Fred Brodsky has always done things a little differently. And he’s proud of it. When he graduated from high school, he didn’t go straight to college. Instead. Brodsky. the son of Russian immigrants who worked as bakers in New Jersey, went to work for his uncle’s import/export company and moved to a small village in France. While his peers back in New Jersey were enrolling in business and marketing courses. Brodsky was making deals with shrewd Frenchmen, who made sure he remembered that he was thousands of miles away from home.
After working in France, he went into the army. Then, at 21. he started college. After college, Brodsky became a marketing consultant for Touche Ross, followed by consecutive stints with International Telephone and Telegraph and Morse/Diesel Construction Co. In 1973, he took a job with Trammell Crow and became manager of finance and administration of Crow’s international operation.
Several years later, Brodsky started his own real estate operation. After three months in business, he had no staff, no business and no track record-but he did have gumption. He decided to change priorities and shoot for small deals. Then, he began to build up a list of clients interested in joint-venture real estate projects. He says that he talked to anyone who would listen.
Now Brodsky’s company’s holdings are worth about $50 million, and he doesn’t have much trouble attracting his investors’ attention. His largest project so far (in terms of asset value) is a 131-acre site at the north entrance of D/FW airport. He’s also working on a project that involves 172 acres on Lake Texoma, where he’ll be building lake-view condominiums.
But Brodsky still likes to be different. Although he received an earful of friendly advice to steer clear of the deal, he recently purchased 275 acres of land in an area of Southwest Dallas called Hickory Hill. He says he realizes that the project is risky (that’s why he purchased the property personally rather than through a joint venture), but he says that the area is a diamond in the rough. He says that because of its “imbalance and dislocation.” the property will be prosperous. It’s located 18 minutes from D/FW airport and 12 minutes from downtown Dallas. He says he’s “cautiously optimistic.”
Brodsky. a 42-year-old bachelor, enjoys his privacy. He’s in the process of building a 60-by-33-foot trimaran sailboat (it’s appropriately called “My Way”), complete with a wine cellar and enough space to comfortably seat 14 for dinner. At the end of the year, he plans to cruise through the Greek Islands and forget business for one month. No telephone. No telex. No business decisions. Just sun and surf and wine.
Debby Hay Werner
Last May, Debby Hay Werner left her position as vice president of public relations and advertising at the Dallas Market Center to start the Hay Agency, a “full-service communications firm” specializing in advertising, public relations, special-events coordination and marketing services. By July, Werner and a small staff had moved into their offices in San Jacinto Tower. Werner is president of the new firm; and she has two vice presidents. Anne Spradley and Lyda Workman, who were both introduced to Werner through the market center.
The agency is starting off on the right foot. Some of its initial clients include The Wynd-ham Hotel Company, which manages the Wyndham at the Dallas Market Center as well as five other hotels; First Southwest Equity Corp.; and Donelson Import/Export Company. The agency has also volunteered to coordinate a statewide fund-raiser for the Mental Health Association.
Werner went to work for the market center in 1975 immediately after graduating from SMU with a journalism degree. She worked there full time until her daughter. Jessica. was born five years ago. Periodically, she worked at home on a free-lance basis until Jessica went to school. Last November. Werner, who has since divorced, traveled to England to find a suitable nanny for her daughter. Now the nanny is at home with Jessica, and Debby Werner is at the office working-a lot.
When the members of the University of Texas class of 1963 got their MBAs, the wonderful world of college recruiting wasn’t so wonderful. Compared to today, it was practically nonexistent. So how did a young, bright, master of business administration tell the financial world he was ready for action?
Ronald G. Steinhart took the direct approach: He purchased a small advertisement in the regional edition of The Wall Street Journal. It read: “Young MBA, University of Texas, looking for challenging opportunity in commercial finance.” Novel idea.
Fewer than five people responded. Two were door-to-door salesmen; one was a man named Elvis Mason who, at the time, was assistant to the president of First Security National Bank in Beaumont. Mason offered the eager graduate a job, but Steinhart turned him down; he had been raised in Beaumont and wanted a shot at a big city. He headed for Dallas.
Steinhart took a job with a commercial finance institution in Dallas. By the time he was 28, he was president and chief executive officer of Dallas Bank and Trust Company (then Industrial Bank and Trust). He moved to the bank because he disliked traveling and he liked “people contact.” He got what he bargained for.
During the next 11 years, Steinhart and a group of investors purchased and started up a number of area banks. Steinhart became president and CEO of each of them. In 1980, he was with Valley View Bank when the group sold it. Before he could catch his breath to start another project, he got a phone call from Elvis Mason. Mason, who had become chairman of the board of First International Bancshares Inc. (now InterFirst Corp.) offered Steinhart a position as executive vice president. Two months later, Steinhart was president of the corporation.
To outsiders, the transition seems quite simple-shifting from president of one bank to president of a bank holding company. But in reality, it was a major career change for Steinhart. At the time, the assets of Valley View totaled more than $65 million and In-terFirst Corp. owned 33 banks with total assests of more than $13 billion.
Steinhart says he was “shocked” when Mason called him because he had never thought of such a career move. Now Steinhart faces another change. This summer, he was chosen to replace W. Tack Thomas as president of InterFirst Bank Dallas, NA-the holding company’s lead bank. He will be the only person in the top five holding companies in the state to fill both positions. InterFirst Corp. now has assets of more than $22 billion and InterFirst Bank Dallas holds about 50 percent of that figure.
Steinhart says that handling his new position will require “discipline and organization,” but he calmly adds that life won’t be that much different. He says that the corporation has slowly been shifting administrative responsibilities of the lead bank to the holding company; the dual role was simply logical.
Since he’s been in Dallas, Steinhart has been involved in numerous civic organizations ranging from TACA to the Dallas Council on World Affairs to the Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts to the Transportation Task Force. He says he’ll continue to be involved in the community, but he also says that he wants to budget plenty of time for his wife, Phyllis, and their three teen-age sons. “They’re at ages where you do want to spend a lot of time together,” he says. “You don’t have a lot of years left when they’re going to have time.”