Right after Jigsaw got bought I got a call from a private equity firm out of Chicago called GTCR. I had never heard of them but took the meeting on instinct. I have found it is a bad idea to blow off money guys as you never know when you’re going to need funding.
Phil Canfield, the Managing Director of GTCR, and one of his partners Mark Anderson came by to see me at the Jigsaw offices. I could see right away that they were good guys. Phil asked me to tell him my “story”, and when he found out that I used to be owner/operator of a ski area (Lookout Pass), he got all excited. He told me he had a little place in Vail and has a gathering of CEOs there every winter. He invited me to go. Of course, I accepted on the spot.
I started getting emails from Phil’s assistant a couple of months before the trip and it looked like there were going to be about eight people going. There weren’t any hotel instructions and I started getting nervous. Specifically, I’m at a point in my life where spooning a fellow CEO in a beer-stained double bed just isn’t my thing. About a week before the trip I chatted with a VC friend and told him about the trip. He told me GTCR is a serious, serious player in the private equity space. He even knew the initials of the four guys who make up GTCR. This calmed my fears about the accommodations and off to Vail I went.
So, I show up at Phil’s “little” ski house. This wasn’t just the nicest ski house I’ve ever been in. It might have been the nicest house I’ve ever been in. It was HUGE, literally right on the slopes, and was absolutely cool in every possible way. My favorite was the “Ready Room”. This room was for getting all your gear on before having to walk a whole twenty feet out to the slopes. The room had a bench full of ski stations – each with its own built in boot warmers. Yes, I said “built in boot warmers”. If this doesn’t impress you then I got nothin’ else.
We had a fantastic two days of skiing. Phil hired two private instructors to give us our own personal tour of Vail and we cranked out at least 25K of vert a day. It was sick and wrong in every possible way. The only real inconvenience was that it was cold. I’m talking minus eight when we first got out on the slopes at 8:30 in the morning. Luckily it warmed up – especially when Phil had us drop into his private lunch club at mid-mountain for what was certainly the schmanciest ski meal I’ve ever eaten.
Speaking of food, Phil had a personal chef named Michelle cook us all our meals at his house. The food, wine and service were outstanding. Michelle is engaged to be married and her fiance is one lucky (and soon to be fat) dude. That woman can cook. Phil would sneak down to his wine cellar on regular occasions and bring back a bottle even more spectacular than the last. Phil got concerned when I informed him that I would be moving in permanently.
Phil gave us a complete tour of the house on the last day. Most impressive was the “server room” that ran the house. He has more rackspace and computing power running that house than we had for the entire Jigsaw operation during our first three years in business. This is what happens when a gadget geek makes too much money.
But seriously, Phil and his two partners who also went on the trip (Mark Anderson and Craig Bondy), were fantastic hosts. And I’m not just saying this because they took me skiing. Maybe it has something to do with being from the Midwest, but these guys were just plain old good- time, low-key, funny-ass dudes. I also have a feeling they’re pretty good businessmen and great partners to CEOs. The other CEOs were also really great guys but I can’t mention their names because they’re all under indictment (kidding).
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and send a big shout-out and thank you to the boys at GTCR. They rule.
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