Winmark CEO keeps cool in poker tourney

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John Morgan, CEO Winmark Corp

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Twin Cities businessman John Morgan was eliminated on the second of three days of last week's World Series of Poker celebrity tournament that sponsors said was the richest ever by virtue of the $1 million entry fee by 48 professionals, affluent businesspeople and philanthropists.

But Morgan made a huge splash in the "One Drop" tourney on Monday when he bested a Russian businessman and poker player named Mikhail Smirnov in a game that the WSOP.com website story dubbed "the greatest fold in poker history, or the worst tournament blunder of all time."

In short, Smirnov, who bet 700,000 chips, folded while holding four eights -- a "monster" hand -- following lengthy contemplation after Morgan went "all in" behind his unknown hand and raised him 3.4 million in chips. Morgan threw his cards face down into the pile and refused to say whether he had enough to beat Smirnov or if the Russian had met his bet, "out of respect for my opponent."

Morgan was credited by WSOP.com for playing his mystery hand "perfectly," and his postgame performance was nothing short of "class."

Morgan, who finished the Las Vegas tournament out of the money, was critical of his play after the Smirnov stunner. He said the experience was "fun" and was grateful that One Drop, a global water charity, received 10 percent of the initial proceeds put up by the players. Several winners made additional donations to that or other charities.

"I'm not quitting poker, but I hope they don't do this next year, so I'm not tempted," Morgan said on Thursday, a million bucks lighter in the wallet. "I survived. I'm back at work."

Morgan is CEO and the single-largest shareholder in Winmark, franchiser of Play It Again Sports and other retailers.

ANDERSEN REPORT CARD

Bayport-based Andersen Corp., a huge player in the window-and-door trade that employs 4,000 Minnesotans, takes environmental impact seriously, because it makes economic sense.

In its inaugural sustainability report, Andersen says it has made $3 million in repeatable energy savings over the past five years thanks to energy-reduction projects, technology investments and behavioral changes, including a five-year-old heating-and-cooling steam plant at its Bayport manufacturing facility that is fueled by sawdust -- once considered a waste product. Andersen has cut overall energy usage by about 20 percent, not counting on-campus bicycles and gardens.

"The [report] is about transparency and accountability," said Jim Weglewski , director of corporate quality and sustainability. "It measures our progress as a company and challenges us to continue to do more each year. If you take a look at our company history, it's clear that sustainability is ... in our DNA."

Andersen also makes very energy-efficient building products. That includes its line of Fibrex material that's made of reclaimed wood fiber and a special "thermoplastic polymer," some of which is reclaimed, providing the stability of wood with the low-maintenance quality of vinyl.

Andersen says that its Bayport manufacturing process results in only 1 percent waste. Less energy use and waste means less pollution and more profits.

CONSERVATION PAYS OFF

Investing in being a "greener" outfit is a conservative notion. Minnesota's Conservation Improvement Program is proving to be an environmental and financial success, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. State electric and natural gas utilities achieved substantial energy savings through CIP-related programs in 2009 and 2010, which should save Minnesota rate payers an estimated $2.6 billion over the average 15-year life of the measures and prevent a projected 25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in Minnesota.

"Utility conservation programs help Minnesotans save energy, save money, reduce pollution, avoid the need for costly new energy infrastructure, and create jobs for companies that offer energy-efficient solutions," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman in a statement.

The 2007 Next Generation Energy Act, signed into law by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, established an energy-savings goal of 1.5 percent of average retail sales for electric and gas utilities beginning in 2010. Those utilities, except for the smallest municipal gas utilities that were exempted, invested more in conservation programs than expected. Related electricity savings increased by 34 percent from 2009 to 2010 and gas savings jumped 41 percent.

The report also shows that in 2009 and 2010, Minnesota's electric utilities implemented conservation measures that resulted in annual savings of more than 1.6 million megawatt-hours, or enough juice to power 140,000 homes for a year.

SHORT TAKES

Nancy Sutley, President Obama's principal environmental adviser, was in town last week to meet with wind-energy businesspeople and politicians who have advocated for extension of the federal wind energy tax credit that has helped drive the growth of the industry. The business folks at a related event included Mark Ahlstrom, CEO of St. Paul-based WindLogics, a forecasting company, and Tim Maag of Mortenson Construction, a big builder of wind farms based in Golden Valley.

About 3 percent of U.S. electricity was generated by wind last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The numbers are bigger in the spacious Midwest, where Minnesota got 13 percent of its juice from the wind and South Dakota and North Dakota got 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Iowa, another leader, got 19 percent. U.S. wind power capacity, which has gotten markedly cheaper and more efficient over the last decade, grew 31 percent in 2011, accounting for 35 percent of all new electricity-generation capacity.

Mankato is the 11th best "for business and careers," according to the annual Forbes ranking of metro areas of fewer than 250,000 people. The Mankato area, including Blue Earth and Nicollet counties for this purpose, was ranked 25th last year. Forbes considers 12 metrics, including job and income growth over five years, educational attainment and projected economic growth, as well as crime rates, cultural and recreational opportunities and migration patterns. The area boasts Minnesota State University, Gustavus Adolphus College and other colleges and technical schools, which also figure in the equation. Said Jonathan Zierdt of Greater Mankato Growth: "Businesses need talented employees to be successful, and employees want to be in a place where they can achieve career success."

•Consultant Sam Richter's book, "Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling," has been named sales book of the year by the 1,500-company American Association of Inside Sales Professionals. The book focuses on sales intelligence and using search engines such as Google, hidden websites not typically indexed by search engines, social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and even the public library for insights on people and organizations to help improve sales.

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