C. Thomas Ruppert
3001 Red Hill Ave., Ste 2-226
Costa Mesa, CA, 92626
C. Thomas Rupert: Good morning.
Crowd: Good morning.
C. Thomas Rupert: I am the newest member. Swimming around in these waters with all of you has been a lot to learn and I’m trying to keep up and learn. I have my training class on September 21st and I am looking forward to that, to be a better member and learn how to tip properly and hopefully aid all of us in business growth. Thank you Shawn [SP]. I shared with Shawn a little bit about my background.
I am a native Californian, I grew up in Manhattan Beach. I went to Mira Costa High School, I grew up surfing, became an Eagle Scout at 14. Went to Loyola University undergraduate. I grew up in yachting and sailing and somewhere along the way in my early 20s I met a man, while sailboat racing out of Marina del Rey. I met Burche Freidman [SP], and Burche Freidman was massing the land at Melrose and San Vicente to build the Pacific Design Center. Burche said to me to, “I think there is a place for you in our organization. Why don’t you come up and meet my partner?” And I did and the rest is history to my beginning a 25 year career in commercial industrial real estate.
I stayed with the Freidman Organization while we built the PDC. We hired Gruen and Associates, which you all know the architectural firm. The building is blue, the first building it was called Gruen blue because Gruen had built a lot of buildings that were blue. Cesar Pelli gets the credit for being the architect but he really wasn’t, a man named Edgardo Contini was actually the architect and Cesar Pelli was his assistant but Edgardo Contini would die and Cesar Pelli would go on at Gruen and get the credit for it and then design the second and third building, which is now built, which I think the colors are green and yellow. Anyway that building was built to hold the contractor and residential furnishing industry for Southern California, on a wholesale basis and was not open to the public.
And we moved all the furnishings industry people off the streets of Beverly and Robertson into the building. And I traveled all over America at a young age in my early 20s with Burr Freidman and Ron Case [SP] and we’d gather up those people and we’d move new people into properties on the street after we moved them into the building. It was a great opportunity for four years. I went to the D&D building in Chicago, I went to all the furnishings industry in the Carolinas. Anyways it was an amazing education but after four years I left and opened up C. Thomas Ruppert & Associates Commercial and Industrial Real Estate. And I would be on Robertson Boulevard for the next 20 plus years remaining in that community. Somewhere after about 4 or 5 years, so I was 26 then, so in my early 30s our law firm was Pacht, Ross, Warne, Bernhard & Sears in Century City.
One of the senior people in the firm walked out, I was walking down the hall one day and said, “I have a client, his name is Henry Plitt.” And Henry Plitt bought the ABC Theater chain. And the attorney said to me, “We have no acquisition disposition Individual for our real estate assets and we would like you to handle the Southeastern United States.” And so he said, “Would you be willing to do that?” I said, “Yeah.” That sounded exciting. So I traveled every two weeks to every little city in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, the Carolinas, the Virginas and all through the Southeastern United States and everywhere they owned a theater I looked at whether or not it should be sold, because it was becoming obsolete with where the population was growing to or was just started twin theaters. So we would take a 400 seat theater and they reposition the seats and put a divisible wall in the middle and the would “twin” and that was the start of theaters becoming multi-screen. So that was an exciting time in my life and I stayed with that project for about two or two and a half years and it was really interesting.
So anyway I can tell you lots of different projects like that. I had Robert O Anderson who was the chairman of Atlantic Richfield come to me, I attended the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, and met Mr. Anderson he came up to me and said, “I’d like to have a glass of wine with you.” I went down to the Richfield, I actually met him at The Beverley Wilshire Hotel and he said, “I have a project where Jean Firstenburg,” who was the directer of the American Film Institute, wanted to move from the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills to her own campus. And he said, “She has called me to head the capital campaign, I am going to hand her to you to keep me out of the capital campaign but I will make a contribution.” I met Jean Firstenberg, they had occupied the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills which is at the top of Doheny Drive. They had been there for 10 years, paying $1 a year.
They city was raising their rent to $10,000 per month. Immaculate Heart College was being sold at Western and Los Feliz, he said, “Why don’t you try to take her there?” I did. I became the consultant to AFI, I wrote up a proposal, it was a sealed bid to Coldwell Banker. We were one of two bids, we negotiated the successful purchase. She didn’t have the money to buy it, she said, “What are we going to do I don’t have the money to buy it?” I said, “Let’s go see Mr. Anderson.” Sit down and I proposed borrowing from the foundation $1 million for her down payment, interest free for three years so that she would be able to pay it back, hoping the foundation would forgive it, which it did.
So she bought the property with borrowed money from the Atlantic Richfield Foundation. Anyway AFI is there, we hired Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer in New York. I went to New York and hired them because they were the institute’s architect at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. We hired Illig Construction to do $10 million worth of earthquake work. Anyway, they’re there now. So the American Film Institute’s west coast campus is there.
Anyway, let me fast forward to meeting Eric. I moved to Orange County in 1998, arriving here with my twin boys, which were eight years old then. I have identical twin boys, their names are Phillip and Joffery, they are now 26. One went to Chapman and the other went to the Brooks Institute. Both are very successful young men, I couldn’t be more proud of them.
Anyway I met Eric at St. James Episcopal Church right there at the Lido bridge. We would go to church and we’re Acolytes and his kids were growing up and becoming Acolytes. Eric and I got into a discussion about scouting, and of course Eric’s been a devoted adult scout leader. So I mentioned that I was an Eagle Scout and he said his boys were on the track to becoming scouts and we would keep that camaraderie and communication up through the years about scouting. I grew up on a hiking troop, I think you all know he loves to hike. Little comment, Eric is going to have hip replacement surgery this coming Tuesday and will be out of our office for a week. So if you need to have any questions answered you’re going to be speaking to me and I will fast forward even further to tell you a little bit about what I do there real quick.
But anyway we would develop that friendship and keep it up through the years. I appreciate Eric’s influence on my sons’ and my life and I know Eric has appreciated my influence on his sons. I admire him very much, his integrity and what he stand for. Anyway about seven or eight months ago, maybe closer to a year now, I took my son Joffrey to Eric, who is looking for a career. Called Eric, I hadn’t seen him maybe in about a year probably. He left St. James and they transitioned to a new church, we left the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and became an Anglican church, anyway a lot of members went to new congregations and Eric was one of them.
Anyway I said, “My son Joffrey is looking for a career and trying to make some decisions would you give him a moment to give him a little input on the insurance industry?” So we did, we had a great meeting. Joffrey didn’t get on the hook, he didn’t fall in love with the insurance industry, he wants to be in the real estate industry. But a couple of weeks went by, or about a month went by and I picked up the phone and called Eric and said, “You know. I loved the conversation. I was totally impressed, so would you let me come over there and share a little bit about what I like to do? It’s not about money it’s about belonging and it’s about if I thought I could help and you seem to be in a place where maybe you’re staged for growth and you could use somebody to get in the trench with you.” So he said, “Yeah, come on over. And that was in April. So I have a little title, it’s called Director of Internal Operations, I am not a licensed agent in the state of California, yet. I may choose to be but I have had no time to do that. We have a database, a customer service management software platform that needed to be learned and manipulated, cleaned up.
I was explaining to Jean, in there we have about 1,162 active policies with about 540 active customers, so it’s about 2 polices per client. We want more policies per client, a successful agency should have that. We have one customer service individual, Scott’s lovely wife-to-be was with us for a while which we really appreciated, Heather, and we need another one. So that has been my job to organize that and grow that and stage that for additional growth. We want additional agents so we are reaching out to people to bring additional agents under our roof, too. So that’s what we are busy doing.
You know, it’s funny some weeks we go four up and it seems like we stay four up and then we come five back so we have our peak and our valleys and our growing pains. But Eric and I get along great, we communicate well and I am very proud and happy to be there.
A great tip for us is someone, that maybe I can marry with maybe my background in the business world, can really sit down with someone and listen to what their needs are. I just brought the biggest client into the agency, I brought Pacific Stage Utility Company. We just wrote a little over $100,000 annual premium with them, with a single client. We wrote their general liability, we wrote their umbrella. They are the state of California’s largest mobile home utility monitoring company. In other words they take a mobile home park, which could be 400 or 500 units, and then they sub meter all the electricity, gas and water and then they capture all that information and they give it back to the management team that owns the park.
I knew the individual that owned the company and introduced Eric and we brought them aboard. Bruce Cooper that owns Ullman Sails from my background in yachting, I took Eric to Bruce and we sat down in front of Bruce and we brought on Ullman Sails for their general liability and workman’s comp, and those types of policies.
Anyway, I like meeting people, thank you. I like having a chance of knowing what their needs are rather than running across and saying, “Can you, can you, can you?” Because half the time the, “Can you, can you?” Has got more to go with it if you’ll just give us a few extra seconds to digest what your needs are.
I wrote an article for us called “Are you collectible?” It was something I was going to read, I won’t read it but what it’s really about is, as your assets grow, and I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, but as your assets grow you really need to think about transferring the loss that would occur to insurance, is really what it’s all about. It’s protecting your assets, it’s protecting your cash and cash comes to play when you’re underinsured and then someone says, “Well, you’re underinsured but I got a judgement against you so I want you to pay me and use your cash to pay me. Let alone use your real estate assets that have equity in them I need you to sell them because I’m going to lien them and I’m going to collect that.” So think about having enough insurance, it’s the cheapest way to protect yourself.
And that’s it, if you have any questions please come up to me. I have worked in a variety of industries from hazardous material at Baitman Industries, from where I ran the company as an interim CEO to…