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2022 Leader Boards: A Look Back

When my first company, Oculus VR, was acquired by Facebook for $2.3 billion, I saw the world of Big Tech close-up … If Facebook and companies like it were hiring all the great engineers, who was building technology for the government? It certainly wasn’t Facebook itself, which does almost no work with the Department of Defense at all. The culture at Facebook was so inimical to the military that an employee once called the police when I parked my Humvee in the Facebook parking lot. We weren’t allowed to use the words “Taiwan” or “Tibet” for fear of angering the Chinese Communist Party and preventing Facebook from spreading into China. There isn’t even a single American flag at the Facebook headquarters.

Anduril founder Palmer Luckey

When the Buffalo Bills signed me as a first-round draft pick (No. 8 overall) out of The Ohio State University, they paid me $28 million. I was 20 years old. My family and friends saw me as a money tree. It was difficult because I grew up in the same house as them and they are my emotional support team.

Donte Whitner, president, OC Chapter, NFL Players Association

OC already has at least 40 AI companies plus another 80 that leverage AI in their operations. Yet Orange County is currently ranked 11th out of 50 U.S. major metros on the Chapman/UC Irvine innovation index … We believe a focus on AI can help us break into the top five.

Stuart McClure and Stephen Ibaraki

The biggest key (to why I invested) was Qualcomm’s management track record. Co-founders Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi had both earned postgraduate degrees in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is a quick way of verifying their expertise—a major university had vetted their scientific skills. The pair had shown their business acumen when their prior company, Linkabit, was successfully sold. By the time we invested in the mid-1980s, Jacobs and Viterbi had proved both their scientific and business skills. They had a record of success.

Tom Coad

My daughter was 6 and my son was only 2. And I wasn’t sure I’d see them grow up. I felt like I had no control over what happened next. Tomorrow was something I was always certain about, but I no longer knew how many tomorrows I might have. I began making a “Just in Case” list so my family would have answers to questions only I knew. I told my husband that he needed to learn how to braid my daughter’s hair because if I died, I didn’t want her going into first grade looking like the girl without a mom.

City of Hope cancer survivor Leslie Bruce Amin

With my last bit of hope, I yelled at the top of my lungs: “Lord. Sister Rose promised me that I would not die without a priest to administer me my last rites.” Low and behold, two members of my platoon saw me and dragged me back a few yards to safety and our medic quickly addressed my needs.

Manny Montanez on how he survived being wounded in Vietnam

I did not always run interference or soothe spirits; after all, I had seen this before in 18 years at Salomon. Trade room battles were just bond-trader DNA for clashing competition, intensity and ego. But sometimes, talks on the couch were in order. One partner observed that Thompson’s office was the busiest psychology studio in Orange County. Standing room only. Pressure, long hours, trade room eruptions, promotion and pay disputes made my office headquarters for talking people off the ledge. I used my grounded optimism to convince many colleagues to ignore the noise and have confidence in themselves.

—Former Pimco CEO Bill Thompson

I joined the Navy where after basically spending five frustrating white-knuckle months training on propeller driven T-28’s; the Admiral cut me from his team too and sent me to Vietnam as captain of a small PT boat transporting Navy SEALs upriver in the Mekong Delta. “Mr. Gross,” he said, “if you think you’re going to be transferred to a cushy desk job, you’ve got another thing coming.” And so, in a few short months I was shipped across the Pacific to an assignment more dangerous than that of a jet jockey spewing Agent Orange over the treetops. My two years nearly matched that of Martin Sheen in “Apocalypse Now,” including the surfing and gunboat episodes, but I escaped ‘Nam safely in 1969.

—Bond King Bill Gross

When I graduated from high school, my biggest dream was to get a job and buy a car. What Porto’s is today, what the team has helped build, I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. We didn’t have a vision; we just had our family work ethic and a desire to carry on our parents’ legacy. We didn’t invent anything. We didn’t do anything especially exceptional except work really hard to please all of our guests to the best of our ability each and every day. We came to this incredible country as immigrants. We found something we loved and did it well.

Porto’s Bakery CEO Raul Porto Jr.

If you don’t understand a crypto-currency’s technology or what it’s trying to solve for, you can absolutely get your face ripped off. I advise people to stay away from small-cap or new crypto projects just because they generally are project “use case” based—think of them as venture investments, high risk … It is extraordinarily easy to start a cryptocurrency if you know some programming language.

Digital Portfolio Advisors CIO Alex Green

In the early ’80s, I rented a tiny one-room office and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t so I volunteered to be an investigator for local newspapers and television stations. In a divorce where the wife accused her husband of having sex with his young stepdaughter, he was convicted. I thought he was guilty but after finding evidence, including that the prosecutor was sleeping with the victim, the case was dismissed. After this case, my office was flooded with requests. After three years, it dawned on me that I should get corporate clients. This was a simple matter of finances: Individuals cannot afford to pay the fees that a huge company can.

—PI Thomas G. Martin

During the 2002 World Cup, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930—a true watershed moment. That year, the tournament had undertones of a battle. Coming off the heels of 9/11, the global atmosphere at the time was intense. When our team plane flew to matches, fighter jets were on our wings, and military personnel encircled our training facilities. When did I realize that the tournament, held in South Korea and Japan, was making waves in the U.S.? Probably when the President called us.

—Toca Football founder Eddie Lewis

Fundamentally, investors are attracted to the disproportionate annualized returns available in sports, with limited relative downside risk. The indexed valuation performance of sports franchises and clubs has far outpaced the S&P 500 over the last decade, and in some leagues, such as the NBA and MLB, has done so dramatically. Rising valuations have shown to be uncorrelated to on-field performance or to the broader market cycles. For a disciplined institutional investor, sports represent a significant uncorrelated diversification opportunity for a portfolio.

Jeff Moorad on owning a sports franchise

“Our economic future will now depend, in large part, on whether the Fed succeeds or fails in its attempt to bring inflation under control while orchestrating a soft landing. The historical record on that doesn’t hold much promise.”

Jim Doti and Fadel Lawandy

We have been one of the fastest-growing homebuilders in the country over the last several years and believe this trend will continue, thanks to our strong capital position and our proven model for expanding our operations. We continue to be as optimistic as ever about the future of our company in particular, and the new home industry as a whole.

Landsea Homes CEO John Ho

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