NEW YORK – People who know Michael Psaros would not be surprised to learn that he recently financed a remarkable film titled Pistevo – I Believe.
Faith radiates from his relationship with God to his family, his colleagues, the companies he invests in and helps save and their employees, and to the communities that depend on them.
Michael Psaros is cofounder of KPS Capital Partners LP, “a family of private equity funds with approximately $5.4 billion of assets under management,” according to its website, which adds that “KPS seeks to realize significant capital appreciation by making controlling equity investments in companies across a diverse range of manufacturing industries.”
“We have more than 90 manufacturing facilities in 23 countries so we operate globally…and we are one of the world’s few and leading turnaround firms,” Psaros told TNH. “We are not a Wall Street firm. We are manufacturing and industrial people that happens to have a multibillion dollar pool of capital.”
And true grit and energy.
“What we do is about passion and sheer force of will. There is no better word than the Greek word “tharos – daring”
The Greek words that pepper Psaros conversations are not incidental. Psaros is a passionate Greek Orthodox Christian who pours his energy and resources into Church service. The connection is not just ethnic.
The Church is also in the turnaround business, helping people find their way and assisting people who have stumbled to rise again, and Psaros is a man who wants to make an impact – as a businessman and as a human being.
FAITH IN PICTURES, LOVE IN ACTION
The documentary Pistevo is reflects Psaros’ love for the Church. “About five years ago during a visit to our parish, the Archbishop casually noted our church had white walls. He and other laypersons along with Fr. Elias had an epiphany that it was time to justice to Orthodoxy’s iconographic tradition through a multiphase iconography project.
The result produced by iconographer Dimitris Moulas is a magnificent work of spiritual art, but the true beauty generated by the project was manifested in the actions of the parishioners themselves.
“What we did not expect was how it transformed our entire community in the most deeply personal and spiritual ways,” he said.
The documentary illuminated how “it took a parish that was already a large family into something much more and much deeper…It’s hard to communicate the depth of the emotion as each phase was being completed.”
But the miracle found the medium for communicating itself to the world.
Filmmaker Mark Brodie, who worked for CBS for 17 years, was sent to the church to film Fr. Elias talking about Psaros, but when he saw the scaffolding for the third phase of that remarkable work in progress, his 60 Minutes mind told him “this is a story,” as the priest launched into the tale of the endeavor.
Brodie said to Psaros “this story needs to be told, and in the right way,” and the later told TNH “it’s 18 minutes of raw emotion.”
“All we ask is for every one of the faithful, every Orthodox Christian to sit down, especially with your children and watch is at theartofbelief.org. We have been viewed in over 20 countries,” he said.
His faith is rooted in his family. Psaros idolizes his parents and grandparents, but a few years ago he discovered another role model, Michael Jaharis of blessed memory.
“The first time I met Mr. Jaharis I was invited to a presentation for Faith – An Endowment for Orthodox and Hellenism, by my friend Dean Metropoulos.” Of the latter Psaros said “I look up to him and he’s one of my heroes.”
“Jaharis was a titan, standing without peer, not because of his philanthropy but rather he was a philanthropic leader who called upon those who can give to contribute” – many of Jaharis’ donations came in the form of challenge grants.
Mr. and Mrs. Jaharis “did such extraordinary things” he said but he was also impressed by their humility.
“I believe that in our community, Orthodox and Hellenic, too few are prepared to speak up to as those who can give, to give.”
Psaros reiterated that for him, it’s not optional.
The Greek word philotimo sums up what he and his wife Robin aim for. It is a unique word for that transcends its literal translation as mere love of honor; Philotimo a love for the good, for doing the right thing – especially when no one is looking.
“The way I translate philotimo into English is by introducing people to my parents. They and my grandparents are living embodiments of philotimo…the most selfless people I ever met,” he said
“I never met a couple who puts the needs of everyone else, whether it’s their family or community – or in my mom’s case, schools – ahead of their own, and when you grow up in the presence of two saints like I did, it really impacts your life.”
He also paid tribute to his grandfather, from Halicarnassus on the coast of Asia Minor. “He was the giant in my life. He taught me to be a man.”
A picture of him at his barbers shop is one of the treasures in Psaros office.
“All he talked about was history and politics. If he really disagreed with a customer’s politics – if he perceived hypocrisy, he would throw him out of his shop” – even in mid shave.
IT’S PERSONAL, IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE
Psaros agrees that when identifying companies, the process is personal – they are not just looking at numbers, and that reflects more of what he learned from his parents.
“We invest in very few companies and the passion, emotion, and sheer force of will that we bring to bear on every turnaround we undertake is extraordinary…Look at Wedgewood. A global company with a priceless 225 year history and brands beyond iconic, but when we acquired the company out of bankruptcy the company was burning through $118 million of cash per year – and brands can’t make up for that. It was a five year, very successful global turnaround effort.”
Last year they sold Motor Coach Industries after saving it.
The end results are thus both financial and human, helping companies that are in effect, families for their employees and communities.
“Other share our investment strategy, but I believe the reason we have been successful is our values and values system that we have here as a partnership,” said Psaros.
“David Shapiro and I will have been together this June for 25 years. He is the older brother I never had. Raquel Palmer has been with us for 23 years and Jay Bernstein has been here for 18 years. There is nothing I would not do for them, and them for the others.”
He declared “Everything is about the family, the team, and we try to inculcate our value system into every company we own – which is character, integrity, veracity, transparency, and accountability.”
The first thing they look at month to month, he noted, “is safety, not revenues and profits on the philosophy that if you look after your employees they will look after the company, which will then thrive.”
He says KPS’ success is founded on the principle that “there is nothing more important than people. I can’t tell you the immense pride that we take in saving jobs…conservatively we’ve saved more than 40,000. These are real jobs – premium manufacturing jobs with pensions, 401Ks, Cadillac healthcare. We’ve saved plants and communities that need them. These are mortgages, tuition payments – when you save a job…it ripples through a community.”
His really good news is that he believes conditions have shifted so that manufacturing in America is poised for a great comeback.
WHEN BLESSED, GIVE BLESSINGS
The rewards of his work are great – and he puts them to work.
“Due to the business that we have created my wife and I have been extremely blessed and we have been in a privileged position for about 10 years…The only reason I get up every morning and continue to work 80, 100 hour weeks is that I would like to generate wealth with one purpose to give it away,” he said.
Psaros and Robin, who was a research and marketing professional for two Wall Street firms and is now retired, have been married for 23 years and last year they created the Michael and Robin Psaros Family Foundation. “My objective is that over the next several decades to do what Mr. Jaharis did.”
Their gifts over the past eight years fall into two categories. His alma matter, Georgetown University, where he is Vice Chairman of the business school’s Board of Advisors, and the Orthodox Church.
“I say with great pride that two Mondays ago Dr. Rebecca Hamilton was the inaugural professor of the Michael and Robin Psaros Endowed Chair of Business Administration at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.
“We have also contributed to our two parishes – All Saints of Weirton, WV” where he grew up, and the Church of Our Savior in Rye, NY, and many of the Archdiocese’s national ministries.
He counts being present at the Ground Blessing ceremony for the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine at Ground Zero in 2015 as one of the greatest moments of his life. His family donated $1 million to the endeavor.
But monuments, even magnificent ones, are not enough. “I believe that for the church to continue to grow…it is important to engage the youth.” So one of the things he has taken an active interest in and supports financially is the social media initiative of the Archons.
“It is an obligation for those who have resources – if you don’t you don’t – to give to the Church in America…The Leadership 100 and Faith endowments should be 10 times larger. And I exhort people…I’ve raised billions on Wall Street and I am not bashful about asking for money.”
While supporting Hellenism is an important expression of his identity, he noted “I view Hellenism through the prism of Orthodoxy. I quote Fr. Alex Karloutsos that Christianity is the marriage of Athens and Jerusalem.”
He is also a proud member of The Hellenic Initiative which works to help Greece exit its crises. “They have vision and…leadership. They decided to do something. They took action and put their personal financial resources to work providing relief to those in need as well as supporting entrepreneurs” especially the young.