One of the things that comes with being a business journalist for so long in South Florida is you get to know multiple generations of family businesses. That’s the case with Jarett Levan, who is on the cover of this month’s issue.
Jarett’s father, Alan, has been a familiar figure in the region’s business scene for decades. I remember in the mid-1980s getting sent at a moment’s notice to pinch hit for the Sun-Sentinel’s banking reporter on a meeting of Atlantic Federal Savings and Loan. In 1986, Alan’s I.R.E. bought shares in Atlantic Federal and it morphed into BFC Financial, one of the key owners of BankAtlantic. Alan ultimately brought BankAtlantic’s concept of convenient hours for banking across the state. He would also be correctly described as one of the pillars of the community for his philanthropic work.
Unfortunately, the Great Recession dealt a punishing blow to BankAtlantic; Alan is currently appealing an SEC disclosure case whose initial outcome required him to step down as chairman and CEO.
Jarett, who was president of what’s now known as BBX Capital, has taken over the reins. “My role is unchanged because there is a management team I work with,” Jarett says. “We continue to operate and grow the business. For Alan, it’s meaningful because he did the right things navigating through the financial crisis. As chairman and CEO of the holding company, we believe he did the right things for the shareholders. The company never took funds whether it was TARP or FDIC. It was always above capital requirements. It’s been a tough seven years for him, but we move on.”
One of the admirable qualities of both Levans is their support of the arts and other charitable causes. Jarett grew up in Coral Gables and in high school was president of the Miami Youth Museum. “I was never an artist but always had a passion for arts,” he says.
He joined ArtServe in Broward County in 1989, and in 2000, he was named chairman. He’s also on the boards of Business for the Arts of Broward County, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, the Community Foundation of Broward and the Arts and Culture Center of Hollywood.
BBX’s Hoffman’s Chocolates has emerged as a supporter of the arts by selling Art Bars that depict local artists and contribute to charities they support. The BBX foundation also supports the local arts scene.
It’s great to have business success, but the region could use more people like the Levans, Jorge Pérez and Norman Braman to help the local arts scene flourish. The arts are not only important for their own merits and inspirational qualities, but help create a great climate that attracts and retains more talent in the region.