What is it like to have your foot pressed hard on the accelerator for decades at work and then one day completely release it?
Many CEOs across America and in South Florida are experiencing the jolt. Without doubt, kicking back is an adjustment for the competitive typical Type A high achiever whose families don’t “snap to attention” like employees did when the boss walked into the room.
Yet, most say their “retirement” from the fast-paced corporate world has been a busy and exhilarating time. With a handsome financial portfolio at hand, the options have been wide. Some have chosen board work, others entrepreneurial ventures. Some have opted to give their time to the community. All say they have a renewed commitment to spouses, parents, kids and friends.
This current group of high-level retirees may be just the leading edge. In the next few years, experts forecast an uptick in CEO retirement. “Just like the rest of the workforce, the CEO class is aging,” says James Pedderson with global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Challenger, which tracks CEO changes, found that through the first three months of 2013, 309 CEO departures were announced. Resignation was the leading reason for departures; retirement ranks second. The remaining CEOs stepped down but remained with the company, usually as a board member or chairman.
Currently, just 13 percent of Americans are ages 65 and older. By 2030, 18 percent of the nation will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center projections. But don’t tell Baby Boomers that they are old.
The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until age 72, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. And the majority of Boomers report feeling more spry than their age would imply.
That may go double for former CEOs accustomed to a complex, fast-paced business environment — at least if you judge by the wind-down activities of the familiar South Florida figures profiled here.
After 37 years, Sherrill Hudson retired early at 59 from his public accounting firm of Deloitte to take up full-time board work. But just a year later, one of those board positions launched him into a giant second career as CEO and chairman of TECO Energy. As CEO, he guided the wobbling Tampa utility back to an even keel, even making it stable financially enough to get back its investment-grade debt ratings.
Now, eight years later, Hudson finally is winding down from full time corporate work and has moved into the role of non-executive chairman at TECO, a compensated position that allows him to loosely stay involved in the company without being an official officer. “I see myself as a trusted business advisor.”
Hudson said he realized it was time to put a succession plan in place. “I had a good team, I worked hard and I enjoyed it,” Hudson says of TECO. “I recognized it was time to move on and turn it over to a successor who is ready to take the company to next level.”
Hudson says his goal now is to split his time between three interests: community involvement and church work, director positions on public company boards and personal fun such as exercising, traveling and enjoying his grandkids. “I think I’m pretty close to getting it right.”
He believes he’s found the key to a healthy retirement: “It’s important to keep that lifelong desire to learn no matter what you are doing, even if you move into a different role or stage in life.”
To that extent, he plans to stay engaged as a director on boards of directors as long as he feels productive. At one time, he sat on as many as seven corporate boards. Hudson says to do board work right requires anywhere from 50 hours to 250 hours a year “depending on the complexity of issues the company faces.”
Today, he sits on three larger boards and a small one. “I think I will understand when I’m no longer contributing to a board. I have been a party to easing people off boards when they weren’t contributing.”
A past chairman of the Dade Community Foundation, The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Florida International University Foundation, Hudson still wants to give back. He says he’s become more involved in his church and with the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless. And, he’s going to pay more attention to staying healthy.
“I’ve become weight and exercise conscious. My goal is to play golf three days a week and walk the other days. As you get older, it’s harder to keep fit but more important to do it.”
While leading TECO, Hudson retained his Miami home and commuted to Tampa, where he owned a condo. He plans to sell the condo and spend most of his time in the Miami community.
On the entrepreneurial side, Hudson sits on the board and has an investment in Itopia, a Miami company that handles cloud computing and IT services for small businesses. “It’s a fascinating company and it’s off to a great start.”
Hudson says the one of the best parts of retirement has been control of his own schedule. “It’s very enjoyable not to worry about getting somewhere at 8 a.m. Sometimes I sleep until 9 a.m. and have a leisurely breakfast and walk. Sometimes I play golf three times a week. Last week I played six times. I was ready for that move. The time was right.”
As president and CEO of Spec’s Music, Ann Lieff took the family business public and created one of Florida’s largest and most respected publicly traded companies. At its peak, Spec’s grew to 80 stores in Florida and Puerto Rico. In 1998, Spec’s was sold to Camelot Music (later merged into Trans World Entertainment) and Lieff found herself searching for her next challenge. She became a consultant and sought board positions where she could share her management lessons.
That search wasn’t easy. Lieff knew becoming a director on a public company board would be a strategic move, but landing such a position, particularly as a female, took a good deal of networking. Her first board seat came through a connection. When Alliance Entertainment was coming out of bankruptcy, Jim Bunk, the CEO of Camelot Music at the time, was asked to be on its board. He didn’t have time but recommended Lieff, who held the board seat for 1½ years until Alliance was sold.
Today she sits on the board of another public entertainment company, Hastings Entertainment, which sells books, video games and CDs. “It’s wonderful to stay involved in the industry that was such a big part of my life and really contribute,” Lieff says.
Connections and introductions also led to former board positions on what had been South Florida public companies — Claire’s Stores and Mayor’s Jewelers. Today she sits on the boards of Furniture Brands International and Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund, which invests in U.S. companies that trade regionally. Although she lives in Colorado where she previously vacationed, Lieff regularly reminds her Florida contacts of her expertise and interest in corporate director work.
Initially, Lieff found going from CEO to board member required adjustment. “I was used to moving quickly and making things happen,” she said. “It takes a while to get it, that you’re not management anymore.” But she has found that management appreciates the perspective she brings to the boardroom. “They know I’ve done what they’ve done and understand where they are coming from.”
Over the last decade, Lieff has juggled board work with caretaking for her parents and other aging family members. Martin Spector, her beloved dad who founded Spec’s, died in 2003. Her mother, Dorothy, died in 2006. Lieff now spends much of her time hiking, skiing and exercising in the Rockies.
However, she visits her brothers and sisters in South Florida often. Over the winter holidays, Lieff visited with former Spec’s employees just as they were facing the closing of Spec’s flagship store in Coral Gables. “I consider them my extended family.”
On May 3, Gregory Swienton will officially retire as chairman of Ryder System, where he has been a driving force for 14 years and chaired the board for the last decade. The succession process began in January when Swienton turned over his job of CEO to Robert Sanchez, former COO. Now, when Swienton walks out of the annual shareholders meeting on Friday, he leaves behind a strong transportation company and faces a Monday without strategic responsibility. “People already are telling me I look a lot less stressed,” Swienton jokes.
After 52 years of working, including a paper route as a teen, Swienton says he’s looking forward to the day he isn’t expected at the office. His new priority: spending time with his wife of 40 years, JoAnn. “I’m going to let her make all the decisions about where we live, when and where we travel and what we do.”
Initially, Swienton will stay busy with existing commitments. He leaves Ryder with a two-year consulting agreement. “The thinking now is that you don’t have your past chairman remain on your board of directors. It makes the current chairman feel like he/she is operating in the shadow of someone.”
While he will pull back at Ryder, Swienton still holds board positions at Harris Corp. and Lennox International. When those commitments end, Swienton says it’s unlikely he will pursue future board positions. “It’s a serious job and very time consuming.”
Swienton says he’s not worried about initial “what do I do now?” thoughts. For the first two weeks of his new retirement, his calendar is jammed with an employee farewell party, a board meeting and a graduation. Swienton will receive an honorary doctorate and give the commencement speech at St. Thomas University, where he chairs the board of trustees. His theme: leadership.
For now, he’s taking the advice that his peers have offered: “Don’t take on anything new for at least six months.” They also have advised him that his schedule will be busy, just doing different things. “I can already see this to be true.”
Of course, in the tradition of most retired CEOs, Swienton plans to polish his golf game, although he doesn’t foresee rivaling Tiger Woods. He also will travel between Miami and Fort Worth, Texas, where his kids and grandkids live. “We’ve always been rushed when traveling to family events. It will be nice that we won’t have that now.” And, if his wife agrees, Swienton envisions taking lots of cruises and traveling the U.S. – ideally to the baseball hall of fame and historic sites (he’s a Civil War buff). He also plans to increase his involvement in his church.
“I’m looking forward to moving into this stage of my life, while I’m young enough to enjoy things,” Swienton said.
In 2007, Claire’s Stores was sold to Apollo Management, marking a new era for the costume jewelry company and its management. For the Schaefer family, which had built the business over 30 years, the transaction was particularly bittersweet. At the time of the $3.1 billion sale, the total value of the Schaefer family’s holdings was more than $239 million. As Co-CEO, Bonnie Schaefer walked away with plenty of money in her pocket and time on her hands.
Schaefer chose to take a unique path. She bought the Westglow Hotel & Spa on 42 acres in Blowing Rock, N.C. with her longtime partner, Jamie. The two completed a major restoration and update to the historic hotel.
Schaefer proudly rattles off the accolades the Relais & Chateaux property has garnered, including being named among the world’s best boutique spas by both SpaFinder Magazine and Travel & Leisure. She is particularly jazzed about the hotel’s eating establishment, Rowland’s restaurant, which she opened in honor of her father, Rowland Schaefer.
Although Schaefer travels to North Carolina often, she spends her winters in Florida, overseeing the round-the-clock care of her parents. (Both have been diagnosed with dementia.) She spends summers in North Carolina at the resort and is involved in the local North Carolina community.
Rather than return to corporate life, Schaefer prefers philanthropy and involvement in causes for which she has a personal passion — women’s rights, the arts, and Jewish causes. “I’m busier than ever,” she said.
Even before leaving Claire’s Stores, Gloria Steinem recruited Schaefer to become active in Equality Now, a watchdog group that works to improve conditions for women and girls around the world. Schaefer since has traveled with Steinem and the Equality Now staff to Nepal and Zambia to attend conferences on human trafficking. Schaefer also has become involved with the Ms. Foundation and has chaired several of its Gloria Awards events.
As Schaefer has become more engaged in the North Carolina community, she’s become involved in Appalachian State University, where she’s on the advisory board for the summer music festival. A new campus theater, the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, is set to open this summer. She’s particularly proud, she says, of her efforts to build the first synagogue in the High Country.
Politics is part of her daybook as well. She’s actively involved in several Democratic candidates campaigns. For leisure, Schaefer owns horses in Blowing Rock and North Palm Beach. “I ride as often as I can.”
Schaefer says she does miss some aspects of her former life at Claire’s Stores especially “the people I worked with [and] the excitement of the challenges. But I find I can get the same type of rewards in my own business and from my own personal life.”
H. Wayne Huizenga
South Floridians know Huizenga for his corporate success. He is credited with being the only entrepreneur ever to launch three Fortune 500 companies: Waste Management, Blockbuster Entertainment and AutoNation. Locals also know him for his sports team affiliations: at one time he owned the Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers and the Miami Dolphins and held an interest in the venues they played in.
Today, Huizenga is involved in a single public company, Swisher Hygiene, a cleaning products company where he is non-executive chairman. On the sports side, he still owns a 5 percent interest in the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium but has no involvement in team operations.
“He goes to home games and has suites for football, baseball and hockey,” said Bob Henninger, executive vice president of Huizenga Holdings . “He loves talking about what the teams are doing. He’s an enthusiastic fan, but he’s back to where he started — just being a fan.
Forbes has put Huizenga’s net worth at $2.45 billion. At age 75, the mogul lives in the $12 million riverfront Fort Lauderdale home that he bought from former Alamo Rent A Car chairman Michael Egan in 2005, goes to his nearby Las Olas office every weekday and retains his same core staff of loyal business executives. His company, Huizenga Holdings, has interests in myriad private businesses including V Schoolz Inc., the Coral Springs e-learning company. Family holdings also include Rybovich Super Yacht Marina and Refit in West Palm Beach, where his son, Wayne Jr., is president and CEO, and he has a limited interests in a few golf courses such as Frederica, an upscale golf community on St. Simons Island, Ga.
Huizenga has sold off property on Hutchinson Island, now being used for hotel development. Another investment, Boca Resorts, a public company, which owned and operated a group of hotels that included The Hyatt Pier 66 Hotel and Radisson Bahia Mar Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale and The Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton was sold in 2004.
After celebrating his 75 birthday, Henninger says Huizenga and his wife, Marti, decided to pare back community involvement. “He is trying to give himself time to enjoy life and still pursue personal interests. He feels it’s time to encourage others to pick it up.”
Like others his age, Huizenga focuses on health. He and Marti are cancer survivors. They continue to operate the Huizenga Family Foundation, which has donated heavily to cancer research. And Huizenga remains an occasional golfer and a donor to Florida Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott, who just gave Huizenga the “Great Floridian” designation in honor of his achievements. Huizenga’s son, Harry Jr., is a new Scott appointee to the state university system’s Board of Governors.
Henninger says Huizenga has moved into the next phase of his life, but he’s still hands-on with Huizenga Holdings. “We commiserate about sports and talk about opportunities like always. He’s still a Lauderdale guy and it is business as usual.”
Thomas Andruskevich, the longtime president and CEO of Birks & Mayors Jewelers, retired from the company in spring 2012. At the time, Andruskevich said the job had a level of intensity that meant being available 24-7 and he didn’t want his life to pass him by.
Today, Andruskevich has settled into a less-demanding lifestyle, although he says, “retirement has been busier than expected.” On the home front, he says he and his wife are getting to know each other all over again. They have spent the last year designing and building an architecturally unique home in Carmel, Calif., that should be completed in September . (They plan to keep their Fort Lauderdale condominium and Manhattan apartment as well.) They also have begun to cook together. “My wife and I are having a fun time reconnecting and reacquainting ourselves with how we like to spend our time together,” he said.
At the time he retired, Andruskevich envisioned staying professionally active – possibly even teaming up with a private equity firm that owns or wants to buy jewelry companies. He is working on making that happen and has had discussions with private equity firms, which have included scenarios where he is an advisor, operating partner or an investment partner.
In the meantime, he’s involved in two entrepreneurial ventures – the startup of an innovative type of earring product and the sale of a turquoise jewelry collection for a private collector.
He continues to stay involved in Birks as vice chairman. “It’s purely an advisory position,” he said. “It allows me an opportunity to stay in touch with the industry and provide guidance when needed.” From time to time – once or twice a quarter — Andruskevich said he will share his observations or ideas with the CEO. “I try to give him the benefit of my experience and insight.”
Like most retired CEOs, Andruskevich has become a corporate director on additional boards, something he would like to increase. He says he has been selective, looking for boards where he enjoys the other directors and feels he can add value. That’s the case in his role as an independent director of Cole Credit Property Trust III (a non-traded REIT), where he sits on the audit committee and a special committee involved in a merger/sale of the REIT. “It’s taken up a tremendous amount of time trying to ascertain what the best thing is from fiduciary duty standpoint for company and stock holders.”
Retirement has been an adjustment, admits Andruskevich. Almost immediately after leaving his job, Andruskevich was tapped for a committee at Jewelers of America charged with finding a new CEO. That time-consuming search wrapped up in the summer of 2012.
“Initially, I think I subconsciously may have been filling my day with different projects and initiatives as a way of not having to deal with thought of not having anything to do. I loaded my plate with so many things to fill my time.”
Now, he said he’s more laid back about his schedule, even trying to add in more golf and travel to the West Coast. “Now when I do something, it’s something I have chosen to do.”