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Apollo CEO Marc Rowan has a secret side gig: ‘It took me a year to realize that I was in the restaurant business’ - Fortune

Author: Fortune

Source: https://fortune.com/2023/10/28/wall-street-pursuits-marc-rowan-apollo-restaurants/

Image of Apollo CEO Marc Rowan has a secret side gig: ‘It took me a year to realize that I was in the restaurant business’ - Fortune

Business titans frequently find satisfaction as avid collectors—in ways beyond amassing stock options.Leonard Lauder, retired CEO of Estée Lauder, gathered one of the world’s great assemblages of Cubist paintings that he donated to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.Former Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer relishes festooning her gardens with avant-garde sculptures by the likes of Jeff Koons, while Howard Schultz, builder ofStarbucks, gets a kick from adding to his display case of rare, vintage Rolex watches.These tycoons typically deploy in their artistic acquiring the same steely precision that steers their business ventures, marshaling networks of dealers, scholars and advisers to unearth the best properties at the right prices.By contrast, Marc Rowan meandered into his unorthodox version of the collecting game—acquiring, remodeling and curating restaurants on Long Island’s East End—via a random route that bears no resemblance to his intricate strategic thinking that built an insurance empire at Apollo Global Management, where he serves as CEO. “Usually, I’m not a collector of anything,” Rowan told me during a long interview in white-marble cafeteria at Apollo’s Manhattan headquarters.“I got into the restaurant business by accident.It all started because I like to build things.I’ve renovated many buildings over time.I know many people don’t see it that way, but I find it peaceful.”Rowan entered the dining arena as a landlord of failed eateries. “I owned an historic building in Sag Harbor where I had a restaurant as my tenant,” he recalls.“And that restaurant went out of business.” The pattern repeated at a Rowan property on the water in Montauk.“It took me a year to realize that I was in the restaurant business,” he jokes.Rowan decided to redo the spaces and recruit a seasoned manager—and run the rebranded venues his own way.“I hired a gentleman named Steve Jauffrineau from La Goulue on Madison Avenue as my partner,” says Rowan, who’s no helicopter proprietor, an approach that also characterizes his stewardship of the $600 billion alternative asset shop.“Now, I have the best gastronomic job known to mankind. I do the concept and design, and conceive the menu.I give Steve my comments at the beginning of the season and the end of the season.He deals with everything, and it’s a great arrangement.”The Wall Streeter gets it right by buying the “wrong” restaurantSo good, in fact, that following the success of the first two places, Duryea’s Montauk and Lulu Kitchen & Bar in Sag Harbor, the Jauffrineau band craved expansion.“Like any team that’s thriving, including at Apollo, they wanted more,” Rowan relates.His quest for a new location adds another zany episode to his rise as the Accidental Restauranteur. Duryea’s in Montauk which is now owned by Mark Rowan of Apollo.Doug YoungRowan embarked on a nautical shopping tour, taking his boat, his son as crew, across the Peconic Bay from the Hamptons to the North Fork, the the peninsula that harbors Long Island’s scenic wine country.From the water, Rowan spied a charming dockside emporium that looked ideal.He then asked his lawyer, former judge Edward Burke, Sr., to make the purchase.“I told him that I’d found a great restaurant, and that it’s out in Orient [the historic village at the North Fork’s east end].I sent him a few photos and told him the characteristics,” notes Rowan. “But the judge and I have a saying, ‘Don’t buy anything until there’s ice on the ground.’ Everyone is very optimistic in the Hamptons in the summer and they get less optimistic when it gets cold.”Burke indeed secured a contract of sale.But he insisted that before signing, Rowan visit on land the site he’d only viewed by sea.“I said, “Great, ‘I’ll see you there on Sunday morning,'” recalls Rowan.“I get to the restaurant I thought I was about to buy.I’m never late, and the judge is never late. And the judge isn’t there!I knew something was wrong.” Rowan phoned Judge Burke, who was waiting at another eatery a mile further east—the place he’d clinched the deal to purchase.“I drove to the restaurant where the judge was waiting, that I hadn’t considered buying, and thought it was beautiful.So I bought the ‘wrong’ restaurant instead,” recounts Rowan.This latest, newly-renovated addition to culinary addresses, Duryea’s Orient Point, boasts such upscale specialties as Spanish Octopus and lobster cobb salad. As usual, Rowan luxuriated in “structuring,” to use Wall Street-speak, the bill of fare.Subscribe to the CFO Daily newsletter to keep up with the trends, issues, and executives shaping corporate finance.Sign up for free.

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