Making a difference

One just had the first IPO this year on the New York Stock Exchange. One assembled sites for some of the most luxurious hotels on Fort Lauderdale’s beach. One takes care of major shipwrecks around the world.

Meet this year’s honorees being inducted into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame at Nova Southeastern University’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship. 

The 2015 honorees are:

” Steven M. Mariano, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Patriot National Inc. (NYSE: PN), which just had the IPO.

” Ramola Motwani, Chairwoman and CEO of hotel and land owner Merrimac Ventures, which is a partner in the new Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, Fort Lauderdale.

” Joseph E. Farrell Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Resolve Marine Group, which specializes in vessel emergency response, ship rescue, salvage, maritime training, naval architecture and marine engineering.

The H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship’s Hall of Fame program, the school’s highest honor, is celebrating its 26th year in 2015.

“I congratulate these exemplary business leaders who will be joining the ranks of an elite group of world class entrepreneurs in our Hall of Fame,” said J. Preston Jones, D.B.A., dean of NSU’s Huizenga Business School. “Each honoree’s story is exceptional and it will be my privilege to share their accomplishments at our awards ceremony in April.”

The invitation only awards program will be held on Wednesday, April 22nd, at the Signature Grand in Davie. SFBW and Lifestyle Media Group are the exclusive media sponsors for the event.Here is more about the honorees and their accomplishments.

Steven M. Mariano

Starting from scratch in 2004, Mariano has grown Patriot National to 750 employees and its launch as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange on Jan. 16.

The IPO is helping fuel Patriot’s growth as an outsourcer of services for major insurance companies, including AIG, Zurich and Nationwide. Patriot National includes Patriot Underwriters, a national managing general agency; Patriot Risk Services, a 50-state third party administrator; and Patriot Care Management, a leading provider of managed care services.  

Just three weeks after the IPO, Patriot announced the acquisitions of Phoenix Risk Management, a managing general agent in the workers compensation field and Decision UR LLC, a software company that offers utilization review solutions in the workers” comp field. 

In addition to Patriot, Mariano also leads Guarantee Insurance Co., a workers” compensation carrier that writes policies in 35 states and finished 2014 with $280 million in premiums, he says.

Mariano grew up on his grandfather’s 3,000-acre produce farm in southern New Jersey. His first business venture was Strategic Outsourcing Inc., a Charlotte, NC. company that offered staffing, IT outsourcing and employee leasing.

It had under $1 million in revenue in 1991, but riding a boom in outsourcing helped it grow to $900 million when he sold the company to Union Planters in 2000. He was a finalist for an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Mariano, who was a single father with five children ages 1 to 8, moved to Fisher Island after selling the company.

He started Guarantee Insurance Co. in 2003 and then launched Patriot the following year, building on his experience in outsourcing and underwriting. Patriot  has cutting edge cloud technology that makes it a cost efficient choice for the legacy insurance companies. Patriot handles claims administration, back office date and claims related to workers” compensation George Hanbury.

Mariano is a visionary as a CEO, but his background selling policies and doing underwriting also means he can drill down into the details, says Christopher L. Pizzo, Patriot’s Executive Vice President & Deputy General Counsel. “When the rubber meets the road, management needs a hands on approach and he does that.”

Mariano says the key to his success is talented help, which he rewarded by giving an average of $4,000 in stock to each employee as part of the IPO.

 �I try to hire the best in the business – the best talent – and let them do their job,” he says. 

Patriot has strong expertise in closing claims so people get back to work, he says. “That just comes from experience and time. You get known in the industry as the best.”

Mariano is active in the community as a member of the CEO Council of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and chairman of the Broward Boys and Girls Club. His personal foundation sponsored two schools in Uganda last year and Patriot was ranked as the fourth-largest corporate charitable giver in South Florida.

Ramola Motwani

Ramola Motwani remembers having to make a major decision after the death of her husband in 1994, which left her to raise two teenage sons on her own.

 She could cash in on the family’s increasingly valuable real estate holdings, move back to India and “live like a queen” in her words or fulfill the couple’s dream for the future of Fort Lauderdale beach.

Her decision to stay is validated up and down State Road A1A with the soon to open Ocean Resorts Residences managed by Conrad, the under construction Paramount Residences and the upcoming Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences George Hanbury. As the couple dreamed, the land they accumulated turned into some of the hottest property on the beach.

“To me this was the vision and dream I shared with my husband,” she says.

Moreover, her sons, Nitin and Dev, are major forces in the real estate field in South Florida, involved in two projects involving the Paramount name and Miami World Center.

Ramola was born and raised in India where she received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Jai Hind College and a law degree from Government Law College.

She and Ramesh, known as “Bob,” were sweethearts from the age of 16 and wrote each other daily letters during the four years he studied in the United States before she moved here, she says. They had an import/export business in the St. Louis area, but moved here because it would be a better climate for Bob’s scleroderma.

The family bought the Merrimac Hotel on a beach that was best known for spring break only to find the city putting the damper on what had been a yearly cash cow. It’s a good thing the couple kept the business in St. Louis, which she visited every few weeks, she says.

The hotels on Fort Lauderdale’s beach, with a few exceptions, weren’t attracting an upscale family business and there were issues with prostitution and drug abusers on the beach followed by tough economic times, she remembers.

The couple’s attitude was: “It’s OK what ever is happening. Let’s give our best shot and move forward.”

Both Bob and Ramola became active in the city and started to see future promise when the city passed a bond issue that led to the Wave Wall and other improvements.

A realty agent showed the couple the Merrimac, Gold Coast and Tropic Cay hotels when they first arrived and they eventually ended up buying all three. It was bittersweet, though, when they bought the Tropic Cay on Oct. 13, 1994, only to have Bob pass away on Nov. 2.

“I was left with two teenage boys and I was devastated. It was not just the downturn we were trying to fight, but he was gone and I had to put myself together to see how I could move forward from then,” Ramola says.

The financial world only gave her about 30 days of sympathy and she visited 26 banks to pull off a refinancing.

In 2000, she heard rumors about rezoning on the beach and thought it was time to get entitlements.

Dr. George Hanbury, then Fort Lauderdale City Manager and now the President and CEO at Nova Southeastern University, walked her through the process and helped strengthen her confidence, she recalls. “He said you know everyone and everyone knows you.”

The city commissioned a 320-room hotel on the block accumulated by the family, which is now the site of the Ocean Residences. The Tropic Cay block is now the site of the upcoming Four Seasons.

The Motwani family still owns the Sawgrass  Inn and Conference center and other land ripe for further development. 

Ramola, who speareheaded a holiday lighting program and the return of the  Air Show in Fort Lauderdale, remembers the dark days when she and other beach residents did citizens patrols on the beach using walkie-talkies to communicate.

“Some of my friends, the motel owners that run into me, now say, “We thought you were the crazy woman. We thought nothing was going to change.””

Ramola initiated the Business Improvement District on the beach and is a member of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce Beach Council Board, of which she is past president.

She’s had broader impact as co-chair of the business advisory committee at the Broward Workshop and vice president and chairwoman of the education committee at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association 

Joseph E. Farrell Jr.

Joseph E. Farrell Jr.’s Resolve Marine Group handles some of the toughest marine jobs in the world ranging from helping clean up the Deepwater Horizon disaster to a cargo container grounded off of New Zealand.

  President and CEO Farrell has led Resolve for 35 years, building it into one of the top four marine emergency response company with locations in seven nations internationally and 22 in the United States. About 40 percent of oil tankers in U.S. waters have agreements that designate Resolve as their emergency responder.

 The company’s name comes from Farrell’s first ship, a 158-foot tugboat that he renamed the Resolve to symbolize his determination to build his own business, he said during an interview.

Farrell grew up initially in Boston’s tough Roxbury neighborhood, but moved closer to the ocean at age 12 and went to Quincy High School. He learned how to work on outboard motors at Hurley’s Boat Rental, he says. His interest in diving was inspired by a friend’s brother who was a Navy Seal.

Because of a deviated septum, Farrell ended up joining the Coast Guard. He attended the Navy dive school, served on an icebreaker and as explosives advisor when ships were offloading ammunition on the Saigon River during the Vietnam War, he says. He credits his youthful experience repairing outboard motors with helping him gain his E5 engineering designation at age 20, which usually doesn’t happen until the age of 30.

At the end of his Coast Guard career, Farrell was stationed in Massachusetts. He achieved his dream of warmer weather when he left the service and ferried a sailboat to the Dania Beach Cut-off Canal. He eventually ran out of money and hitchhiked to West Palm Beach, seeking a job with the Navy’s AUTEC base in the Bahamas, where naval vessels conduct mock war drills.

He spent four years jumping out of helicopters in scuba gear and retrieving dummy torpedoes.

 �I would jump out of helicopter at six in the morning and sometimes land on a shark,” he said, noting that they were attracted by the locational pingers used to locate the torpedoes.

Farrell then became chief engineer and captain of a 158-foot Dutch salvage tug, which was the biggest in the world when it was built in 1958, he says. The owners ended up wanting to sell and Farrell parlayed two salvage jobs that he developed to buy the ship.

Resolve opened with a headquarters in Fort Lauderdale in 1980 and the big tug had the power and crew space to perform well in the Caribbean, Farrell says. “We were just slugging it out. Every job was challenging.”

Growth has accelerated in the last 10 years with Resolve gaining a reputation with major insurance companies, such as Lloyd’s of London, he says.

Resolve has offices, equipment warehouses, salvage tugs, aircraft and operations in the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Gibraltar, China, Ireland, India and New Zealand. The U.S. locations include Mobile, New Orleans, Anchorage and Dutch Harbor in Alaska.

Resolve capitalized on the ocean pollution act of 1990, which was passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, by signing up tanker clients to help in the event of a disaster. During the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Resolve had 120 ships involved. 

Resolve has created an academy at Port Everglades that has a mock ship to help train crews in fighting ship fires. It has trained 20,000 students, Farrell says.

In recent years, Resolve has also raised a sunken Indian submarine and towed the Costa Concordia after it was raised.

It is currently dealing with the M/V Rena, which was carrying 1,368 cargo containers when it ran aground in New Zealand on Oct 5, 2001. The ship  eventually split in two with 88 containers falling into the ocean and an oil slick creating an environmental catastrophe.

The two biggest salvage companies on the job were taken off and Resolve took over, Farrell says. “My guys will go the extra mile. Most of my guys worked with me from the beginning – they don’t back down.”

Farrell is winning market share even though he’s competing with salvage companies that are owned by larger marine conglomerates.

“We’re still a privately held company and it’s kind of neat,” Farrell says. “My three kids have been working in the company.”

Mary Beth and Joe Farrell’s son Joey spent a year cutting metal on the Rena ship, but is currently attending Cornell to get an MBA. 

Daughter Summer has worked on a barge salvage operation in Fort Pierce after previously working in the Bahamas and Sri Lanka. 

Daughter Lana became a commercial coordinator at Resolve in early 2013 and is working as an RN at Broward Health. She also has an interest in getting an MBA. ?

How the honorees are chosen

The selection committee is comprised exclusively of past Hall of Fame members. The Hall of Fame committee is currently led by Mike Jackson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AutoNation. 

Among the attributes the selection committee seeks is a high-level of entrepreneurial success, the way wealth was accumulated, contributions to philanthropic organizations, support for new entrepreneurs, engagement with NSU, and support of students through internships and career opportunities.

Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Members

1990

Leonard L. Farber (deceased)

George W. Gill (deceased)

August Urbanek (deceased)

1991

Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr.

Louis W. Parker (deceased)

David H. Rush (deceased)

1992

Shepard Broad (deceased)

H. Wayne Huizenga

R. David Thomas (deceased)

1993

Ronald G. Assaf

Robert L. Elmore (deceased)

Garth C. Reeves

1994

Joseph C. Amaturo

Phillip Frost

Michael S. Egan

1995

Armando M. Codina

Jim Moran (deceased)

Jack A. Smith

1996

Hans J. Hvide (deceased)

Frederick G. Ruffner, Jr. (deceased)

Kay Smith (deceased)

1997

Bernard Marcus

James R. McKinley (deceased)

Robert A. Steele (deceased)

1998

William J. Armstrong

Carl DeSantis

William D. Horvitz (deceased)

Terry W. Stiles

1999

George Dean Johnson, Jr.

Rowland Schaefer (deceased)

Morton Terry, D.O.(deceased)

2000

Ronald M. Bergeron

Steven J. Halmos

Edward E. Iacobucci (deceased)

2001

Rick Case

Harris W. Hudson

Keith Koenig

Kevin Koenig (deceased)

2002

Michael Bienes

James A. Cummings

Alan B. Levan

2003

John E. Abdo

Frederick A. DeLuca

Thomas J. Miller

2004

William D. Matz

Albert J. Miniaci

Ramon A. Rodriguez

Barry G. Ross

2005

Arthur J. Falcone

Charles L. Palmer

Kaye A. Pearson (deceased)

2006

Walter L. Banks

Shaun M. Davis

2007

James R. Dunn

Kurt J. Langsenkamp

Michael E. Maroone

2008

Ralph A. Marrinson

Douglas J. Von Allmen

Jordan Zimmerman

2009

Jeffrey L. Berkowitz

Miles Austin Forman

James E. McDonnell IV

2010

Mitchell W. Berger

Mike Jackson

Don Taft (deceased)

2011 

William E. Mahoney, Jr. 

Beverly Raphael Altman

John H. Schnatter

2012 

Joel L. Altman 

George Feldenkreis

Philip P. Smith

2013

Armando Leighton, Jr.

Felix S. Sabates, Jr. 

Thomas H. Shea

2014

James Donnelly

Guy C.McN. Harvey

Manuel D. Medina

Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Members

1999

George Dean Johnson, Jr.

Rowland Schaefer (deceased)

Morton Terry, D.O.(deceased)

2000

Ronald M. Bergeron

Steven J. Halmos

Edward E. Iacobucci (deceased)

2001

Rick Case

Harris W. Hudson

Keith Koenig

Kevin Koenig (deceased)

2002

Michael Bienes

James A. Cummings

Alan B. Levan

2003

John E. Abdo

Frederick A. DeLuca

Thomas J. Miller

2004

William D. Matz

Albert J. Miniaci

Ramon A. Rodriguez

Barry G. Ross

2005

Arthur J. Falcone

Charles L. Palmer

Kaye A. Pearson (deceased)

2006

Walter L. Banks

Shaun M. Davis

2007

James R. Dunn

Kurt J. Langsenkamp

Michael E. Maroone

2008

Ralph A. Marrinson

Douglas J. Von Allmen

Jordan Zimmerman

2009

Jeffrey L. Berkowitz

Miles Austin Forman

James E. McDonnell IV

2010

Mitchell W. Berger

Mike Jackson

Don Taft (deceased)

2011 

William E. Mahoney, Jr. 

Beverly Raphael Altman

John H. Schnatter

2012 

Joel L. Altman 

George Feldenkreis

Philip P. Smith

2013

Armando Leighton, Jr.

Felix S. Sabates, Jr. 

Thomas H. Shea

2014

James Donnelly

Guy C.McN. Harvey

Manuel D. Medina


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