Friday, May 23, 2008

The Cats Meow

Today's NY Sun has a profile of John Catsimatidis, our client for over twenty five years; and Grace Rauh's piece captures what's most compelling about his potential run for the city's top job. As his campaign guru Rob Ryan explains: "Mike Bloomberg is Wall Street and John is Main Street," Mr. Ryan said, repeating a line that could become a refrain in the coming year. "He came up in the streets of this city and he understands, he understands, why the Korean greengrocer is here, why the cab driver from India is here, why the guy from Central America is here or Africa or the Caribbean. He understands them. And their dreams are his dreams because he has lived them."

Which is exactly why, by experience and temperament, Catsimatidis would be a better mayor than Bloomberg-he understands average folks and empathizes with what they're going through; he has none of mayor Mike's arrogance and callous disregard for the "little people." John would never say, as Bloomberg did, that the loss of $250 million from the cash registers of the city's bodegas was, "a minor economic issue."

And yet he understands finance, and can move easily in the highest circles as well; someone who is comfortable in any number of settings, and who has few airs about him: "I can have dinner at the diner in Astoria or I can have dinner at the White House," Mr. Catsimatidis, the chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group, said, sitting to the left of his adviser at a long table at his company's headquarters in Manhattan. "To me, it's irrelative. I'm comfortable in both worlds."

That being said, it is also true that John needs to get up to speed on some of the city's major issues-something that Bloomberg did well and John will also when it's necessary. But being Professor Catsimatidis is not his goal, and having some issue geek as mayor is no substitute for leadership. Leadership is all about temperament and judgment, and Catsimatidis has just that.

He also is someone who understands what it's like make payroll in a neighborhood business; he's not from the rarefied atmosphere of corporate finance that sees people as meaningless numbers (Hedge Fund Doctoroff comes to mind). And he's unlikely to be blase about raising your taxes as Mayor Mike has been; "What I'm going to say to taxpayers is, 'Who do you want watching your money?'" he said. "I can't fix what was done 10 years ago or 20 years ago, but under my watch, I'm going to be watching your money and taxpayers are going to get a good deal."

What's clear here, is that if John Catsimatidis runs for mayor he's going to be a force to reckon with; and given the current field he shouldn't be underestimated.