Celebrating the Pinnacle
Welcome to the inaugural Apogee Awards, a tribute to the success of twenty-four C-level executives throughout South Florida.
The region has many business awards programs, but this one is unique. Rather than having an awards program for each position, such as a CEO awards program one month and a CFO awards program another month, we thought it would be great to bring in the C-suite for our awards program, which was held on Nov. 6 at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.
For example, this allowed the chairman of one company to meet and network with a chief marketing officer from another company or the top HR executive of one company to meet the CEO of another company.
We think there is a huge benefit in allowing these savvy, driven achievers to be able to share important experiences, challenges and lessons learned. South Florida has a broad geographic sweep, so it is rare to have this group all in one place at one time.
How did we get to twenty-four honorees? It’s simple math: Eight categories and one honoree in each county per category.
To get our nominations, we sent emails and did outreach throughout the South Florida business community. Our editorial staff did substantial research to help vet the quality and achievements of our honorees.
One of the things we like about the Apogee Awards is that it gives widespread public recognition to positions that often play key behind-the-scenes roles in the success of a business. Chief operating officers and chief marketing officers, for example, can be incredible drivers in the success of a business, but often are not highly visible public faces.
All of this would not be possible without our sponsors. Special thanks goes to presenting sponsor Mitch Kramer and his Octagon Family of Recruiting Companies (including its divisons of Octagon Technology Staffing and Octagon Professional Recruiting).
We would also like to thank our additional sponsors, BankUnited, Index and DataFile, Coral Gables Trust and the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale.
Top Business Event
Eight honoree categories. Three counties. Twenty-four total honorees representing a “who’s who” of the most accomplished business executives in South Florida! What an exciting event – the 1st Annual Apogee Awards, presented by the Octagon Family of Recruiting Companies in partnership with Lifestyle Media Group and its magazine, South Florida Business & Wealth (SFBW). An octagon has eight sides to it and the Apogee Awards is honoring eight in each county. What makes this event so special? Most of the events that I have gone to over the years in South Florida have recognized one category by itself and I think that is great, but when SFBW Chairman and CEO Gary Press and I sat down and started discussing what Corporate America is really about these days, we felt the collaboration of all the C-suite executives being recognized in one function was a powerful statement of how closely departments are working together these days and how critical it is for Finance, Information Technology, Human Resources, Operations, Marketing, along with the offices of the President, CEO, COO, and Chairman to work hand-in-hand to run their companies effectively and with the highest level of success.
The match between Lifestyle Media Group and the Octagon Family of Recruiting Companies (including its divisions Octagon Professional Recruiting and Octagon Technology Staffing) couldn’t make more sense to me. SFBW is an entrepreneurial magazine targeting the South Florida business community with a circulation unmatched by its competitors. Octagon is an entrepreneurial, explosively growing professional recruiting firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Miami-Dade, and Boca Raton. SFBW shares cutting-edge information on all types of interesting people and topics in the community. Octagon connects the top-talent in the marketplace with those same companies, specializing in the areas of accounting/finance, technology, human resources, and general search.
On behalf of the entire Octagon family, I am both proud and humbled to have attended this event with such a remarkable group of honorees, many of whom I already know. I would like to personally congratulate each and every honoree for being selected by the editorial panel of SFBW. 2014 marks the first of many years of partnership with SFBW and I want to thank the SFBW team for making this a wonderful experience for us!
Mitch Kramer, CEO of Octagon
The Honorees are:
Chief Executive Officer
Fortune International Group
Edgardo Defortuna founded Fortune International Group in 1983 and has grown the company to become a full-service real estate firm recognized throughout South Florida, Latin America and Europe as a leader in high-end luxury real estate.
The firm has sold luxury condominiums across South Florida’s best neighborhoods, including Brickell Avenue, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Aventura and Sunny Isles Beach. The firm has a presence in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and his homeland, Argentina.
Defortuna is expanding Fortune’s presence into Europe, with initial focus on such markets as Spain, Britain, France and Russia. He is widely recognized for making a significant contribution to the internationalization of Miami and its reputation as a global business, trade and vacation hub.
Defortuna is a member of the Mayor of Miami’s International Council and serves as president of the Argentine-U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Miami.
Dave Seleski founded Stonegate in 2005 and has made it one of the fastest-growing banks in Florida with offices in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Collier, Lee and Hillsborough counties. With the recent acquisition of the Community Bank of Broward, Stonegate Bank grew to 17 branches and offices statewide with $2.2 billion in assets. The acquisition made it the 10th largest bank in Florida.
In 2002, Seleski was named president/CEO of the Southeast Florida division of Florida Bank until its sale in July 2004. He previously served as regional manager of private banking for SouthTrust, where he started the private banking division.
He served as a commercial lender for Enterprise National Bank in Palm Beach Gardens and began his banking career in 1989 with Southeast Bank in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
He is on the board of the Florida Bankers Association, Broward County American Red Cross, and the Community Bank Advisory Board for the FDIC.
Palm Beach County
Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Inc.
The name Jerry Fedele is synonymous with South Florida healthcare innovation. He has more than 25 years experience as a healthcare lawyer, law professor, and CEO in academic and regional health care systems.
Over the last 15 years, he has focused on restructuring and improving financially challenged hospitals, and he has been credited with saving a major academic hospital and three community hospital affiliates from the largest health-care bankruptcy in U.S. history.
He oversaw the effort to improve operations by $60 million over 18 months at Boca Raton Regional, which changed its name from “Community” to “Regional” hospital to better reflect its mission. The hospital has garnered record levels of philanthropic support and has clinical programs in cardiac care, vascular surgery, oncology, neurosciences, women’s care, advanced robotic surgery, and graduate education programs in medicine and surgery.
The Related Group
Condo Development Division
Carlos Rosso has been a key figure behind the region’s surge in condominium development since joining The Related Group in 2002. Rosso was recruited for his depth of experience in construction, project financing, land acquisition, sales and marketing to direct all aspects of residential development in Florida, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Uruguay.
Throughout his career, Rosso has developed more than 20 properties with more than 6,000 units.
He has worked as vice president of real estate development for Investment Properties in Boston and spent 10 years as project director for Besix International, overseeing the development and construction of more than 10 million square feet of multi-family, hotel and office buildings in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
William R. Laurie
American Heritage School
William R. Laurie, M.Ed., has made education his life’s calling. As a child, he struggled with dyslexia and hyperactivity, which later served as inspiration to build schools for children with learning differences.
In 1952, a former elementary school teacher asked Laurie to teach fourth grade. He enrolled in a master’s degree program in reading, learning disabilities, administration and supervision at the University of Florida. While working on his degree, he became an elementary school principal. After serving in the Korean War, he moved to Fort Lauderdale and was named principal of Broward County’s first school for children with mild learning differences. In 1971, he opened American Heritage School in Fort Lauderdale and in 1972 he opened a school in Hollywood. In 1982, he merged the two into American Heritage’s 40-acre location in Plantation. He has since opened a 40-acre campus in Delray Beach. American Heritage is the largest private prep school in Florida with 2,400 students.
Palm Beach County
Greenspoon Marder Law
William Berger is one of South Florida’s most seasoned and successful attorney and litigator. With almost 40 years of experience and relationships, Berger now focuses his efforts on the growth and development of a firm that has more than tripled in size in less than 10 years. He is managing shareholder for the firm’s three Palm Beach County offices and is co-chair of the litigation department.
Berger calls himself “a businessman who practices law.” He has become an invaluable consultant and trusted advisor to his clients, which include banks, insurance companies, real estate developers and country clubs.
Berger’s role as a community leader includes his work with economic development organizations and community and charitable groups. President Obama honored Berger in 2010 with the President’s Call to Service Award – the highest honor awarded by the President’s office for extensive service to the community.
John Kanas isn’t known just in South Florida as a leading banker. Last year, Crain’s New York Business named him “The city’s most successful community banker over the past 30 years.”
At 29, he was named one of the country’s youngest bank CEOs when he took the helm at North Fork Bank in his native Long Island. He led the bank to an IPO and inclusion in the S&P 500 Index – and ultimately its position as the 16th largest bank in the U.S. In 2006, he sold North Fork Bank to Capital One for more than 400 percent of its tangible book value.
He later led a group in the $940 million acquisition of a failed thrift, beginning a transformation of Miami Lakes-based BankUnited. In 2011, he took BankUnited public. In 2013, BankUnited N.A. opened its first branches in New York and by year’s end it had $15 billion in assets and 105 locations in Florida and New York.
The John and Elaine Kanas Family Foundation recently made a $1 million gift to United Way of Miami-Dade County.
Keiser University Southeastern College
A higher education leader of 35 years, Arthur Keiser heads a private, not-for-profit academic institution comprised of 26 campuses in Florida and the Southeast U.S., with some 20,000 students and more than 3,500 staff.
He was appointed to the Florida State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities and the State Board of Independent Postsecondary, Vocational, Technical, Trade and Business Schools. He has served as president of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges.
Keiser is serving his second term on the board of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. He serves as chairman of Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU).
Belinda and Arthur Keiser also established the Keiser Mills Foundation to provide educational, leadership and professional experiences in the areas of international, entrepreneurial, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and health care.
Palm Beach County
Steven E. Bernstein
SBA Communications Corporation
Steven E. Bernstein sensed opportunity was in the air when he founded SBA Communications in 1989. He had been with McCaw Cellular Communications, where he helped develop the initial cellular system and sales system in Pittsburgh.
He founded SBA to develop, build and acquire cell phone towers. Today, the company owns approximately 22,000 towers throughout the U.S., Brazil, Central America and Canada. It has a market cap of approximately $14 billion.
SBAC has made the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies four years in a row and the Forbes 100 Most Innovative Companies worldwide. Both the Personal Communications Industry Association and Bernstein’s alma mater, the University of Florida, named him as Entrepreneur of the Year.
He is a visiting professor at Lynn University and serves on the board of Home Safe, Love Thy Neighbor, Spanish River High School Foundation and the Steven Bernstein Family Foundation.
Chief Operating Officer
Nannette M. Zapata
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Inc.
Since being named COO with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Nannette M. Zapata has had a vision. Not only did she want to grow its stature, she hoped to make it a place of holistic beauty.
She’s done both.
Zapata joined Fairchild in 2002 and has developed and implemented a series of visionary initiatives at the 85-acre gardens that celebrates orchids, chocolate and tropical fruit. Membership is up 500 percent and the additional revenue increased financial support for the garden’s horticultural, scientific, cultural and educational programs.
She has overseen the design and construction of the Science Village Complex and Wings of the Tropics Exhibit and the Arts Building. Zapata also established Fairchild as a showcase for art that compliments the garden’s natural ambiance and vistas. Artists have include Botero, Chihuly, di Suvero, Kusama and Lichtenstein.
Hands-on, experienced and driven, Steve Palmer has spent more than three decades with Stiles. Hired as an estimator in 1979, he has since held such positions as project manager, construction manager, vice president and then president of Stiles Construction Co., before assuming his current role as COO in 1994.
During his tenure, Stiles Construction Co. acquired major contracts for design/build assignments, independent contracting jobs and development projects currently totaling more than $1 billion. “He keeps expanding his scope, taking on the next big challenge,” said Stiles Chairman and CEO Terry Stiles when Palmer was inducted into the M.E. Rinker Sr. School of Building Construction Hall of Fame at the University of Florida.
He has recieved awards such as “Citizen of the Year” from the Building and Office Managers Association, “Crystal Butterfly” from Kids in Distress, and “Spirit of Broward” from the Broward Economic Development Council.
Palm Beach County
St. Mary’s Medical Center
Bulfin has spent three decades at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, beginning in 1980 as an RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was named chief nursing officer in 2005.
Bulfin oversees hospital operations of both clinical and non-clinical departments. Her background of clinical and operational knowledge, and history of working strategically with physicians, has helped solidify her important role. This will only become more important as she is actively involved in guiding the hospital through an increasingly challenging healthcare environment.
In 2009, Bulfin was appointed by the governor to the board of directors for the Florida Center for Nursing. As a member of Tenet’s senior leadership team, Bulfin assisted St. Mary in being awarded the Tenet Circle of Excellence Award for outstanding hospital performance in 2009 and 2011.
Chief Marketing Officer
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
In the 20 years since he joined the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rolando Aedo has aided in the evolution of the Greater Miami brand – and the emergence of the region as a major international destination. He works closely with CVB leadership on all operational aspects, including governmental relations and stakeholder engagement.
Beyond advertising, digital marketing, public relations, travel industry relationships and research, he also oversees the bureau’s partnership program with some 1,000 local industry stakeholders. Among the programs he helped create are the Miami Spice Restaurant Month, Miami Spa Month, the “It’s So Miami” campaign and the “Miami Begins with Me” customer service program.
Aedo recently was named one of the top 25 “extraordinary minds” in sales and marketing by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.
Greenspoon Marder Law
With more than 20 years experience in legal marketing, Lopez oversees all of Greenspoon Marder’s business development and marketing initiatives.
She has extensive experience in all marketing disciplines, including community and public relations, branding, competitive analysis, public speaking, coaching, budget development and management.
She works closely with firm leadership in developing and implementing short- and long-term strategic plans and tactics to deliver measurable business growth and brand awareness for the firm.
She is chair of the steering committee for the United Way of Broward County’s Women’s Leadership Council. In August, she was elected to the board for ARC Broward, which provides services to children and adults with developmental challenges. She serves on the Winterfest Advisory Board and the Winterfest Black Tie Ball Committee.
Palm Beach County
Lenny Chesal has been with Host.net since 2004 and has been responsible for the company’s sales, marketing and business development initiatives, building on 30 years of diversified experience in sales, marketing and executive management.
Chesal is the past chairman of the South Florida Technology Alliance, co-chair of IT Palooza, and sits on the board of the FAU Information Technology Operations Management. He is a member of the Palm Beach State College Business Partnership Council for B.A.S. Degree in Information Management. He is also the inaugural chair of the American Cancer Society-Relay for Life Deerfield Beach/Lighthouse Point/Hillsboro Beach, and is involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Volunteer Leadership Initiative, the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce as a trustee, Workforce Alliance Infotech Workforce Development and Nova Southeastern University’s Graduate School of Computer and Information Science.
Chief Financial Officer
Warren Henry Auto Group
Erik Day oversees multiple dealerships and companies representing leasing, auto parts, rental cars and software. He has been CFO for almost a decade and works closely with the entire management team to provide supporting oversight on both strategic and tactical operational matters involving sales, service and parts.
Day has been in the automotive business for 20 years in the areas of captive finance, manufacturer and retail. He began his career with Ford Motor Credit, and soon was rising in commercial lending for World Omni/SET Finance. He was instrumental in the start-up of the company’s private label business. He was also co-developer in 1996 of Famas Avanti, financial software for the analysis and reporting of automotive dealership data. His later posts include assignments with Jaguar Land Rover North America.
He is on the board for the Florida Automobile Dealer Association.
Jeanne Prayther is a CPA who has built her 25-year career in the building services, technology and consulting industries. Before joining e-Builder in 2014, she was CFO of Prolexic Technologies, where she led a sale of the company to Akamai Technologies for $400 million.
She was previously CFO of Maritime Telecommunications, chief accounting officer of Woodbridge Holdings, vice president and corporate controller of Mastec Inc., and CFO of Daleen Technologies.
Prayther served with KPMG LLP, where she was senior assurance manager, with specialties that included auditing, financial reporting compliance and the design and implementation of financial controls and procedures for privately held and publicly traded clients. Along with being the senior manager of various-sized audit clients, she was involved in many initial public offerings and performed due diligence procedures for acquisitions.
Palm Beach County
ADT Security Services
Michael Geltzeiler is responsible for all aspects of finance, treasury and investor relations financial strategy to help grow business operations and create shareholder value at the residential and business security company, ADT Security Services, which serves 6 million customers in the U.S. and Canada.
Geltzeiler has more than 30 years of financial leadership and investor relations expertise, including extensive capital markets knowledge and experience at companies with subscriber-based revenue models. Before joining ADT in November 2013, he served five years as CFO and Group Executive Vice President at NYSE Euronext.
He held financial leadership roles at ACNielsen Corp. and Dun & Bradstreet.
Geltzeiler serves on the board of trustees for University of Delaware, the Museum of American Finance and the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club.
Chief Information Officer
Alexander Freund has more than 30 years of experience as an IT professional and leads 4IT’s technical, engineering and administrative staff in the delivery of a complete suite of information technology services. This includes an award-winning Help Desk, Network Operations Center (NOC) and an On-Site Field Service team. He also oversees the company’s Palmetto Bay Village Center co-location and hosting facility.
Under his leadership, 4IT became a member of the 2014 Inc. 5000 after experiencing a 77 percent, three-year growth increase. His career started as a process control software engineer with Dow Chemical Corp. He was later hired by Centrust Bank as a senior office automation specialist. In 1989, he formed CompuSol, a software engineering firm. In 2003, he founded 4IT with Ray Mobayed.
In the community, he and 4IT work with the Family Resource Center of South Florida.
Patriot National, Inc.
Throughout her career, Judith Haddad has leveraged her knowledge and skill to improve the insurance industry’s embrace and use of technology. She has been vice president of information technology for NYMAGIC, a New York-based, multi-line insurance carrier, and she held senior executive consulting roles with Blue Cod Technologies and Service Soft Technologies. She also has held various executive and technical management positions with NCCI, CGU Insurance and Hanover Insurance companies.
She was named a member of the IT All-Star team in Tech Decisions magazine in 2011 and was a guest speaker on the topic of iPad technology in the workplace at the 2011 CEB TowerGroup annual conference. In 2013, she was named an Elite 8 recipient, an honor presented by Insurance Technology. At Patriot National, she was awarded a 2014 Impact Award from Novarica for replacement of Patriot’s legacy system.
Palm Beach County
Office Depot Inc.
Todd Hale is responsible for defining Office Depot’s IT architecture, managing and overseeing IT projects and portfolio decisions, planning and developing applications supporting business operations, and ensuring the security of IT systems and processes.
He assumed his current role in December and previously served as the company’s senior vice president and North American CIO. Hale has led a number of transformational initiatives at Office Depot, including deployment of global merchandising, supply chain and e-commerce solutions.
Hale joined Office Depot in 2004 after previously holding IT leadership positions with the Eckerd Corp. He began his career in retail consulting for Procter & Gamble and Walmart.
Senior Human Resources Executive
Tedd Trabert oversees all human resources and operations for The Health Choice family of organizations, which includes Health Choice Network and Health Choice Network of Florida. He works with a national collaboration of 43 nonprofit community health centers in 11 states that reaches more than 800,000 patients.
Trabert also manages human resources and operations for Health Choice Care, an accountable care organization dedicated to improving healthcare for some 17,000 Medicare enrollees. He previously worked with US Airways, Continental Airlines, Home Depot and Jetway Manufacturing.
He mentors aspiring HR professionals each month at the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA), where he is serving his second term as director. He is a member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and is on the Wilton Manors Community Affairs Action Board. Other organizations include Kaboom and The United Way.
Cynthia Fraser is not only a senior human resources executive, but also a business partner with strategic and tactical skills. Peers have lauded Fraser for combining the “rare assets of being a strategic HR partner, driving initiatives that drive results, with being [a] productive, efficient and “calming” HR generalist.”
She is responsible for recruitment, talent management, employee relations and compliance. She has also provided skills training to managers on behavioral-based interviewing and conflict resolution techniques.
As vice president of corporate HR with Burger King Corp., Fraser was awarded “Best In Class” for the company’s career website and received The Burger King CEO Award. As Director of HR Systems she implemented an SAP HR/payroll system and rolled out an employee and manager self-service portal. She most recently was vice president of HR for GL Homes.
Palm Beach County
Office Depot Inc.
From banking to apparel to office supplies, Michael Allison’s career in human resources has taken a varied path. Yet, his work has remained constant: to oversee and advance the role HR plays in the greater organization.
Allison was promoted to executive vice president and chief people officer for Office Depot in December. In his role, Allison is responsible for all global HR functions, including compensation and benefits, talent management, associate relations, organizational development and training, and diversity and inclusion.
Allison first joined Office Depot in 2006 as vice president of human resources and was later named the retailer’s executive vice president of HR. Allison began his career as an attorney specializing in labor and employment law and has worked as executive vice president of HR for Victoria’s Secret Direct, senior VP of HR for Bank One and senior VP and director of HR for National City Bank, both in Dayton, Ohio.