NEW YORK – With annual revenue of $3 billion and ranking #156 among America’s private companies according to Forbes, the Red Apple Group conglomerate and its CEO John Catsimatidis are nicely positioned for the future in their new Midtown Manhattan headquarters.
Reminding some of a human perpetual motion machine most of the time, Catsimatidis looked tanned, rested, and ready for 2016 when TNH visited on January 25.
The very busy businessman actually had a chance to get away with his family to the Bahamas and Florida for the holidays. “For Russian New Year’s, we went to St. Petersburg – in Florida. Margo’s mother was president of the Russian Club…we used to celebrate every year and ever since her mother passed away she has tried to follow the tradition, where about 250 people, including Congressmen Gus and Mike Bilirakis celebrate with us,” he said.
Watching him in public, one gets the impression that his friends might be his most important bottom line, but they know that family is the most important part of who John Catsimatidis is. His children, Andrea and John Jr., are involved in his commercial and philanthropic endeavors. “My daughter is concentrating on the real estate business and my son on the energy business,” he said, and both have offices near his.
A political turn is always possible in the Catsimatidis family, but regarding his children taking that route he said “maybe someday, but not right now.”
Asked about Margo’s current interests, he said “only charities. Margo is concentrating on how we can give away the money faster,” he said wryly. Her office is also nearby.
ON THE AIR
The former candidate for mayor of New York has found a new way to celebrate his passion for politics – his radio program Cats Roundtable.
“We have the top show on Sunday mornings between New York and Washington, DC at 970 AM in New York and 1260 AM in Washington. From 8:30 to 9:00 we have leading local personalities and from 9 to 10 I speak mainly to national figures,” he said with pride.
“After I ran for Mayor of New York I was bored, with nothing to do Sunday mornings, but I wanted to stay active politically,” he explained, but when TNH asked if that means he is contemplating running for office again, he replied “people have been asking me and pushing me, but I really don’t know. I feel I have one more career left in me. I want to have one more successful endeavor, whether it’s politics or going to Hollywood and making movies – I keep an open mind.”
So far he has made marks in the real estate, food, airline, energy, and publishing industries.
TRUMP HAS A GOOD SHOT
TNH visited amid reports that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was exploring a presidential run. “He’s considering it, and you never know when the right situation will happen…Maybe something will happen with Hillary, and you end up with only the socialist – then he might drop in, but I think it would be very difficult for him to be relevant as an independent. He should run as a Democrat or Republican,” he advised.
Catsimatidis, contrary to those who feel the presidential campaign season began too soon, was delighted with the debates. “I think the American people have gotten more involved than at any other time in history…more people are talking about it.”
“Donald Trump has made an impression that reminds me of the 1976 movie Network, tapping into the spirit of its classic line “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” Catsimatidis said.
He thinks Trump can attract the votes of Democrats who would not express their support publically.
Catsimatidis said he has never done business with Trump, but he knows him through several charitable Boards they serve on.
“I think Trump can do it if he plays it right. If he doesn’t go overboard in any one direction. He’s a smart guy and I think he can do it…He has always been generous and held his head up high even when he was going through bad times. He didn’t go hide. He stood up, and did what he had to do to make changes,” Catsimatidis said about the candidate’s strength of character.
Discussing how Trump goes about his business, Catsimatidis revealed some of his own traits. “I think you are better off making quick decisions – good decisions – than hiding and making no decisions.”
The campaign has produced one disappointment so far, Jeb Bush. “He is much better than the impression he is making. He’s a decent, honest guy.”
Catsimatidis also respects John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, and noted “no one has become president without taking Ohio” – so he may end up on the ticket anyway. And he believes that Rubio is starting to make an impact.
Catsimatidis is passionate about American politics because he cares deeply about the future of his country, but he also loves the land of his birth.
“I hear and see things that are very disturbing,” he said.
Asked if he believes that investors who might have been holding back are feeling there is enough stability after last year’s tumult to want to get in on the ground floor,” Catsimatidis said simply, “no.”
He added “whoever is feeling that is foolish.”
On the other hand, he respects New Democracy’s new president Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “I’ve met him. He’s a smart kid,” he said.
“In my heart I always root for Greece,” and said tears often well up in his eyes when he visits, but the apple of his eye is the island of his birth, little Nisyros, which seems to send more than its share of successful people to the Diaspora. “It must be the water,” he said.
Actually, he has a new concern about the island. He met with its mayor recently, who invited him to finance a new community center, but there may be more serious needs. Catsimatidis has been told that “out of 700 people who live there, 30 or 40 have cancer, so there must be an investigation.”
He is very excited about his building projects. “Let me show you,” he said as he called for the brochures displaying handsome residential towers on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn with a total budget approaching $700 million. One is named “The Giovanni” after his son; “we couldn’t name it ‘The John,’” he said with a smile. Another is named the Andrea, and of course there is one called the Margo, and an unfinished, unnamed 37-story tower.
The drawings for what is called “Ocean Dreams” in Coney Island are also beautiful, but he hasn’t decided on that project yet. “This is a couple of hundred million dollar deal” he said.
He is also proud of his enterprises in the energy sector. “We are building a bio-diesel facility in Brooklyn that will produce 50,000 gallons per day of fuel.”
Told that Exxon officials declared that day that oil will still be king in 2014 despite its current vicissitudes, he said “I think that’s correct. Games are being played – the Saudis have one agenda and the Americans have another, but everyone who has tried to do something other than oil has gone bankrupt.”
He needs to be on good terms with politicians of all stripes, but he agrees some don’t just appreciate the business bottom line. “As I have said publically, we are building in New York City and we would like to continue spending money here, but if it’s not feasible, I can spend my next $100 million in Miami.”
Greece and its current prime minister came up again in the context of the need to attract investment. “If they are looking to attract people they should ask themselves ‘why should they take money out of their pocket and spend it in that country.’ That will only happen if they think they will be treated fairly.
“They don’t need fasaria – problems,” he said.