Interview Christopher R. King
Christopher R. King, a Beverly Hills, California based 36-year-old self-made millionaire entrepreneur, never went to business school or college and doesn’t even have a high school diploma; yet this feisty investor created his first company when he was 17 years old and by the time he was 26 had made his first million dollars. Since then, King has created Cruzach, Inc, a holding company worth multiple millions of dollars and encompassing nine companies in industries including films, pharmaceuticals, and a partnership with Robert Mondavi, Jr for a wine that retails at US $800 per bottle. King is known for taking calculated, carefully planned risks resulting in greater earnings for those companies and industries in which he invests. In 2008 during the economic crash, King lost his fortune. His response was to move from Atlanta to Los Angeles and reinvent himself. King is involved with many philanthropic endeavors including working with inner city youth and supporting international foundations such as amfAR. He is an avid arts patron, is on the Board of Directors of the Art of Elysium, and is presently the subject of a book about his life, written by famous Scottish author Kenny Kemp. We caught up with him in Los Angeles, between trips.
INTERVIEW: CHRIS KING
Q: You dropped out of school at 17 years old and started your own landscaping company. Only six months later, you landed your first client, a fitness club, but you didn’t have the money up front for supplies so the deal fell apart. What did you learn from that?
A: One of the biggest things that I learned was reading the fine print in contracts.
Q: You next entered the music industry, became highly successful, and then decided you wanted a business in which you didn’t have to rely on other people. So you moved to Atlanta and pursed a career in real estate?
A: Yes. The thing I loved about real estate was it was cards face up and I felt the real estate business would allow me to work more like nine to five. I was approaching my 30s and I wanted to establish a very large corporation that would allow me a stable foundation for my future.
Q: I understand you flipped your first house seven weeks after buying it and made a profit of $70,000?
Q: In 2007 when you were 26 you became a millionaire and then came the real estate crash. What happened?
A: I lost everything. I basically took my last dollar and moved to LA to reinvent myself.
Q: And as what did you plan to reinvent yourself?
A: I didn’t know. I just knew I needed to be in a city that would bounce back fast, New York or Los Angeles. I chose Los Angeles: the weather was warm, there were palm trees, so I made the move even though I had no idea what I was going to do.
Q: In 2009 you founded Monarch Medical Group in LA. Was that your first business there?
A: It was not my first, but it was one of my brightest. I still own and operate it and continue to expand it on a day-to-day basis.
Q: And then what?
A: I started building other business and making smart investments in art and real estate and doing deals to accumulate wealth. I wanted to have a company under which I could diversify and build and umbrella of companies to hopefully one day leave to my children. I created Cruzach Inc, named after my two sons Cruz and Zachary. Cruzach is all the companies I own including my newest venture, Zurc Pharmaceuticals, which will develop, research and create drugs throughout the country.
Q: You have said that the biggest deals are still to come. What do you have in mind?
A: I haven’t made the billionaire list on Forbes yet so I definitely need to get that going. Money is on my mind but it is never in my heart; for me, it’s the excitement of building something and seeing how big you can go. There are things I want to do to change this world just as Steve Jobs or Elon Musk or Richard Branson have done. I want to be able to help more and I want to be able to set my family up in a way that will allow them to do anything they choose to do in life and not have to make decisions based on money.
Q: You collect cars. You own a 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead, a 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish, a 2014 Ferrari 458, a 2014 Maserati GranTurismo, a 2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost, a 2013 Cadillac Escalade Platinum and a 2014 Custom Rolls-Royce Phantom Sedan. What is it about these cars that you love so much – or is this part of your insistence that you don’t want all your eggs in one basket?
A: Cars are definitely not an investment. To me, cars should never be talked about as an investment. Cars are the joy of life. I also believe that you should be able to have the very best of anything you want. When you get into luxurious things such as cars and planes, it’s exciting and makes you want to work hard.
Q: Do you fly private exclusively?
A: I fly probably 95% private.
Q: And you’ve taken 50 private flights just this last year?
A: Probably more than that. I was on 13 private flights just last month.
Q: What percentage of your flights would you say are personal and what percentage are business flights?
A: Everything I do is business, my whole life is consumed by my businesses and I love everything that I do. I recently chartered a brand new G450 to go to Aspen with my family.
Q: How does flying privately save you time?
A: If I have to rush to try to make a commercial flight, there are time constraints on when flights leave and return. Flying privately, I get everything I need to get done and can still be home in time for dinner.
Q: Do you charter or use fractional ownership or jet cards or do you just hitch rides with friends?
A: No I definitely don’t hitch rides, but friends hitch rides with me. I don’t think I have ever actually hitched a ride with anybody – that’s going to go on my bucket list. I need to get better friends! I use a charter company, Michael Babil with BJETS, with whom I am extremely comfortable.
Q: Which FBO’s do you frequently fly from?
A: Living in Beverly Hills, I always use Van Nuys. Some of my favourites to fly into are Teterboro ( New Jersey), Toussus-le-Boble (France) and of course, Aspen (Colorado).
Q: Do you pick the FBO you want to use at the departure and destination airports or do you leave that to the operator?
A: I always choose them unless they have a suggestion due to weather or an issue I am unaware of.
Q: Has your private flying changed in the last year compared with the year before?
A: Yes, I’m doing 300% more flights.
Q: What about next year? How do you think it will change?
A: I think it’s going to get even bigger and if I continue to expand internationally, I think it’s going to be time to buy a plane.
Q: What would you buy?
A: I’m a big fan of Gulfstream. I find it to be the most comfortable plane to fly. I’m 6 foot 2 so I can’t stand up in most cabins and I really enjoy the cabin height along with the safety rating on these planes. They are by far one of my favourites and I charter them frequently. But if I was going to be given a gift and I had to choose between a G450 or a Global Express, I’d pick the Global Express every day and twice on Sundays.
Q: If you were to buy your own plane, would you have it managed by an aircraft management company?
A: Yes, it makes perfect sense to do that. Let the people who are good at what they do handle that. This would also allow for supreme maintenance and upkeep.
Q: If you owned, would you put the plan out to charter with that company?
A: Yes, but I would be very selective.
Q: Which aircraft do you use now?
A: Depends on the trip, to get around California I usually use Hawker 800XP, G200, or a Lear 60 if flying alone. For all trips over two hours I use a Challenger 604, 300 or the Gulfstream IV, 440 or 550.
Q: How much thought have you given to catering on flights, specifying requirements, as opposed to leaving it to the operator?
A: I am very selective when it comes to eating. If time permits, I will usually have my personal chef prepare something and have him deliver to the aircraft. I have also ordered my own meals through Nobu or Mastro’s and had it delivered. Otherwise, I just insist on specific foods and keep it organic and grass fed. I will only drink from Acqua Panna water from glass bottles.
Q: What type of engine do you like your aircraft to have?
A: Rolls-Royce, of course!
Q: You also collect fine wines?
A: I’ve been told I have wines that would make Bacchus jealous. I had a red obsession it became an addiction not because of the alcohol, but an addiction to learn that every bottle that I opened up was a different year, different vintage in a different part of the country. I’ve enjoyed some of the finest wines in the world. I have wines that I drink and wines that I collect. My Philosophy is you buy a case, you drink six and you store six. We are expanding on King of Clubs in 2015 and in 2016 into champagne and other brands under the King of Clubs entity, a project I developed along with winemaker Robert Mondavi, Jr and restauranteur Justin Anthony.
Q: What’s the most significant bottle you’ve collected?
A: I own some DRC, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which averages about $10,000 a bottle. I also own a lot of Petrus and a lot of old Bordeaux Chåteau Lafite Rothschild.
Q: You collect fine watches. How many would you say you have?
A: I had about 25 watches but I just got rid of some because I wasn’t wearing them. I think I probably have 11 or 12.
Q: What’s your most precious watch?
A: A Greubel Forsey, considered one of the most expensive watches in the world. The average Greubel starts at about $350,000. My other favourite is a special Hublot diamond Tourbillon watch worth $170,000 that I purchased from a friend of mine, Rick, who is an owner in Hublot.
Q: What makes you so good in business?
A: You have to be passionate about what you are doing. If you are not excited to do something, there’s no sense in doing it at all. I consider myself a successful businessman because I pay extreme attention to detail and I work really, really hard!
Q: You support many charities and you’re on the Board of Directors of Art of Elysium?
A: Children are a huge passion for me and I wanted to see my money put to good use. And if I am able to help bring smiles or make dreams come true or provide hope to them, to me that’s a no-brainer. I am extremely excited to be part of the Art of Elysium.
Q: I hear you are launching a company soon that will have offices in both Dubai and London?
A : I find Dubai and London two of the most fascinating cities. I always wanted an office in London, and I think what’s going on Dubai is incredible, it’s such a growing city, and it’s phenomenal what they’ve done. In 2003 it was just a big sand dune and now it’s just this huge city with one of the tallest buildings in the world. My objective is to put offices in London and Dubai and in China so that I can expand my love for traveling in international business outside of the wine is US-based. I want something where I can really get out and visit more and interact and build relationships in business with people in other countries.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
A: I would want to be known as a great father, a great friend and I would want people to know what I had vision and determination to go for boundaries that others didn’t want to go. I would like for people to say that this man has really inspired people and has allowed more people to believe in themselves and realize that you can achieve anything in this world that you want to.