Winmark CEO John Morgan is playing cards with the ultra-high rollers in Las Vegas this weekend.
Morgan, a good poker player, is in the "Big One for One Drop" at the 43rd Annual World Series of Poker with a bunch of poker pros, business executives and celebrities. The entry fee is $1 million for this round of the three-day contest, some of which will be broadcast on ESPN from the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino.
"There's about $48 million in the pot," Morgan said last week. "The first 10 percent goes to 'One Drop,' a water-related charity. The winner will get $17 million and the top seven will get something. If I win anything, I'll give it to charity."
Morgan, a multi-millionaire through his company and other investments, considers himself a serious poker player who has played in some $100,000 buy-in games.
"I'm serious, but I'm nowhere near the level of these players," he said. "But I'm not afraid of them. My strategy is to get lucky. I'm 71 years old and I've got plenty of money. It's a little show, I'll say that. It's creating a little excitement. And it will be fun."
Matt Arens, a veteran portfolio management at Kopp Investment Advisors, is getting investment industry recognition for strong three-year performance with his "AccruHealth" basket of small-capitalization medical device, diagnostic, health-care IT companies.
The AccruHealth portfolio, open only to those willing to invest at least $100,000, was ranked No. 1 among 179 small-cap growth managers for its one-, two- and three-year performance through March 30, according to PSN/Informa Investment Solutions, an independent ranking service.
Since its September 2008 inception, AccruHealth is up 139 percent compared with 32.5 percent for the Russell 2000 Growth Health Care Index. And eVestment Alliance, another independent rating service, gave AccruHealth top marks for one-year and three-year performance.
Arens, a 15-year industry veteran, also is president of private money manager Kopp Investment. He said the returns of his $25 million portfolio have been bolstered by the acquisition of some of his holdings by larger health care companies. That list includes Minnesota-based Medtox Scientific, American Medical Systems and ATS Medical, which sold for big premiums.
"In the 14 completed quarters of [AccruHealth], we've had 14 acquisitions," Arens said. "The large companies with big market share seem to be doing less research and development and more acquisitions. The small innovators look to be disruptive and change how health care is practiced. That's where you get leapfrog innovation ... and these companies are getting attention and they can be good acquisitions and help get big companies into new markets."
Arens said the 40-company fund was built on the premise that innovation and cost containment will drive the future of health care.
Small-business owners Joel and Lauren Gryniewski have won the Oscar of the greeting card industry from their Minneapolis basement and world headquarters.
Their company, Old Tom Foolery, won in the humor category of the annual LOUIE Awards in New York City this spring. Their winning birthday card, from among 900 entries submitted by 180 stationery companies, is a newspaper-style birthday card featuring the headline: "Candy-Filled Donkey Savagely Beaten at Child's Birthday Party: Suspects Considered 'Sugared-Up and Dangerous.'''
The couple, in their early 30s, have quit their advertising industry jobs to try to turn a part-time avocation that started about five years ago into a business, which now modestly supports them and two part-time employees.
"We're paying ourselves a salary, but certainly not my agency salary," said Joel Gryniewski. "We've got room to grow in that category. But we've had some good things happen on the business front. You get what you put into it."
Gryniewski reports that revenue has risen about 50 percent over last year and that card sales are at a record 55,000 cards ($3.75 at retail). Growth been helped by sales of posters, T-shirts and tote bags. The cards, which are written, designed and printed locally, are available at oldtomfoolery.com and more than 500 gift shops nationwide.
Earl Herzog, a dean of the local advertising business, has retired after 41 years at Campbell Mithun, making him one of the last of one-company guys.
Herzog, 63, who ran the agency's media-buying business for 30 years until 2011, signed on in 1971 for $6,500 a year and when the price of a Super Bowl spot was $72,000 compared with about $3.8 million forecast for next year's Super Bowl.
Herzog said his pay didn't rise at a similar clip, but he made enough to put four kids through college and work with a wealth of people.
"It's been exciting," said Herzog, who will continue to teach at the University of Minnesota. "From 1970 to 2000 it was the growth of cable TV, magazines, newspapers and also ethnic media. With the digital revolution, there's just more and more opportunities ... and then the whole growth of social media and how we capitalize on these forms to build brands. We used to be just 'media buyers.' Now, strategy, development and allocation of money have increased in importance.
"Frankly, when you had three networks, and we were debating whether we could ever support a fourth, it was pretty boring media work."
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 firstname.lastname@example.org