Our Carl…

Carl DeSantis (1939-2023)

Note: My mentor, friend, partner, employer, teacher, confidante and all-around inspiration Carl DeSantis passed away August 10. He was 84. And even though I knew it was coming and thought I was prepared, I found myself devastated when I got the news while traveling in Maine. Carl was a bright light in so many lives. And as word got out, I began to receive a slew of calls, texts and emails sharing stories from people whose lives had been changed by this wonderful, generous, and kind man.

Everyone processes grief in their own way, and my way is to write out my thoughts. I stayed up late the night I heard the news and the following words poured out.

I want to share my thoughts with you as a tribute to a man who taught me so much and in the hopes that his life provides lessons for us all: to be kind to everyone, to be generous (his favorite saying was “good begets good”) to dream big and never be afraid to go after those dreams. My friend Carl lived a big life, he had big dreams, big appetites, and the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. But he was also very simple too: he was proud of his family, loved his friends and lived to bring a smile to the faces of all who crossed his path. And so it was…he was a gift to so many.


What can you say about a man who changed your life?

A man who changed so many lives.

So many lives….

Great people change the world’s they inhabit and even when they leave this world, their impact, their care, concern, work, ideas, love, and friendship remain. They continue to brighten our lives for having lived so well.

Carl DeSantis was an amazing man. Just an amazing man. We throw that word around frequently, but Carl was truly wondrous. He believed in miracles and made them happen. He believed that anything was possible and if he was involved that was true.

He made a dent in this world and all I can say is look out heaven because your newest resident is one of a kind.

Our Carl always found a way to beat the odds; again and again with a smile and a style all his own. He made us feel good about life…and he modeled generosity, kindness, and love. Oh, there was mischief too…but always in a good and gentle manner. He was a good and gentle man.

But he was also a force of nature. A whirlwind of energy and ideas.

Great people make things happen; even the seemingly impossible.

They blow away the status quo and transform people, industries, and communities.

My friend Carl DeSantis did all those things and more. “And more”…he said those words often.

“Celsius does this and that” we would tell him. And he would say “and more” and those words went on the can for a while…..we had a lot of different cans and a lot of different words on those cans. Because Carl always wanted more. G-d bless him.


He saw further, he dreamed bigger, he took huge risks and he always wanted more for everyone in his universe. Carl was always climbing mountains. Always looking for worlds to conquer, new problems to solve.

When I speak to people who know and love Carl—and to know Carl is to love Carl—the first word they often use to describe him is “generous.”

Carl was always looking for ways to help people. All people, literally everyone he came across.

He sat with titans of industry, and he treated them the same as the person who bussed his table or cut his grass. He loved people. And they adored him because he was respectful, and kind and he stood out from the masses because of those wonderful traits.

If you told Carl that someone was ill or hurt, he would often well up with tears. He had the biggest heart.

If you were lucky enough to be in his orbit, you would quickly describe your life in the following way: Pre-Carl and Post-Carl.

If Mr. D saw something in you, he would change your life. It was just that simple and just that wonderful.

Great men like Carl make a lasting splash and the ripples of that splash go beyond anything that even someone with his infinite vision could have conceived of.

So yes, those of us in his “inner circle” were the most fortunate, but his vision, his investments, his entrepreneurial spirit changed entire industries and impacted the world.

He made his first fortune by transforming the vitamin industry with Rexall Sundown and then he revolutionized the energy drink category with Celsius. His vision, his resilience, his belief and his old-fashioned moxie benefited thousands of employees, vendors, retailers, suppliers, shareholders and partners. And millions of consumers….

My friend was a game changer.

And his vision will continue to transform our world as the next generation of Carl’s ideas and investments grow and succeed. Tabanero hot sauce, hatched after a visit to Mexico (“let’s take on Tabasco!” he said and here we are), real estate, restaurants, office buildings and more. And more. Always more.

There’s no doubt, Carl was a world-class entrepreneur…and others will chronicle his many successes in the coming months and years. But I want to talk about the man.

I met Carl over 20 years ago at a charitable function in Palm Beach. Someone pointed him out to me and said it would be a good idea to walk over and introduce myself. So, I did. I had known of Carl, but I had never met him.

We spoke at that event for a few moments—moments, not minutes— and despite owning property in Delray we never interacted when I was an elected official. But my phone rang when I was term limited and so my adventure with Carl began.

He saw something in me. And that’s how he works. At Rexall Sundown, he hired an ex-narcotics detective to run sales because he saw something in that man—and he was right. He hired his driver and good buddy Jimmy because he had a good feeling about him. Many of us at CDS International Holdings were brought into his world because he saw something in us, that maybe we didn’t even see or know about ourselves.

Carl and I had many heart to heart conversations over the years. He believed that G-d had blessed him with what he called “an innate” gift…he knew what products would work and what would fail and he knew people.

He didn’t believe in pedigree, he believed in his gut instincts. So when he met Nick the police detective, he didn’t worry about whether he had a background in sales….he just knew that Nick would get the job done. And I guess when he met me, he knew he wanted me involved in his various adventures. And so I became a very lucky man and my story is not unique because so many can tell the same story.

Being in Carl’s universe is a magical experience….He didn’t think like anyone else, he saw the world differently… he was not afraid to dream big. He was a man of action and a man of endless courage and resilience.

From the outside, it may seem like Mr. D lived in a charm life and there is no doubt that he was blessed. But he endured so much…physical pain, injuries and setbacks that would have leveled a lesser man. But he met every challenge with strength and grace. We can learn a lot from his example.

A few years back, I had a near death experience with a terrible case of covid and violent pneumonia that ravaged my lungs. Many people came to my aid and saved me, and one of them was Carl. Because I learned from his example—I tried to summon his resilience.

During my time of need, Carl told me that he knew in his heart that I would make it…and I hung onto that intuition because I had seen that intuition work wonders. Carl believed in Celsius, when every expert would have said give up. Carl fought every health scare, when doctors would have told him that it’s not possible…he somehow made it through to live, laugh and love another day.

This last season of Mr. D’s remarkable life was not easy….but we witnessed his boundless courage, rock solid faith, remarkable strength and endless generosity even as we saw him slip away.

We saw these magnificent traits manifest themselves through his belief in G-d and Carl’s legendary capacity to fight through adversity. We saw it in his love for his family, friends and his angel Judy. And we saw it in his decision to set up a foundation so that we may help people for decades to come.

Today, those who love Carl have a hole in our hearts.

You see the special people in our lives fill our hearts to the brim, they enrich us in so many ways, and we feel their loss immensely. Losing Carl is like losing the rain…he’s been that fundamental to our lives.

Still, despite our sadness, we can take comfort that Carl is in heaven… we can rejoice that we crossed paths with this wonderful man, and we can resolve to learn from his example by continuing to do work that would make him proud and by treating people with kindness and dignity.

He will live forever in our hearts and deeds….



  1. David Reeves says

    Jeff, a wonderful tribute to Carl. Such a gift to all of you who have been impacted by this man. You are all blessed. Dave

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks so much Dave.

      • Dean Bontempo says

        Hey Jeff,
        I knew Carl when I was managing Christopher’s in Fort Lauderdale. I also dated a woman who told me stories on how they would sit around a table for hours licking envelope’s for mail orders in the beginning of Rexall. One time I was at the bar and a gentleman was talking to Carl bragging about this and bragging about that and he said, so what do you do and Carl said oh I work for a pharmaceutical company. Never mentioned he was the owner. That was just the way he was. No ego, very humble, and very generous. I invested in Rexall as he gave all the people opportunity to get in at the beginning. And also bought Celsius back in 2005 or six I don’t remember. Held onto it forever. Anyway, it was a great tribute. Probably the best article I’ve read to date. Thank You 🙏

      • Dean Bontempo says

        Hey Jeff,
        I knew Carl when I was managing Christopher’s in Fort Lauderdale. I also dated a woman who told me stories on how they would sit around a table for hours licking envelope’s for mail orders in the beginning of Rexall. One time I was at the bar and a gentleman was talking to Carl bragging about this and bragging about that and he said, so what do you do? Carl said oh I work for a pharmaceutical company and gave me a wink. Never mentioned he was the owner. That was just the way he was. No ego, very humble, and very generous. I invested in Rexall as he gave all the people opportunity to get in at the beginning. And also bought Celsius back in 2005 or six I don’t remember. Held onto it forever. Anyway, it was a great tribute. Probably the best article I’ve read to date. Thank You 🙏

        • Jeff Perlman says

          Thanks for sharing Dean. What a great story, captures Carl perfectly. I really appreciate you sharing. Thanks for making my day. Jeff.

  2. So well written, it does capture the essence of Carl DeSantis. I have worked in corporate America for 39 years. I have never witnessed the love employees had for a CEO, like the Rexall Sundown team did when I worked at the corporate office. He would walk through the building and I heard shouts of Hey Carl! It was as if he was a rock star, and he truly cared for his employees, Proof positive is when the offices would empty out once a year to see what employee was going to win a car . There was an employee of the quarter, and at the end of the year one of the 4 would hold the key that would start the car. The crowd cheered, and then went wild when the car was started. I have never worked for a CEO who cared more for his employees. Years later, when I was working at Celsius, he called me to talk. I was amazed a man of his stature was calling me on my cell phone to chat. His business accomplishments speak for himself, but like so many I feel blessed knowing him. He absolutely left a mark on my life, and when his name is mentioned I will always smile. RIP Carl, and one final thank you for the positive mark you have left on my life and so many others.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      So well said, Chris. He was so fond of you and appreciated all you did for him. Thanks so much for sharing. You captured him so well.

  3. Ben Willemstyn says

    Hey Jeff, so sorry to hear. You wrote a great tribute to your friend and Mentor, Carl.


  4. A beautiful tribute. So very sorry for your loss💔

  5. Scott Porten says


    How do you pay tribute such a great man… with exactly what you wrote! He will be missed.


  6. When Nelson Mandela stated ” A Winner is a Dreamer who never gives up” it is for sure he was describing Carl. Hard to believe he’s gone. Carl made an indelible mark on Delray Beach and many of its residents – me included…

  7. Peter Arts says

    Well written Jeff.

    We who crossed paths with CD are better off for it.

  8. Frances Bourque says

    Eulogy…. Done! Inspiring, uplifting, loving….. you did just what he told you to….. Be the best you can be….. and what you wrote was the best than could be said!
    So many shared life’s lessons to learn all over again!
    And Carl’s life was a gift!🌈

  9. Jeff… your heart came right across the pages in this tribute… hugs & love to you & D 🙏❤️ Suzy

  10. Dorothy Greene says

    Thank you Jeff, I am his sister and we grew up together for many years. He will always be with me in my heart and soul forever. I look up to heaven now where he is and God for all he has done for everyone and my life will always believe in my brother that was and always will be with me in my heart forever, he is looking down on us now, Dorothy❤️❤️❤️✝️��

    • Jeff Perlman says

      I’m so sorry for your loss Dorothy.
      Your brother loved you very much and spoke of you often. You and yours are in my prayers. ❤️ Jeff

  11. Beautifully said…..

  12. Kerry Koen says

    Lovely words about a true giant.

  13. Keith O’Donnell says

    We feel your admiration and heartbreak in your words above. We are heartbroken for you.
    Can we commission Bono or Bruce Springsteen to write a tribute to him?? I’m mean lets go big!!!! Just like Carl!!
    Seriously, his inspiration needs to keep inspiring , his legacy and impact needs to continue impacting…. and there is no doubt we have not heard the last of Mr D .

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Perfect words Keith. We have not heard the last of Mr. D. We will extend his legacy of aspiration and vision.

  14. John Fitzpatrick says

    Oh, no!! This is the first I’m hearing of this. So sad. Yes, he was a game changer. Warm, generous and kind. Funny, too. He and his driver, Jimmy, were regulars at Sopra back in the day. RIP Carl. You did make a difference!

  15. Dean DeSantis says


    What a great tribute to my Dad. Thank you for the kind words and for your friendship and love for my father. He will be dearly missed by all of us. He was without doubt one of a kind and you captured his heart and soul with your words. We all must do our best to carry on his legacy through our actions. His kindness and love for people was his greatest gift and I am so proud to call him my father. Thanks again for your wonderful words. May God bless you and my Dad

    • Jeff Perlman says

      I’m so touched by your kind words.
      Your dad means the world to me and so many others. His kindness, generosity, humility and love for life and people is a lesson for all of us to live by.
      I was always told by friends of your family, that you were very much in your dad’s mold. I can see that very clearly. Your eulogy was so heartfelt and loving–like your dad. You wear your heart on your sleeve and that’s a great thing. I promise we will always honor, cherish and protect your father’s legacy. Thank you and may God bless you and your family always, Jeff.

  16. Jeff,
    I was introduced to you by a friend of yours Perry Di of Boston’s on the Ocean years ago. I worked for Carl when he took over Erny’s on 1010 E Atlantic Ave back in the 90’s. I need for you to know that I have just read that HEART WARMING feeling that you had for this BEAUTIFUL man Carl. I had not seen Carl or Jimmy for a while but I do have tears in my eyes reading about his passing. A man of his STATUE only comes along once in a generation I will miss this most generous man in a way that words just don’t say everything that how beautiful he was. RIP Carl your with the BIG GUY NOW.

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