Hall of Fame - Marty Carmody
Marty Carmody was a pillar in the ESOP Community. We have the privilege of awarding him with a posthumous induction into the ESOP advisor Hall of Fame. As a part of this process, we interviewed several people who knew him and admired his work. This article is a compilation of interviews highlighting their memories of him. The first person we spoke with was Jamie Walrack.
Jamie Walrack: About 15 years ago, I had been hired through kind of just the general training program, not really necessarily to go into the Commercial Loan department which Marty, in a sense, ran. After a year, I got into that program and got a chance to meet with Marty during the initial interview process. The interview was going, I think, generally well and then, he asked where I went to school? I said that I went to school at Iowa State, not knowing, at that time, that that's also where Marty's daughter, who was about the same age as me, also went to school.
So, his eyes lit up when he heard that. To this day I’m still fairly certain that was the main reason why he hired me in that interview because I went to the same school as his daughter. That was purely coincidental, I hadn't known that his daughter went there. But yeah, that's kind of where we initially met, was just through that initial interview process and then and then as a result of that, I ended up working for Marty for 14 years.
Interviewer: How was Marty involved in the ESOP group and doing the work?
Jamie Walrack: Marty started the ESOP group at the bank probably 20-plus years ago. It was more of a defensive strategy at the bank. At that time, I think ESOPs were still pretty limited in their scope, so it took some convincing not just on the customer side of things but also on the bank side of things. So, I think the first transaction that he got was referred to him by Mary Josephs who, at the time, worked for LaSalle Bank because it was a deal that was too small, that LaSalle wouldn't do. Everything just kind of snowballed from there, do a couple of different transactions, you meet a few different professionals, you keep going to the conferences, and it just kind of built from there. And it was really a pretty substantial practice that Marty built essentially from scratch – more so a way not to lose customers -- and then ended up being a wonderful source for adding businesses throughout the US and all sorts of different industries that we, otherwise, would have had really no chance of getting in front of. So, obviously, that was a significant undertaking at the bank.
The other side of that is we're a pretty conservative bank by nature, we have a lot of folks who are very comfortable with traditional ways of banking, and as you know, ESOP is not the most traditional form of lending. So, Marty had a great way of breaking things down and simplifying them to a point where he was able to get a lot of people in the bank, that generally wouldn't be comfortable with a loan without any collateral, to a point where this was a very significant practice for the bank. So, I don't know what I’m more impressed with: the ability to grow a client base nationwide, convince our clients to come on board, or convince some of our management that ESOPs were an okay thing to do. He was somehow able to do both.
Interviewer: Great story. So, you mentioned Mary Josephs, that's great. Who else would you mention that he was helpful with or they helped him?
Jamie Walrack: I know he'd always pointed to Mary as kind of being the queen of these ESOPs, the one who came in and really showed him around. Obviously, all environments are somewhat competitive, but she was taking him around, introducing him to folks and different things there, getting a chance to meet different people in the field because it was a friendly competition. We weren't necessarily competing with Mary on the exact same deals and we were able to help her out in that regard to keep some of their clients or referral sources happy, to be able to get some financing in place.
Marty, obviously, had hung out with a lot of the initial group that got things going, whether that was David Ackerman, Greg Brown... obviously spent a fair amount of time with Rob Schatz, Ken Serwinski, all the different people who've been there for a long period of time-- Betsy Purdue--really hearing how all of them have kind of evolved and started things up. And strange to see where the ESOP conferences are at this point compared to what they must have been in the mid-90s at that point, when they were even more so a niche.
Interviewer: Do you have any stories that you know that you would share that Marty would have a laugh over that you witnessed or were involved in--a funny story about Marty?
Jamie Walrack: Yeah, I was trying to think about that. The one thing that stuck in my mind--so, coming in I hadn't traveled near as much. Marty had status on United, and Hilton, and Marriott and all that stuff, so I would put him in the category of a professional traveler.
One story, I think, that generally embodied that was that we were down visiting with a client who was looking to buy a company down in Odessa, Texas. So, there were no direct flights to Odessa, so you had to fly to Houston and then take a connecting flight out to Odessa. So, on the way back, I had a pretty tight--I had scheduled my own airfare and he had scheduled his own. I had a pretty tight connection from Odessa to Houston and Houston back up to Chicago. I think I maybe had 40 minutes in between there, and if you know anything about the Houston Airport, it's just completely massive. And Marty was looking at my flight and he's like, "There's zero chance that you're going to make that," and he, of course, had booked something that was an hour and a half or two-hour window to give himself some time to be able to casually get there and do whatever he wanted. I, being a general novice, was like, "Well, I can make it. I mean it isn't that big of a deal."
Of course, the flight was a little bit late, so my 45 minutes had shrunk down to maybe 20, 25 minutes by the time I ended up getting off. So, Marty and I exited the plane at the same time, he wished me the best of luck and then I took off carrying two or three bags sprinting across the airport. I ended up getting to the plane on time just kind of as they were closing things up, pretty much everybody else had boarded. I was feeling pretty good about myself but dripping wet and sweat, I was wearing a full suit. It's obviously down in Texas, and just sprinted across the entire airport to get to my connecting flight.
I ended up sitting down, taking this deep breath, just completely drenched from sweat. And then I look up and I see Marty casually walking on the plane and then getting a seat like in economy plus or whatever it was, even though he didn't have a ticket on the flight, even though I guarantee you, he did not run across the airport, and he looked completely casual about the entire way it just kind of embodied the differences between the two of us traveling, how comfortable he was doing it, and me, I feel like I had to work my butt off to get on a flight that I already had a ticket on and he casually strolled across the Houston Airport, got there in about a minute later than I did, and got a better seat.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you'd like to say about Marty?
Jamie Walrack: With his passing here in March (2020) and right in the midst of all this COVID impact and social distancing, and all those things, it just didn't ever feel like his passing got the full attention, I guess, that it deserves and Marty was able to touch a lot of people's lives through banking, through ESOPs, through everything over a long period of time.
So, I think that being able to do something to help remember him is very beneficial because it seemed like, with everything else going on in the world, it kind of got pushed to the back burner for a while. So, with his funeral a week or two ago, I kind of got to see the other side of Marty that I didn't necessarily see all the time--dad, grandpa, that kind of thing and seeing his granddaughters and some of the pictures that was... yeah, just seeing that side that you didn't obviously see day to day coming into work.
Interviewer: He was fighting cancer, wasn't he?
Jamie Walrack: Correct. It was a five-year battle that he was pretty intense the last year and a half.
Interviewer: Thank you Jamie.
And now, we talk with Robert Schatz, an ESOP attorney in Connecticut.
Interviewer: Rob, thank you for your participation with Marty's induction into the Hall of Fame. How did you meet Marty?
Robert Schatz: I met Marty over 20 years ago and I don't recall exactly how. It might have been at one of the ESOP golf outings we held, or playing golf… It was a number of different points of contact that got us to first call him. Then, of course, our relationship evolved into our representing First American Bank.
Interviewer: Did he help you in your career in any way?
Robert Schatz: Well, yes. Any time you have a good client in an institution such as First American Bank and they hire you to document their transactions as legal counsel to the bank, that creates opportunities, and those opportunities morphed. For the last 25 or 30 years or so, we've represented First American Bank--although my date is unclear--and several of the clients that we documented transactions for the bank hired us to be their legal counsel thereafter, with obviously, the consent of Marty. And Marty's referred into some ticklish situations as well.
But more importantly is I played golf with Marty at least 13 times in Las Vegas. So, he's an incredible man--he was an incredible man.
I know that the people that worked with him, that he trained, went on to work at other banks and do transactions in other fields and even branch out to leave the bank and go into investment banking. So, yeah, he was a mentor to a number of people that went on to have successful careers in the ESOP space.
Interviewer: Do you have any fun stories such as on a golf outing or something just that you and him shared with each other as a story of kindness and appreciation?
Robert Schatz: Well, there are a couple of stories that come to mind. On a personal note, we played golf at an outing--and it's still etched in my mind because we got to a par-3--and of course, Marty at the time, was a Mid-Amateur golf champion, so he was really good. And we got to a par-3 and kiddingly, I said, "Why don't we play closest to the pin?" And of course, he said “yes” and I think we played for a drink or something. And so, he went first and hit his shot six feet from the pin, and I then went and hit my shot three feet from the pin; he made his putt for the birdie and I missed mine.
So, we always had a lot of fun and a lot of good times on the course. And, of course, he was an excellent teacher pointing out several of my weaknesses--which I'm still trying to correct.
I'll give you another great story. We had a client in the early 2000s and we called Marty to come in and finance this transaction-- the initial transaction--where the president was buying out the owner--or had bought out the owner and he was looking for some financing to refinance that debt, but plus that he had additional capital needs.
And they did the transaction and Marty came in with like a $9 million loan--of course, the company didn't have 9 million in collateral, so they were about 3 million short and it's called an airball which means it's uncollateralized on 3 million.
And within two months the client had the ability to buy inventory from--and by "client", a client list--from a competitor, a former competitor who's going out of business. And of course, when you've fully extended a loan, it's very difficult to get additional money. But he called Marty and Marty said, "You know, I like you, I trust you and you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound, we'll give you the extra money you need to buy the client list in the inventory." That's the kind of guy Marty was, if you were a client of his, he did not abandon you, he worked with you as much as he possibly could. And that was the type of lender he was; I call it "old school" and he was really good at it.
Interviewer: Rob, that's great. And thank you very much for spending some time with us to share stories about Marty.
Now, we talk with Greg Brown to get more insight into the life and work of Marty Carmody.
Interviewer: How did you and Marty first meet Greg?
Greg Brown: I first met Marty at an ESOP Association meeting, I believe it was in Washington DC and then you know continued to see him at state chapter meetings once we formed a state chapter here in Illinois, and then he became a client--his company, First American Bank became a client. We worked with him on ESOP transactions all over the country. Some where we represented the bank, some where they were funding the bank and we represented another party like the trustee, or the plan sponsor, or even the founding selling shareholder.
Interviewer: Give us a sense of who Marty was. What stories can you tell us about him?
Greg Brown: Marty was a guy with a real sense of humor and a real sense of humility, but he was a fun guy to be around. He didn't drink alcohol at all which was his own business, but he was also a tremendous golfer, he had been a golfer in college--I believe at Jacksonville University. He continued to play quite a bit--and I’ve played some rounds with him and there was one round where he and I, and Michael Cress, and Marilyn were playing in an ESOP Association outing. And we got to a very, very difficult par-3 hole and Michael had taken and hit a tremendous shot about two or three feet away but it was a downhill, sidehill putt.
And we all tried and we all missed, and Marilyn went last--kind of laughing like, "No way I'll make it." And Marilyn made the putt. So, we got the birdie in and Marty just went up and hugged her and started jumping up and down like it was the most important thing in the world. But that was Marty. Yeah, he made Marilyn feel great that she'd made that putt. And that's the kind of guy he was.
Interviewer: What can you tell us about Marty’s time in the army?
Greg Brown: I only found out about all that when I read his obituary. He never wore any of that on his sleeve. It was a surprise to me--it wasn't a shock and the more I thought about it, "Yeah, why wouldn't he have been?" But it was not something that he talked a lot about. He was somewhat of a self-effacing guy. We didn't hear that sort of thing from him, he was more interested in what everyone else was doing and thinking than self-promotion.
Interviewer: What would you like to say about Marty as a person and as a colleague in the ESOP world?
Greg Brown: Well, I think the two are inseparable. What I’d say is he was, if not the best, he was one of the best human beings in the ESOP microcosm. He was generous and decent, always trying to help people, never doing anything that wasn't positively-oriented--and he really cared about all his colleagues. He cared about all the bank customers, and he worked very hard to get things done and to help people in the community in whatever way he could. I never heard anyone in the community say a bad thing about him--and there's a reason for that, there really wasn't anything bad to say about him.
Interviewer: Do you know how he got into the ESOP world?
Greg Brown: I think it was through one of his customers who came to him and said, "We're thinking about an ESOP, you're our bank, can you help us out?" I think Marty quickly learned as much as he could, I think he got some information from the ESOP Association of the National Center for Employee Ownership, he asked around about people in the community that he could talk to, and he figured out that yeah, his bank could definitely help his customer out and that's how he got going. So, he got connected to the organizations and the people.
Interviewer: Thank you for sharing your memories of Marty with us Greg.
We are forever thankful for the work that Marty did to pave the way for so many in the ESOP community and for the friendship that he freely shared with us. He will be missed.