October 18, 2007
New Chairman of the Jewish Federation: I’m ‘gonna make it relevant’
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"In college, he didn't have any money. I was rich. I had a Volkswagen Beetle," said Mike Shaub, Gold's Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity brother. "In college, he borrowed it to go into San Francisco with [his then-girlfriend] Ilene. He couldn't even pay the toll; he had to write a check to cross the Bay Bridge.... Everything he has, he has earned. Nobody gave it to him."
From the shadows of Dorsey High to the flatlands of Beverly Hills, Stanley and Ilene Gold now reside in an 8,200-square-foot colonial brick home that is as tasteful as it is massive, the reward of 40 years of hard work, in particular the past 30 as Roy E. Disney's most trusted adviser.
Gold scheduled an interview for this article at his home on the morning before Yom Kippur, immediately after the rumors that he would chair The Federation were made official. I pulled through the gate and parked behind a pair of Porsches, a Cayman and a Cayenne; 10 more of the German sports cars, from a few 911s to the Über-limited 959, were housed in a backyard garage. When I asked Gold which was his favorite, he pointed to a Porsche poster on the wall: "It's like children, you can't understand until you've had one."
We met inside for the first of two interviews, seated on couches in a study the size of a two-bedroom apartment. A bookcase covering the expanse of a side wall was filled with a fraction of Gold's art collection, but in the middle of it were some of his priceless treasures: a few dozen encased baseballs signed by some of the best who ever played the game.
"To my pal, Stanley -- Babe Ruth."
Another's from Stan Musial: "To Stan the Man, from the other Stan the Man."
Gold wore a checked blue shirt, navy tie and suit sans coat and circular steel-rim glasses. His wavy, black hair was slicked back. He chomped on and twirled an unlit cigar as a spoke, adding meaning to an office throw pillow that quoted Mark Twain: "If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven, then I shall not go."
"I have a deep -- I want to say desire but it's almost an obligation -- to help the Jewish people," Gold said, explaining why he accepted the chairmanship of The Federation. "I find myself having lived an enormously fortunate life, having grown up in this community at a time when Jews were really being accepted into all walks of life. So I got the best out of America."
His tone of gratitude appears genuine. He first assumed his obligation of repayment while a young partner at the entertainment law firm of Gang, Tyre & Brown (now Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown), when founding partner Martin Gang paid an unusual visit to Gold's office.
"How's everything?" Gang asked. "Wife? Kids? You making enough money?"
"Yeah. Sure," Gold responded.
"OK. Good. It's time for you to give back to the community."
Gang set Gold up with leaders at HUC-JIR, and a month later, Gold joined the board of overseers for its L.A. campus. From 1991 to 1996, he served as chairman of the Reform college's national board of governors, and in 2001, Gold gave $500,000 to establish the Martin Gang Scholarship Fund for students at the L.A. campus.
Since that call to service, Gold has joined the board of trustees at USC, where this June he will complete his sixth and final term as chairman; he's also led The Federation's Israel and Overseas Committee and served on the board of the Israel Policy Forum, a counterbalance in ideology, though not influence, to the AIPAC. Add to that the countless speaking engagements for issues affecting one part of the Jewish world or another, such as the address he gave last month at the Beverly Hilton.
"The old adage that to make a small fortune in Israel you need a large one is simply not true anymore," Gold said, speaking alongside the director general of Israel's Finance Ministry to about 100 Southern California businesspeople.
Gold would know. Over the past two decades, he has directed more than $1 billion in Shamrock investments to the Jewish state, and over that time, he's seen an average annual return of 31 percent.
"I came to Israel as a committed Jew," Gold said, "and returned home as a committed capitalist."
Asked years ago how such a champion of capitalism could also be a gospel-sharing socialist, Gold sounded like Ralph Waldo Emerson: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Indeed, having a little mind is not among Gold's shortcomings. After transferring from Berkeley to UCLA to complete his undergraduate degree, Gold attended USC Law School and Cambridge University and then began his career in 1968 at Gang, Tyre. He quickly made partner, and then met Roy Disney, for whom he created Shamrock Holdings, to invest the fortune of Walt's nephew and his family. By the late '70s, Gold was transitioning from entertainment lawyer to boardroom dealmaker.
"Anybody who's called 'full of crap' in The Wall Street Journal, by no less a person than William Buckley, has arrived," Stanley's wife, Ilene, reportedly remarked after Shamrock's leveraged purchase of Starr Broadcasting Group drew an attack on Gold's credibility by the conservative author and founder of National Review magazine. Buckley was Starr's largest shareholder.
Gold's friends and business associates, while praising him in ways that might be expected, also offered more candid assessments of his strengths and weaknesses.
"He's extremely loyal and generous. Insightful. A good partner. He tolerates different viewpoints and enjoys being challenged and challenging other people," said Gene Krieger, Shamrock's vice chairman and chief operating officer. "He's intellectually curious, a quick study. Decisive. Sometimes to a fault. And a lot of confidence, a lot of self-confidence, but not to the degree he doesn't accept advice or counsel."
At some point, Gold also became a trusted counselor. Steven B. Sample, who as president of USC has dramatically raised the private university's reputation, considers his board chairman a personal "mentor." And Rabbi Steven Z. Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, on whose board Stanley and Ilene Gold have served, describes him as a bit of a sage.