K enneth S. Frieze became CEO of Gordon Brothers on October 1. As president of Gordon Brothers Group, Ken oversaw Gordon Brothers Group’s North American retail,
commercial & industrial, real estate and brand businesses. He also serves on the board
of Gordon Brothers Group. Ken joined the ;rm in 2003 and led the valuation, brand and
business development groups at various times until being promoted to President. During
that tenure, he oversaw more than $100 billion of appraisals and was part of the core team
driving the Polaroid and Sharper Image transactions, among other brand acquisitions. Prior
to joining Gordon Brothers Group, he was CEO of RetailExchange.com, a management consultant
with Bain & Company and a turnaround consultant with The Recovery Group. Ken currently
serves on the Polaroid board, is a former board member of The Sharper Image and served on
the board of the Turnaround Management Association for six years. He holds a BA from
Lehigh University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Ken
recently sat down with Michele Ocejo of The Secured Lender to discuss his priorities in his new
position, the reasons for Gordon Brothers’ staying power and his predictions for the industry.
Can you describe the evolution of your
career before joining Gordon Brothers
I actually grew up with my father, grandfather and great grandfather in the business.
It has always been a part of my history and
background. Just to connect the dots, I am
the fourth generation Gordon. My grandmother, Bernice Gordon, married Phil Frieze,
and that’s how the name changed from
Gordon to Frieze. Now we are all Friezes,
but Gordon is in our blood.
In college I worked over the summers for
one of the divisions called Jewelry Promotions, Inc. which ran the jewelry concessions inside Filene’s Basement. That was
back in the 1980s. After graduating from Lehigh University, I went into the turnaround
industry, working for The Recovery Group,
now part of Deloitte CRG. Then, just before
going to business school, I returned to the
Retail Division of Gordon Brothers for a year
working on retail dispositions.
I joined Bain & Company as a management consultant after graduating from
Wharton in 1995. Given my prior retail
experience at Gordon Brothers and TRG, I
was assigned a number of retail clients at
Bain, including Staples and Bob’s Stores.
I picked up some terrific strategic skills
during my time at Bain that I still use to this
day. In 1999, I returned to Gordon Brothers.
Not long after that we started a B2B marketplace for excess consumer products. At the
tender age of 29, I became CEO of RetailExchange.com, which was backed by Gordon
Brothers and funded by $50 million from a
group of venture capital funds. Ultimately,
we sold the company back to Gordon Brothers in 2002 and merged it into what is now
called our Commercial & Industrial Division.
In 2003 I returned to Gordon Brothers
to lead the Valuation & Advisory Services
group. Since then, I have rotated through
different roles and divisions at Gordon
Brothers, most recently serving as President
of the Company.
Turnaround and restructuring has been
an undercurrent throughout my entire
working life. However, my interest in this
industry is not just simply due to my history
or legacy. I love what I do. We have the opportunity to extend the life of companies,
save jobs and recycle assets into their highest and best use. Every day it’s a different
deal and it’s an exciting place to be. Beyond
the family heritage, I have great personal
job satisfaction. It’s very rewarding.
What will your goals and priorities be as
the new CEO?
First, I want to recognize that this company
has been around since 1903, 111 years, so a
top priority is to continue the legacy of integrity and excellence that was established
by my great-grandfather, J.B. Gordon, our
founder. That’s something very special and
unique in the business world and especially
in our industry. We live and die by our reputation, so upholding that by putting our
clients first is our number one priority. If we
do what’s best for them, the rest will follow.
That has always been the case.
While our brand and current platform is
one of the strongest in the industry today,