Tom Gores: The Platinum Effect
Tom Gores is best known as the new owner of Palace Sports and Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons, but his investments in Michigan don’t stop there.
Photographs courtesy of Platinum Equity
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"Visionary” is perhaps the best word to describe Tom Gores, the 48-year-old Michigan-raised son who launched his private investment firm, Platinum Equity, in 1995. With a portfolio of more than 130 companies, which represented $30 billion in aggregate revenue at the time of the acquisition, much of Gores’ time is devoted to either managing his current assets or researching potential investments.
Platinum Equity started out in the technology sector and gradually moved into distribution, manufacturing, logistics, and publishing. It added entertainment to that list with its $325-million purchase in June 2011 of Palace Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Detroit Pistons and The Palace of Auburn Hills, the team’s home base since 1988.
Both Gores and Platinum Equity are based in Beverly Hills, Calif., but long before he amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in the range of $2.5 billion (Forbes 2012), Gores was just another kid growing up near Flint. A star baseball, football, and basketball player in high school, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in construction management at Michigan State University in 1986.
Gores is a devoted Pistons fan who says he was so anxious about the team’s 2012 opener and all the hoopla surrounding the new look at The Palace that he hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep after flying in from Los Angeles the night before.
DB: How do you manage 130 companies? Your daily schedule must be non-stop.
TG: I have a saying, “Count on it, but don’t plan on it.”
DB: So what was keeping you up all night before the Pistons’ home opener?
TG: It was really about how opening night would go, how our players would respond, and how our fans would respond. But the point was this: Being the Pistons (owner) and being back in Michigan is consuming me. And I can’t help but really want this (franchise) to be successful.
DB: So it’s safe to say that among all the assets under the Platinum umbrella, Palace Sports and Entertainment is one that truly is near and dear to your heart?
TG: It is. Because it directly impacts people and the fans. And the other thing about this asset is you can really affect a community, in a different way than a regular business. The sports business is a very powerful way to communicate with and impact people. So it’s a vehicle to do very good things for people and for business in Michigan. I didn’t know what to expect in buying the Pistons, and didn’t know whether I’d be a removed owner. The questions were asked, even at the original press conference. But it’s really hard for me to be a totally removed owner when it involves people, like this kind of asset does.
The thing I know about myself is whatever I get involved in, I just want to do it the best way possible. Probably the first time I really learned that about myself is when I started coaching kids. My kids are older, so I haven’t coached in the last two years, but what I realized is when I take on a job, it consumes me — even coaching 12-and-under girls and 10-and-under boys in soccer and basketball. I just want to do the best job possible. So I had different lineups, plans for how each kid could do better, how we could improve each kid — certain philosophies. I probably coached 15 to 20 teams. I did it all. So I really get consumed with it in a way that I want to do it right, and make sure that we add value and are impactful.