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  #1  
Old 02-15-2009, 09:43 AM
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This guy gives CEO's something to shoot for

Miami banker gives $60 million of his own to employees

Lots of bosses say they value their employees. Some even mean it.

And then there's Leonard Abess Jr.

After selling a majority stake in Miami-based City National Bancshares last November, all he did was take $60 million of the proceeds -- $60 million out of his own pocket -- and hand it to his tellers, bookkeepers, clerks, everyone on the payroll. All 399 workers on the staff received bonuses, and he even tracked down 72 former employees so they could share in the windfall.

For longtime employees, the bonus -- based on years of service -- amounted to tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases, more than $100,000.

At a time when financial titans are being paraded before Congress to explain how they blew billions on executives' bonuses even as they received a taxpayer bailout, the big-hearted banker's selfless deed stands out.

''I retired seven years ago, and all of a sudden I get this wonderful letter and phone call,'' said Evelyn J. Budde, who spent 43 years at City National Bank of Florida, rising to vice president.

''I was shocked,'' said William Perry. In 43 the years at City National, he climbed from janitor to vice president. Like many longtime City National employees, he forged an unbreakable bond with the bank that continued into retirement. Perry returns regularly for the annual employees' dinner.

Abess didn't publicize what he had done. He didn't even show up at the bank to bask in his employees' gratitude on the day the bonus envelopes were distributed. He was inundated with letters soon afterward.

Asked later what motivated him, Abess said he had long dreamed of a way to reward employees. He had been thinking of creating an employee stock option plan before he decided to sell the bank.

''Those people who joined me and stayed with me at the bank with no promise of equity -- I always thought some day I'm going to surprise them,'' he said. ``I sure as heck don't need [the money].''

SPANISH BUYER

In exchange for an 83 percent stake in the business, the Spanish bank Caja Madrid paid $927 million in November. Abess retained a minority share and is still the board chairman and chief executive officer at City National.

Even before the sale, Abess wasn't hurting for money. He bought his 11.8-acre, $23 million estate in Miami's Cliff Hammocks neighborhood from actor Sylvester Stallone in 1999.

Abess' father, Leonard L. Abess, founded City National in 1946 with Baron de Hirsch Meyer as one of the first postwar commercial banks in the region. Abess Jr. started his career in the bank's print shop, which made forms and documents. Working his way up the ladder gave him an appreciation for the role that employees play in the success of an enterprise.

''I saw that if the president doesn't come to work, it's not a big deal,'' he said. ``But if the tellers don't show up, it's a serious problem.''

Many people presume that Abess inherited the bank from his father, but he didn't.

In fact, in true Miami fashion, the bank has a colorful history. City National was sold in the early 1980s to an investment group that, in turn, resold it to Colombian coffee magnate Alberto Duque.

The dapper and charming Duque was the toast of Miami -- until he was convicted of bilking two dozen Miami banks out of about $108 million in connection with his coffee business.

Duque went to federal prison -- he eventually fled the country from a halfway house -- and City National went on the block in bankruptcy court.

In 1985, the younger Abess bought majority control in the bankruptcy proceedings for $21 million -- all of it borrowed, he says -- and he later acquired the rest from about 200 investors for about $6 million. Under his hand, the bank grew from $400 million in assets and seven offices to $2.75 billion in assets and 18 offices.

Sharing the wealth with staffers came naturally. Abess and his wife, Jayne, have long been big contributors to local organizations, such as the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Mount Sinai Medical Center. In 2006, the Abesses gave $5 million to the University of Miami to promote environmental studies.

But he also wanted to reach out to his staff. ''I wonder if I did enough,'' he recently mused.

''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself,'' said Abess, who was concerned that their 401(k) plans had taken a beating in the downdraft on Wall Street last year.

SPREADING THE WORD

To prepare employees, Abess made an online video just before the merger was completed and explained in it that a windfall was coming soon. He also wanted to make sure that people realized it was a one-time bonus -- and certainly not severance pay or a nudge for them to move on.

Three days later, about 2 p.m. Nov. 7, a Friday, a handful of senior employees fanned out throughout the bank's offices to dole out vouchers that detailed the sums deposited in their payroll accounts. A handful of senior executives got separate payouts.

''We expected a bonus, but the type we received -- our mouths are still open,'' said Carleatha E. Barbary, a 39-year veteran who runs the One Biscayne Tower branch.

Geneva Lawson, a 72-year-old safety-deposit clerk who has spent 51 years with City National, including a stint as Abess' boss in the print shop, plans to buy a new car -- and to save a bit.

Workers were provided with financial counseling and special high-rate certificates of deposit at City National.

''It was like a lottery, only better,'' Virginia C. Dunn, managing senior vice president, said of the gift. ``Because it came from someone's heart.''

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Old 02-15-2009, 12:01 PM
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Too bad he's the exception and not the rule...
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Old 02-15-2009, 12:20 PM
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Hmmm. He should be the Treasury Secretary.
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Old 02-15-2009, 12:31 PM
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Hmmm. He should be the Treasury Secretary.
Are you kidding? The .gov is in the opposite business of taking money away from people.
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Old 02-15-2009, 12:49 PM
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wow the world would be a fine oiled machine with less greed
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Old 02-15-2009, 03:00 PM
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He is an example of an old school CEO, sadly all those guys are retiring. The new generation is all full of morons, and my generation is right behind those guys and even worse.
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Old 02-15-2009, 03:58 PM
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Yes unfortunately they are few and far between.

There was one recently I remember, the owner got about 30 mill (after uncle sams cut) and proceeded to give 20 of it to his employees.



MANY years ago a close friend, after he came out of college went to work for a company. A very family oriented style company.
Well after a few years he was almost running it, the owner pretty much looked over his shoulder but let him have his way.
He is a very dedicated, hard working person.

A few years later the owner came to him and gave him a task, figure out how to GIVE the company to him and the employees. Minimize taxes, and give the owner a reasonable salary for the rest of his life. He was in his 60s at the time.

The owner told my friend he should take 51%, and come up with a fair way to divy the rest to the employees.

This was back in the 80s, the company was worth somewhere in the 50 mill range, it was probably a third of that before he took over. Well my friend went one further, he did take 51 %, voting rights. He actually took about 30 % ownership and gave the 20+% extra he was supposed to take to an employee pension / charity type setup. This was used to help the pensions, employees with special needs and college education for the employee's children.
Oh and if anyone asked he did this to minimize taxes etc, while true it really didn't make a big difference, he did it because he felt since he was actually a shorter term employee it wasn't fair for him to get that much more than the long term employees. Knowing him, in the 10ish years he worked there, he had 20 years worth of hours.

The other 30ish % was split up amongst the employees based on a formula he developed that kept politics and friendship out of it.
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by benzpirate111 View Post
wow the world would be a fine oiled machine with less greed
According to the 10th Rule of Acquisition, Greed is Good. Without greed, how far do we get? Why would anybody work harder and make sacrifices to further themselves?
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Old 02-15-2009, 07:46 PM
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I don't know about all of you but when I see some rich SOB, here is what goes on in my mind. "How the fawk can I upgrade myself so I am like what he is"
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Old 02-15-2009, 10:26 PM
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This just goes to show that there are some decent people left in the world. Things like this used to be much more common. It is too bad that as Hatty said, these guys are all retiring and the next generation of CEO's grew up on Gordon Gekko. I can't wait for the Enron generation to get to the corner office...
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Old 02-15-2009, 10:28 PM
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According to the 10th Rule of Acquisition, Greed is Good. Without greed, how far do we get? Why would anybody work harder and make sacrifices to further themselves?
Are you schooled in the rules of Acquisition?
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Old 02-15-2009, 11:40 PM
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Are you schooled in the rules of Acquisition?
From watching Star Trek you pick up some stuff here and there.

Either way, people do make sacrifices because of greed. I mean, if it wasn't because we wanted more than the bare necessities, why would people work harder, do more research, invent stuff, come up with more efficient ways of doing things, etc, etc?
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Old 02-15-2009, 11:56 PM
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I don't know about all of you but when I see some rich SOB, here is what goes on in my mind. "How the fawk can I upgrade myself so I am like what he is"
Get beyond the point of being hungry and wanting, and then its OK to share, right?
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Old 02-16-2009, 12:01 AM
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Get beyond the point of being hungry and wanting, and then its OK to share, right?
You can share at any point you want. It isn't a crime. If you decide not to, it isn't a crime either. IOW, I don't think you or I or anyone is obligated to share whether you are at the point of being hungry or otherwise. Not sure what your question is.
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Old 02-16-2009, 12:38 AM
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You can share at any point you want. It isn't a crime. If you decide not to, it isn't a crime either. IOW, I don't think you or I or anyone is obligated to share whether you are at the point of being hungry or otherwise. Not sure what your question is.
No. First you take care of your own, then you can share whatever you have extra. Why would you give bread to a bum if your wife hasn't eaten? As far as hoarding all the bread for yourself, what's the sense if your belly is full and more bread is being made?

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