The hardest part of my job will be to grow the company at the rate that my father did. His success is due in part to his extraordinary ability to project the outcome of a deal extremely early, and in part due to his 30 year partnership with Steven Bandel, our company’s current CEO. For every big idea that he has, every disruptive opportunity he foresees, and every new venture he delves into, Steven is always there to help him sound it out, give it shape and make the deal viable.
Steven, an engineer by training, started working at Cisneros in 1983 as an analyst. He quickly worked his way up as our family business began growing internationally. He became a key player in making deals happen such as DirecTV Latin America, Spalding and Evenflo and its sale to KKR for an excellent return. He was also integral in buying Gallerias Preciados in what was the first LBO in Spain, selling our Pepsi operations in Venezuela to Coca Cola, a transaction that is now a case study at HBS, and launching Univision, Americas’s first network for Hispanics. Over a 15 year period, Univision was acquired and sold for over $12 billion.
But, for the past five years, he has had to “make happen” a different sort of deal. He was given the responsibility of grooming me to become his successor. We worked on this privately, none of us being sure at that time if I was right for the job. Early on my father told me “Steven speaks quietly, but he’s wise. Make sure to always listen carefully.” He was right. I have listened and Steven has taught me the fundamentals behind the success of our business.
From Steven I have learned that patience is a powerful virtue, that passion paired with discipline is a winning combination, that human capital is the most valuable asset in our 85 year old company. Above all, he has shown me that as an organization we thrive on challenge.
On September 3rd, I will be become our company’s new CEO. I will wake up and pray that all those lessons that Steven taught me over this past five years and that all that I have learned from spending time with my father have sunk in and become a part of me. The timing feels right, but as they say, the proof will be in the pudding.
Thank you Steven, for your tenure at Cisneros and for staying on as Co-Chair. We wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you for being my mentor, my advisor and my friend.