on em? Let’s talk about that. So I’ve taught my managers to operate in that environment. Because, again, go back to what I said, everyone wants to excel. Give him a chance to excel. Yeah, yeah, you pat him on the back a little bit. But then you say no, wait a minute, this guy over here. He’s got some edges on, we got to work out. And people respond to that, by the way.
Yes, they did. So then after the military, you have this skill set, you’re, you know, air mechanic? When did cars come into the picture?
Well, when I went to school I went to school at Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma State University had at that time, are very, very few universities in the country that coordinated industrial education with bachelor’s degrees. But Oklahoma State did that. So I got basically three degrees two associate degrees one in automotive technology and service management and one in Diesel Technology and stationary engines. And then I got a bachelor’s degree at the same time and trade industrial education, which is really management. So by working on cars all the time and setting, I got through I got through college, 160 some odd hours. And I did that in three years. Because I was you know, I was getting older. And I was 25 years old. It’s time to learn things. So I wrote everyone that had anything that rolls I really wanted to go to work for International Harvester or caterpillar. But I wrote them and I wrote Ford and General Motors and Chrysler, and those were the only automobile manufacturers at that time. And that’s how I got in the car business. I had two interviews in Detroit. And then I’m going to work for Ford Motor Company, which was a great decision on my part.
So first choice plane, second choice, larger mechanical tractors and whatnot. And then you got that point, do you think I am stuck with third choice having to work on these lovely little cars?
But wasn’t quite like that. Yeah. This is where the opportunities were.
What was the initial role at Ford, and then out of that progress?
My initial role I got hired as a management trainee. And they sent me to part of their operation in Detroit on Telegraph road. As a tech writer, I was a pretty good writer, still, I write pretty good letters and so forth. And so I wrote well, in fact, my teacher in high school wanted me to go to journalism school. So I was a tech writer, and we wrote the service manuals, we wrote the owner’s manuals, and things like that. I think the tech writing today for automobile businesses is the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s personal. By the way, I written the manufacturers and told them how poor their tech writing is, because nobody can read the book and know what they read.
Then from writing the manual. You want to actually show folks how to use the stuff in the manual?
Correct. I taught mechanics throughout Florida and Georgia. Yes, sir.
And so with that, that gave me the opportunity to really bring some people who didn’t normally have access to some of this training. You had some say and getting a diverse group of folks into the program.
Oh, that’s correct. I encouraged dealers to hire trainees and bring them on, is what I’ve always done in my own later on my companies that had a lot of trainees especially well in every kind of position. So
At what point then did the idea of actually operating in a dealership Come on into radar?
Well, doing this training program who I was training mechanics, and I got to know the dealers and what we call service representatives, you’d go into a dealership and help them with their technical problems. So I was going all around Florida, and Georgia, South Eastern Georgia, and would assist the dealers with complaints with their cars a customer’s transmission when working and so I did that kind of thing. So I got to know a lot all. I was working for Lincoln, Mercury and knew all the Lincoln mercury leaders in this region of the country and I called on all the Ford dealers. So the dealers kept after me to go and work for them and leave Ford. I love Ford Motor Company, a great experience. And I had no intention of leaving.. backup a minute and tell you what happened. When I went to work for Ford. I wanted to go into international department. When I was in Korea or in Japan was off and on for almost two years. I fell in love with Asia. And I fell in love with World travel as a matter of fact, because a Navy. So I, they had some openings in international. So I applied and make a long story short, I was accepted and so on, but back then who you work for in most major companies, they control your destiny. So I went to Detroit, I was interviewed my wife and I. Ford Motor Company had a language school in New Jersey. And so we were enrolled in language school – Spanish. And they said they wanted to go to Caracas, Venezuela. So we were excited about that. But the man I worked for, said, No, you can’t I have too much I want you to do here in Florida. I’m not gonna let you go. I said, Well, sir, I really wanted to go. And Mr. Bob Lilley, at that time was the vice president of International Affairs. I said, that’s where I want to do. And he said well I’m not going to let you. So I said, Well, Mr. Mantenet, then I resign from the company, because I had a lot of dealers who want me to go to work for them. So that’s how I got in the retail business.
So not going to Venezuela got you in to the car business. Twist of fate
It was probably the best way thing to happen to me.
So not being able to do things has been good to you. not doing underwater bomb diffusion, welding or whatever, and not going to Venezuela.
So what did you love about Asia? What did you love about international travel? in general? What do you love?
Well, the different cultures, of course, what I learned in Japan, the hardest working people I ever saw in my life at that time. And I could tell you stories that we don’t need to go into the stories, what I’ve observed with the Japanese, and as they worked around the shipyards, and that’s where I really was exposed to the working people was around the shipyards being aboard ship. And then when I went back to college, I told you about my mechanical thing. I also minored in Far Eastern history, because it was a great eye opener to see that culture and to start studying what had gone on in Asia, you know, hundreds of years before then forward to where we were at that time in 1950. That’s what really tweaked my interest.
And so when you left because of, you know, being not allowed to take that role, how did you choose your next role?
Unknown Speaker 17:32
Well, this theater in Fort Lauderdale who owned dealerships in Florida in New Jersey, he’d been wanting me to come to work for him. And so I called him and said, I’m available and I went to work for him. But if he’s a great man to work for Joel Holman, and I work for a man who is a great mentor in the carbon is named Frank Hardy, in Fort Lauderdale. And then they transfer me to a store in New Jersey, we built that one up – a Ford store and then they transfer me to a store that was having issues. I basically was a builder at that time of groups of primarily the parts and service organizations. In Fort Lauderdale Lincoln Mercury became the top parts and service operation in the United States. And then in three years when I went up to New Jersey and to Rice and Holman Ford, which had been in business since 1922. And we made that the top Ford parts and service dealership in United States. At that time, we were writing all of our repair orders by hand. I was there for 18 months before they promoted me to another job. But we wrote 400 repair orders a day. I open it up we started at seven o’clock in the morning and at 130 in the morning and had a good run. Yes. But I love the work.
Yeah, I can tell and even loving it. You mentioned the culture of Japan you love because they love to work. So work is good. When you originally interacted with the dealerships, it was as a mechanic. So at some point in there, you made the transition into management was that a pretty natural transition?
Where after I left for that’s when I got into management I knew I was service manager at Fort Lauderdale Lincoln Mercury. I worked my way through college is a mechanic independent repair shop in Stillwater.
So with all this experience, what would you say now separates a good dealership from a not so good dealership?
Well, it’s always one word people. People make a difference and you give them the opportunity. I had wonderful employees. And I’m proud of the success that I’ve helped them. I think I lead them well. And most of my companies over time I sold to the General Manager they would come in, we buy the dealership they come in 10% I would finance by taking it out of profits and then later on over the years, we would sell the dealership to them and things like that and and it deals with all kinds The people that worked in the dealerships kept following me to the dealership.
And Is that how you got your first ownership through a similar type of situation?
Right here, Mr. Homer Herndon owned a Mercedes Benz, Toyota dealership here. And he was very ill and he’d been an old friend of mine. People don’t realize it. We had English Ford, Ford Motor, GM and Lincoln mercury division, distributed English Fords, we actually sold more English Fords, and they sold Volkswagens at that time. And we had distributors around and he was a distributor in this area of the state for everything on the west coast of Florida. And I’ve gotten to know him because we again, helping him with what was going on when I worked for Ford. Now I’d gone and I was in California running again, I totally ran worked for this gentleman and transferred from New Jersey, from Florida, New Jersey to California. And this gentleman called me and he said, I’m very ill man and his wife called me we’ve been good friends. And so I came here, and he died 11 months later, then I bought out his widow in November 1971. That was the start.
So you had a pretty linear growth pattern one, two, and three dealerships? Do you remember a time when you really felt like you were comfortable, you know, all business owners know a cashflow stress is, right. And that stress can come at any point in your professional career. But the first time you get over the hump where you say, we have a good solid business here. And we’re comfortable. It’s usually a big deal.
I don’t know that ever had that epiphany.
Still stressed. Really, when the stress went down, I was stressed when I was buying the companies and suddenly, because I had $15,000 that I had saved and I borrowed $10,000 from one of my employees and $5,000 from my brother. That’s comes to $30,000 right? And borrowed from First Florida banks at that time. $250,000. Now that was stressful. I broke out in hives. I was a sick puppy. I was scared to death. I was really frightened. I never had heard $250,000
Those were just the numbers. So you just have to get used to it.
Unknown Speaker 22:20
Yeah, as you get used to it. And then later on is my CFO we kick around so many numbers. We had so many companies and everything. You know, we’ve talked about a million dollars here and a million dollars here pretty soon we’re talking about real money. We didn’t even realize
It snuck up on you. So what was then sort of the next step coming out of car dealerships? You’re doing this well, it’s rolling, you started branching into some other things.
Most things where you got involved in were extensions of the carpet. Like we created a leasing company. We had 35,000 cars on lease. That was just an extension. It was cars we had a daily rental company. And then we a created a not a property and casualty company a credit life and accident sales company. And then an advertising agency and the advertising agency they ended up that we now use paper billboards. Now they’re all electronic, but paper billboards. Well, the man that owned a billboard company in Tampa said yeah, I’d like to sell you my billboard company. So we ended up owning all the billboard companies in the state of Florida. We had offices in Pensacola, Miami, Jacksonville and here and we provided all the billboard paper. Then we got into the perfume business. How do you get into perfume business?
Well, how do you get in the perfume business?
That could be the name of the perfume.
Actually what we did was, well, I had a fellow from France, who had been president of Peugeot motors, and he was a Frenchman and had been very successful around the world and running Peugeot. so he came to me so I would like to get in business with you. And I said, What are we gonna do? So he said let me go and look about what’s the opportunity, okay do that he did that came back. He said, You know, I found out that we can get our inventory for nothing, because for the basis for perfume is the extraction from cognac. And they’re looking for people to get rid of all of their extraction and it will give you the product and that’s where perfume is made of. Well, we can’t get into your perfume business who’s going to buy perfume? Well, we don’t know whether he or I are collected we say we know we’re going to do we’re going to make perfume for the local beauty shops where they call it like Publix has their own brand.
Yeah, so we did that. And so we sold our perfume to all the beauty shops in this region. In fact, we ended up selling perfume to Macy was amazing thing. But a woman would go into a beauty shop and the beauty operator would have her own product. It is Molly’s perfume. And so we created all of that. And that company lasted for about 25 years.
That’s amazing. And I’m assuming they had different fragrances right. So they weren’t the same?
I don’t know,
You don’t know. So it was just Molly’s was the same as Macy’s.
Maybe they were the same.
All right. It’s just the packaging the matters.
We hade beautiful packaging.
Luckily you had an advertising agency, right?
Yeah, we had all that.
So with all these businesses coming and going, obviously now and then as well, startups come along, and they say, hey, invest in us, and then they go off and do their thing. Sounds like a lot of these businesses at this point, you’re pretty involved in. And you kind of know what’s going on on a day to day basis. Is that fair?
That’s correct. I never had any partners. We never borrowed – we borrowed money from the banks. But we never had any – all these spacs that are going around. Now. I think it’s a dangerous stuff. But that’s another a subject, then I would sell out the company, we build them up and sell it, they have to man or woman that brought it to me.
So when you say you didn’t have partners, you had people who had stakes in the company, but you didn’t just start a 5050 company?
No no – for a lot of reasons, a lot were tax reasons. Because when you have a conglomerate, which we had, you can pass profits and losses to consolidate across your tax return. And back then you had to have 80%, single ownership to do that. So there was a lot of incentives for me to keep my umbrella so I would have the control needed.
Was there a point where there was just too much did you start to consolidate it all? Did you start to get tired of any specific businesses? What you know, what was sort of, you know, as you moved on, and had your success,
I set up as an example, we had dealerships in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Nevada, right. And I was getting older. But I ever did stop doing things. In fact I sold my last operating company in December of last year. I never got tired of it. But then is be honest with you, the prices got so high. I said, I think I should take some chips off the table. And that’s what prompted or the the managers that I had, say, Boss, I own 20% the company now I’d like to buy you out. Okay. So we made a deal. Most of them were five and 10 year deals, they bought out of the profits, and then they owned the company. And so throughout this country already, as those four states, specifically, those men and women all own their own companies, well, most of them already sold, their companies already retired – I’m the only one that is still not retired.
So you know, just more for fun than anything, any of them that you got into that they were a big mistake me. You made the perfume company work. But are there any sort of just how did I get here companies?
Well the only one that got me in trouble was baseball, that’s another subject.
And obviously, coming out the other side of that you have a different sentiment about the sport than you did going in. But can you look back at what drew you to wanting to have -Why was that important for you to bring to the area – a team?
Well, I had no interest in baseball at that time. But there was so much controversy going back and forth. They couldn’t seem to get any group that they wanted. And so I said to the people came to me and said, Would you head and effort for major league baseball in Tampa? Sure. I said, golly, I don’t know that I want to do that. But make it long story short, you know, the story, I ended up doing it. And I tried very hard to make it all work. And then that’s just a story that is out there. I’ve always acknowledged that it created great strife for me and my wife. But we got over that.
That’s interesting. So in the beginning, the group came to you literally as a problem solver, because they just knew that you were the person who could solve the problem.
Well, maybe that was or I don’t know.
But it was a business it was it was really just a business decision. So without going into much into the specifics of what happened, you know, you wrote about it in your book. So a little bit of what’s out there. But basically, he had purchased 42%, I believe in the Minnesota team of 46% or something like that. And we’re about to grab the majority share with the strategy of bringing it down here. The Major League Baseball pushback against that in sort of as a peace offering for kind of, we’ll call it bullying, whatever. They said, Hey, we’ll give you an expansion team. And then they ended up reneging on that promise and giving the team to what was it Denver in Florida at the time, I believe.
And you’d put a lot of effort into that emotional efforts and financial efforts and you went in you had some litigation with them, and that sorted itself out and everybody seemed to come out the other end of that satisfied, but the whole process had a big toll on you emotionally. So how is that wound healing? How do you put that into context?
You have to put it behind you, as my dear wife would say, you know, one thing, right? You get, I told her whenever this was, you know, collapsing around us. Well, we got to get up every day and shave and know that you didn’t do any. You’ve never hurt any man, you’ve never done anything except the right things. That’s just the way I felt. But it was a very emotional time, I couldn’t read a sports page for two years of any kind of sports. It took a long time to get over it. I never have been to a baseball game since and I will not go to a baseball game. And my view the it’s internally corrupt that time, and I, too, I’ve ignored it.
Unknown Speaker 30:41
So, you know, the general feeling was that historically, I mean, obviously, you knew that we’re always the potential for people to play angles, or whatever in business. But up to that point, you’d had a pretty pure business existence without any real major betrayals or dishonesty, and here, all of a sudden, you get just hit with a pretty big one. And that was sort of like, innocence lost in a weird kind of way, for lack of a better way to say it. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s unfortunate.
But that’s history. We survived and came out the other end quite well.
Yeah. Okay. Yeah, no, this is audio, but there’s a good smile on your face right now. So you did all right. And ultimately, you know, you have to believe that, even though it wasn’t your group that brought the team here, you cleared a lot of the jungle to get the path.
Because it was, you know, going back to early on your question is, people came to me, but it was time for this community to get baseball. We’ve been here for, what, 1910 or 1920 years, but they we’d been having winter leagues and things like that. So it was time this community had baseball. And I felt strongly about that. So
That kind of brings me to my next topic of the community. And it feels like with this, you’re saying, that for a proper community, this is a puzzle piece that’s missing from that puzzle. And to some extent, that seems like a philosophy that you have with your philanthropy as well, you say, you know, there’s a public university here, very important to healthy cty, it’s missing this piece of the puzzle. But we’ll put that piece in Is that how you view community?
Yes that is how I view community? Yes, I mean, I guess we’re all fortunate to live in this wonderful community. And as a community, I mean, the Bay Area, I mean, all these counties in it, that we’re all part of, we’re all a part of the fiber of this community.
And as you’ve been able to give the gifts that you have, and have sort of the, you know, your name on some things, and you know, your success has been known through, because it deserves to be known, I guess, for lack of a better way to say it is how has that changed, how you’ve had to exist coming from, you know, working as hard as you have had, and having to be about the job, to a lot of people wanting things from you. And to a lot of people, you know, there’s a lot of worthy causes out there. And there’s only so many Morsanis to go around. Right. So, you know, how have you walked that line with your pragmatism and humbleness?
Well, thank you. It’s been difficult. It is difficult, sometimes on a daily basis. But we had to figure out to prioritize where we were, what we were going to do. And obviously, we’ve selected those things. They’re out there in the public eye, but we never did it for any grandiose ideas or anything, we never asked for our name on a building. That was never a quid pro quo, If we gave you 1 million or 10 million or 30 million. There was never ever a quid pro quo, I don’t operate with that, Needless to say, we’re proud. But no toe in the sand. Here, we’re pleased about that. But it’s not why we do things.
And what’s that you say? You know, you’ve made your list. I’d love to hear a little bit about your philosophy behind your list. And then sort of following up on that the things that don’t make the list, how did you learn to say no?
Well saying no, it’s been a hard part. Because you’re saying no, a lot of times to your friends. We think the arts, when you go back and look at history, and again, my wife loves art, all kinds of art when we’re not just talking about performing arts or visual arts, arts, ties, people together forever. You can look at Italy and look at the DaVinci you can look at the Netherlands, art, ties all of us together in some way. So we decided that the arts are very, very important to culture of a community. And I think right here in St. Petersburg with what’s going on and the art museums that have been created and so on. So were those and those are those are really special in the performing arts are so important. And aren’t they important where we get the arts. People don’t understand about the arts community. You take the performing arts, what all trades are involved in the performing arts. It’s like we’re sitting here talking over microphones. All that is part of the performing arts. It’s part of learn how to use the microphone, technicians to set things up. everything to do with the buildings, there’s so many areas of arts and so not only are you teaching vocational education, so to speak, you’re also making the culture that people want. And arts draws people together, of all kinds of arts.
And it’s interesting when you look at the cycle of wealth in a community, the government cycles, some of that around in that bringing gives us our roads and our parks. But it seems like even though most people would agree that, to your point, the value in jobs and tourism and quality of life is right there and totally infused in the arts that seems to be left to the private sector to cycle around and support.
Yeah, I don’t think our legislators as a body ever understood that though. They haven’t supported the arts, in my view at all to the level that they should they haven’t and this is just Frank Morsani, I think it’s a shame that they don’t think that art is important.
And so knowing that, how have you been tempted to exist in the political realm? I mean, heck, you owned every billboard in Florida, you could have pretty much got anybody elected that you wanted to?
I’ve kind of stayed low key on the political things. Occasionally, I get involved, but not much. Politically, I’m probably a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. I think you can marry that. I think what’s going on today? That’s another subject. That’s not happening, unfortunately. But that’s my opinion.
And do you have any theories on to why we’re more divisive now than we have been previously?
There’s no question about it. A lot of people have been left behind. And they’ve been left behind. As an example here in our great state of Florida. We love Florida. But you realize in this state, there was no vocational education of any kind or 1968. The school I went to had been in business since 1890. And others are like that. But a lot of states realize that, but we have just become very divisive, and not recognizing how important it is. I think it’s the time we’re living in. Maybe it was the ‘me generation’, so to speak, whatever that generation is. So the people that have been, I say, left behind, they’ve been left behind because they were neglected by our leaders and my view of certain states.
I want to talk a few minutes about long marriages. Because you’ve had a long marriage.
How many years? 7070 years?
Yeah. What’s your secret?
Well, we all joke about stuff about a big thing is talk to each other, and discuss issues and we love to travel, we were privileged to travel to over 120 countries and, and we develop friends and some of those countries and I have business in China as an example of owning a business in China, in Hangzhou in 1986. I got wiped out financially, they’re in 1989 with a Tienemen square. But we love history. We were I don’t know when we be either when I’ve ever read a novel. Because history is better than any novel you can pick up. So we’re talking to each other. We’re good friends. Yeah, doesn’t mean we all agree. men and women are different and they’re not always going to agree on stuff. So I wouldn’t, you know, no Pollyanna. But listening, we have two ears, and one mouth, but we don’t use our two ears very well.
That’s great. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I want to finish up by talking about legacy. You know, obviously, the stuff on paper is going to be the gifts that you’ve given. You know, as a business guy, I think your business success is a fantastic legacy. You know, I think your continuous good relationships you’ve had with your employees is an amazing legacy. But I’d love to hear from you all the general, all the sort of easy checkbox, things that make the legacy – what matters to you most about your legacy?
Well, people, the people that I help in business are the people that work for me that we have a great relationship with whether mechanics for the wash boys and the general managers. That relationship is always been a very positive relationship. It’s about people. That’s what builds companies and especially you spoke earlier about entrepreneurs. People got to think about their people first, and then work out and their people. My wife jokes, you don’t have any people anymore. But the people that you come in contact with and be able to forget about someone’s position in life, or as a position whether their job might be with a politician or whether it’s a mayor or whether it’s a man owns a big company, man or woman, pardon me. It’s people. That’s what I think. I’ve been proud of it. I think my legacy with my people is what I’m the proudest thing. Personally,
Frank Morsani, thanks for joining us on SPX.