Miami may be a major metropolis, but in certain circles, all it takes to raise the capital to buy a $1 billion bank is one degree of separation.
When longtime friends and scions of South Florida family businesses, Jimmy Tate and Sergio Rok, dreamed of recapitalizing ailing U.S. Century Bank, they drew up a list of Miami’s most successful, deeply rooted business leaders and ran the names by their investment partner — real estate magnate Jorge Perez.
The result: a group of investors that feels more like a friends and family plan.
There are school buddies and relatives. Business partners and neighbors. Some have shared ski trips or stayed at each other’s vacation homes.
One is even dating another’s ex-wife.
The investors bring together Hispanic and Jewish families of Miami — entrepreneurs and business owners spanning a variety of industries.
“There is a connection for all of us, and we all truly respect one another,” said Rok, 51. “It’s a strong group that can really help take this bank to the next level. So that is why we hand-selected this group. They are all community leaders in their own right, in their own industry, and very successful, and that is important.”
In addition to Tate, president and chief executive of Tate Capital — and brother Kenny Tate, co-owner of Tate Capital — Rok, president of Rok Enterprises, and Perez, chairman and chief executive of the Related Group, the investors include:
• Stephen Ross, owner of the Dolphins and Perez’s business partner.
• Wayne Chaplin, president of Southern Wine & Spirits, who has played golf with Rok and who Perez knows well. Chaplin and Tate are on the Mt. Sinai Medical Center Board of Trustees.
Real estate developer Scott Robins and his father Gerald. Scott Robins and Tate have been close friends since Miami Beach High School and belonged to the same fraternity, TEP, at the University of Florida. Their families used to take annual ski trips together to Steamboat Springs, Colo.
“I have a lot of faith and confidence in the individuals putting this deal together,” said Scott Robins, 49. “And for me, it was really about diversification [of investments].”
• George Feldenkreis and his son Oscar, chairman/chief executive and president, respectively, of Perry Ellis International. Oscar Feldenkreis used to live on Tate’s street in North Miami’s Keystone Point, and his children are friends with Tate’s. Oscar Feldenkreis, Rok, Tate and Scott Robins also have welcomed the New Year together at Rok’s family’s home in Islamorada, and Rok’s sister and brother-in-law are best friends with Oscar Feldenkreis and his wife.
• Alan Potamkin, co-chairman of the Potamkin Companies, whose life partner, Brigitt Rok, is Sergio Rok’s ex-wife. Potamkin met Sergio Rok through her, and Tate, through Rok and family events and parties. Potamkin has also known Perez for 25 years. They are members of a Young President’s Organization forum of eight, who meet monthly.
• Former ambassador and investor Paul Cejas, who has shared investments with Rok’s father.
• Philip Levine, founder of Royal Media Partners, who has invested in real estate with Scott Robins. Levine is running for mayor of Miami Beach.