April 23, 2018

CEO Dream Cars

Auto Biographies

For many Florida CEOs, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys are the stuff dreams are made of.

Ken Ibold | 9/1/2004
In the rarefied world of CEO wheels, Hummers can be ho-hum and Mercedes de rigueur. Successful executives often indulge the desire to drive something that sets them apart, personally, as their careers have professionally. But CEO autophiles say they're more concerned about what the car says to them than what it says about them.

Osprey resident and entrepreneur Gerd Petrik boasts what is generally considered one of the finest collections in Florida -- more than 30 cars worth an estimated $10 million. Through the years, his collection has ranged from a 1979 VW Super Beetle to a 240-mph TAG McLaren F1 supercar and has hit many of the high points in between: Marques such as Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bugatti. The collection runs the gamut from classic to modern and from luxury sedan to flat-out speed demon.

However, it doesn't take millions of dollars to own a CEO dream car. Some are simply labors of love.

For most CEOs, their dream cars are not everyday commuting vehicles. They are date cars, fair-weather cruisers or even showpieces. They represent investments of time and money the owners do not take casually.

Kemp Stickney
President, Wilmington Trust Florida

Dream Car:
1979 Rolls-Royce Corniche FHC
Next Dream Car:

1963 Ferrari 250 GTL Lusso
Kemp Stickney grew up looking at his father's Bentley and Ferrari, so it's only natural that he might show an interest in fine cars. When he acquired his father's worn Bentley, he made the first step toward making his own dream come true.

He restored the Bentley toward its former glory, taking his first swim in the deep end of the automotive gene pool. Then, last December, he was picking up the Bentley after service when he spotted his next car on the premises. There, for sale, was a Rolls-Royce Corniche Coupe, one of 109 made, with only 29,000 miles on it.

"I grew up with Matchbox cars," he says, "so it seems natural that something like this would fulfill a fantasy."

With the support of his wife, he bought the Rolls, which he considers a "Sunday drive" car. Although he does only limited maintenance himself on it, he does get involved in some tinkering. "It's kind of like a yacht because there's always something to do."

Stickney exhibited the car at the 100th Rolls-Royce Owners Club meet in Monterey, Calif., in August, but he insists his fondness for the car does have limits.

"Everyone who owns a nice car worries about it on some level," he says. "But I try to remember that it's just a thing. And if it becomes too much of a worry, then there's really no point anymore."

James Abrams
CEO, VenVest

Dream Car:
2003 Aston Martin Zagato

Next Dream Car:
Bentley Continental GTJames Abrams grew up in Detroit's automobile culture, and it stuck. He had a long history of owning what he calls "nice" sports cars such as the Porsche 911 Carrera until he saw an article in the Robb Report, a magazine targeted toward affluent readers, on the Aston Martin.

"I saw a picture of it on the cover, and I read the article, and I got the bug for it from there," he says.

The Aston Martin dealer in nearby Tampa had an allotment of two from the entire production run of 99 cars. Both were sold. But the dealer in Naples still had one available from its allotment of four, and Abrams struck a deal, trading in his BMW Z-8 convertible.

"This car, unquestionably, has the looks," he says. "It's got that retro look, and it must have triggered something from my childhood. Or maybe it was that I had just seen an old Elvis Presley movie that had something like that in it."

Abrams says his affection for cars belies his background -- and personality -- as an accountant.

"I'm a very conservative guy," he says with a laugh, "except for my car."

George Koehn
Chairman, president and CEO, SunTrust Florida

Dream Cars:
2004 Bentley Continental GT and 1954 Jaguar XK120With more than 100 cars in his past, George Koehn is sanguine about high-end cars. "I just happen to have an appreciation for the engineering and the design," he says.

Over the years his garage has been populated by 16 Ferraris, half a dozen Porsches and a few Corvettes and Jaguars. Two years ago he bought his 1954 Jaguar XK120 simply because he'd always wanted one and one became available. Although it had been restored, he embarked on a complete engine rebuild. The result is a roadster that harks back to the Jaguar race cars of the '50s that, although sophisticated for their time, are not the engineering equivalent of even budget cars today.

That's one reason why he bought the new Bentley, which only began shipping to the U.S. this summer.

"It's drop-dead gorgeous from a styling standpoint, but Bentley has a race history, too," Koehn says of the 5,300-pound performance car. "But what I really like about it is that without a doubt it's the finest automobile I've ever owned."

Koehn says he can't afford to have a collection, so he tends to own cars for a couple of years, then sells them and gets something else. For that reason, he says, the old Jaguar will soon go up for sale. He's not sure what will replace it, though. Or if he is, he isn't saying.

Dan Andriso
Retired owner, Uniforce Staffing Services

Dream Car:
1966 Ford ThunderbirdDan Andriso waxes philosophical about his car. "The car is a toy. As we become older, our toys simply become more expensive."

Calling his show-quality T-Bird a toy is perhaps appropriate in Andriso's case. "When I was a kid, I always wanted one. And I told myself, someday I'm going to have one. Well, now I do."

Andriso started his car restoration career with a 1961 Ford Galaxy convertible. He says he began restoring cars as "therapy" to counter the stress of running his growing business. When the Galaxy was done, he sold it and embarked on fulfilling that youthful promise to himself.

His restoration has won trophies at car shows, but the real prize is having the car he's always wanted -- and which he says he'll never sell.

"It was never meant to keep up with the Joneses," Andriso says. "Now, it's nice to have someone take their hat off as you drive by, but that wasn't the main reason I got into it."

Ron Nation
President/founder, Just Valuation Inc.

Dream Car:
1968 Ford Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500

Next Dream Car:
"Maybe a convertible"Three years ago, Ron Nation happened upon a 33-year-old car that still belonged to the original owner. It had been sitting in a barn in North Carolina for 13 years, but a check of the vehicle showed the high-performance Mustang, modified by racing legend Carroll Shelby for Ford, had the original engine and hadn't been crashed. In the vocabulary of car restorers, the numbers matched.

"My dad was a mechanic. And coming from a not rich family, I always wanted to have a nice car," Nation says. With a little sweat equity and the occasional use of outside shops, Nation has his nice car. But you don't have to take his word for it. "People follow me home to take a closer look at the car," he says.

Flush with the success of restoring the Cobra, Nation embarked on another venture, restoring a 1932 Ford Roadster, which he began about a year and a half ago. Bowing to reality, he also is adding a three-car garage/workshop that he says will see him through his next few projects.

But, he says, he won't allow himself to be consumed by the hobby enough to reach for the unreachable. "Being a businessman, I always look at the financial end," he says. "I think I'll do very well on these cars if it ever comes time to sell them, but that's not why I'm in it."

Skip Braver
CEO, Cigarette Racing Team

Dream Cars:
Mercedes SL55 AMG and Mercedes CL55 AMG

Next Dream Car:
Mercedes SL65 AMGSkip Braver's south Florida waterfront home doesn't have enough space for him to build the 26-car garage he had when he lived in Illinois, but that doesn't bother him much. The classic performance cars he used to collect have given way to modern performance cars.

His two Mercedes are top-of-the-line performance cars, which is what attracts him to them. He originally got involved with exotic cars because Environmental Protection Agency rules in the 1980s gutted the ability of U.S. manufacturers to produce fast cars. Now, he says, that's not a problem, as evidenced by his two AMG Mercedes, each of which throttles nearly 500 hp. On order: A newer 604-hp roadster.

Braver is unapologetic about his choice in cars. "It's the fun of driving it," he says. "Yes, it's not something everyone can have, but that also means you don't see yourself coming and going. It's something unique." Braver pauses and then, almost as an afterthought, adds, "Most of the time they hold their value pretty well."

Braver sees high-end cars as an outlet for personal satisfaction rather than bragging rights. It's just satisfaction, he admits, that not everyone can get.

Tags: North Central

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