Photographs & Memories

The Boca Raon News circa 1981.

My friend Kerry gave me an old Boca News from 1981 recently.

The front page featured a story on Delray Beach Elementary School, lamenting its future because enrollment was beginning to shrink. “Rich Past, Uncertain Future” was the headline (pretty prescient since Delray Elementary became Old School Square).

Forty years ago, the population was heading west along with their school age kids and locals were openly fretting about what would happen to the old school at the corner of Atlantic and Swinton. They didn’t know yet that Frances Bourque was waiting in the wings.

A few pages in, there was a story about Delray’s interim city manager—a gentleman named Robert Fisk.

I had never heard of him, and I came to town only six years after the publication of this paper and threw myself into all things Delray. Mr. Fisk was leaving “the big city” of 34,000 to return to his wife Thelma in Palatka. Palatka was more Mr. Fisk’s speed but Delray’s complexities didn’t seem to phase him. He was described as “unflappable” by Mayor Leon Weekes, a trait that would be useful today.

There was a companion piece on Mr. Fisk’s successor, a City Manager named O. Sam Ackley—now that’s a name I would remember if I had heard it. But alas, I didn’t know him either.

Time passes.

We move on.

Yesterday’s prominent players become tomorrow’s trivia questions.

I did know of the civic leader who was on the front-page, Mr. Eugene Lynn. Mr. Lynn was given the first ever “Boca Raton Award.” He was described by Mayor Bill Konrad as “an absolute gem.” That’s a term you don’t hear much these days.

Mr. Lynn was honored by Donald Ross, the president of the College of Boca Raton.

The college would later be named Lynn University. I spent parts of two days last week on a zoom call with Mr. Lynn’s wife, Christine.  She chairs the board of the fabulous Lynn University. I am honored to serve as a board member.

Seeing the old paper and working with Mrs. Lynn reminds me of the ties that bind us—even with all the changes there are some threads of continuity to hold onto.

Changes…beginnings and endings and all the transitions in between.

I heard last week that several Bru’s Room restaurants are closing.  They’ve had a long run.

We used to take our four kids there on a regular basis—they liked the wings and the sports on the big screen TV’s.

We hadn’t gone in a long time. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Before Bru’s there was Atlantic Station, a pretty spot that opened when downtown was still struggling to gain traction.

Yes, there was a time when Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove were dreams more than hot spots.

On a recent Friday night, I sat outside with my wife and close friend Scott Porten at Papas Tapas on Second Avenue. It was a beautiful cool night. We ate wonderful food and drank wine and San Gria. It felt good to be alive.

Pineapple Grove has become my favorite street. It’s lively without being overwhelming. The street has magnificent restaurants, two nice hotels and some nice shops.

Citywalk– built by my friend Scott— has aged well. The building looks good, the sculpture out front is elegant and my goodness Brule is terrific.

It’s hard to believe that it used to be a coin operated car wash.

I know change can be hard. But it can also be good.

The night before, my childhood friend (a different Scott and his stepson Jason) joined Diane and I for dinner and drinks at Bar 25 and Hawkers.

Bar 25 used to be Mellow Mushroom. I was on the City Commission when Mellow was approved. I was excited to see that restaurant take shape, with its murals and craft beer collection. Hawkers used to be Sonoma. That was a fine place as well.

But I sure like the replacements.

Things change. That’s the law I suppose.

People who were “all that” back in the day are forgotten, but a few are remembered too. For their good deeds, their ventures, their investments and personality traits.

Whenever I go to Pineapple Grove I think of Norm Radin, who dreamt up the concept of a funky district off the main drag,  And I think of my old friend Tom Fleming who devoted a chunk of his life to building that district alongside a dedicated group of volunteers.

I remember a rainy evening in 1999 or 2000 when the archway proclaiming Pineapple Grove was lit up for the first time. We celebrated the lighting with a large crowd that extended to Atlantic Avenue connecting the two streets and then a bunch of us went for drinks nearby.

Bob Currie, the legendary architect was there, so was Janet Onnen from Meisner Electric and a bunch of others.

We toasted Pineapple Grove and the future.

Bob passed a few years back and I haven’t seen Janet for years and years. Janet and Tim owned the property where Bru’s Room would open. It was cool having a former Miami Dolphin great, Bob Brudzinski, take a shot on little old Delray Beach. We weren’t an obvious choice back then. But we were on the move and smart people knew that something special was happening.

Those were some days. When “Delray was a warm hug” to quote my friend Susan.

A warm hug.

Don’t we need one of those.

If you think that’s hokey, if that sentence gave you a cavity because it’s too sweet, I get it. But if you were there you know what I mean. You know what a warm hug feels like.

You know what a village feels like.

It sure beats a pie in the face.

If you are like me, your mailboxes are filled with nasty grams from candidates deriding our city.

To me, they are missing the point. Missing it completely.

Things change.

People come and go.

Some leave their marks—like Mr. Lynn and people like Scott Porten who saw a coin operated car wash and had a vision to create a building for the ages.

And there were others who came and went like those city managers who ran our town for a brief period.

We are all here briefly if we really think about it.

Doesn’t it make sense to enjoy life while we have it? Doesn’t it make sense to sit out on a beautiful Florida night and enjoy tropical breezes— while we can— alongside loved ones?

To me, those evenings feel like a warm hug and more real than the claptrap filling my mailbox.


Farewell and thank you

Lt. Gray

Last week, Delray Beach Police Lt. Vinnie Gray retired after 30 years of service to our city.

Vinnie left a mark on Delray Beach. He was dedicated and outspoken. I enjoyed working with him when he was union president, and I was mayor.

We could always count on a frank exchange of ideas. Vinnie appreciated honesty and we were able to work out a lot of issues during his tenure that I believed strengthened our police department.

We solved a lot of things at the old Rotelli’s on the Avenue. We didn’t always agree, but we were always civil, always respectful of each other and we always found a way forward.

Along the way, we became friends. Not the kind that hang out, but the kind that you could count on if the chips were down.

Here’s what the department had to say upon Vinnie’s retirement.

“Throughout his career, Lt. Gray has been an embodiment of commitment, hard work, and integrity. From his early days at Ocean Ridge Police Department to his legacy at Delray Beach Police Department, he has left an indelible mark on our community.

Lt. Gray’s contributions have been invaluable, serving in various roles and demonstrating unwavering dedication to keeping our streets safe. As he embarks on this new chapter of his life, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for his service and wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement. Lt. Gray, may this next journey be filled with joy, relaxation, and endless adventures!”
Bon Voyage Vinnie. Here’s to the next chapter!


Celsius enters rarefied air

Last week, Celsius—the beverage company born in Delray and soaring in Boca—hit a major milestone surpassing one billion dollars in annual sales.

Actually, the company racked up $1.3 billion plus in sales, up 102 percent over last year’s numbers.

It’s an astonishing feat. Truly astonishing.

I’ve been blessed to have had a bird’s eye view of the company. I was there almost at the very beginning when the company had a dozen employees on 4th Avenue in Delray.

Local entrepreneur Carl DeSantis got involved because he saw the potential and he recruited me and others to the cause. It was a long, slow and at times painful ride full of twists and turns. I think it’s a book or a case study because Celsius was left for dead a few times—unprofitable, delisted from NASDAQ (where the stock is now a darling), gaining and losing distribution. Through it all my friend Carl never lost faith. Celsius has many, many heroes but none bigger than Carl whose belief and major investment kept the company afloat financially and spiritually.

I had the pleasure of working side by side with Carl for close to 15 years before he passed in August. He taught me and everyone in his orbit the power of belief, the spirit of entrepreneurship and why it was important to brush off the punches and pursue your dreams. Carl dreamt big dreams—and he had the courage to pursue them. Working with him (never for him) has been the highlight of my career and I carry his lessons with me every single day.

Celsius has been blessed with some amazing leadership and talent and they have done miraculous things in a highly competitive space. Today, Celsius is the best selling energy drink on Amazon and the number three energy drink overall. I believe it will be number one, and the growth metrics back me up in that belief.

When the numbers were released last week and the stock soared, I couldn’t help but wonder what my friend Carl would say. Somehow, I know he knows.

I went back to my archives to read some of the emails I got from Carl after he recruited me to work as COO of Celsius in those early days.

I found this gem from 2008, when sales were in the low six figures and there were no major customers—yet.

“I think you signed on to a POTENTIAL MAJOR WINNER..I know I did. I’m not in this for “Cracker Jack” prizes.. Time is NEVER on our side…luv ya, Carl.”

Isn’t that how an entrepreneur thinks?! Swing for the fences, believe with your whole heart and have a sense of urgency.

The dream came true, Carl. Thanks to your unwavering belief.

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….


Here’s to the Entrepreneurs

A friend of mine launched an energy drink last week.

His goal: nothing short of building the biggest beverage company on the planet.

Of course, the odds of that happening are long. Probably better than winning the recent Powerball (you have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of landing the massive prize) but long,nonetheless.

But daunting odds don’t dissuade entrepreneurs. In fact, the more people scoff at their dreams the more motivated they become to prove everyone wrong.

I respect  that mindset, it’s that kind of thinking that changes the world.

And that’s why I love entrepreneurs. I admire them too.

I appreciate the energy, grit, belief, and passion they bring to their endeavors.

My friend is confident in his vision. Some might say he’s cocky,but I know better.

It’s not ego or overconfidence that drives people like my friend. It’s not even the outsize rewards that come if you succeed.

Sure, the money has meaning. I suppose it’s a way of keeping score, but riches are not the only motivation.

Nope, the entrepreneurs I’ve seen up close are after something more. Something deeper and more meaningful.

They want to prove something.

They look at the world differently; they are opportunity scouts seeking to solve problems or fill a void.

Entrepreneurs want to create something special: a hit product, a resonant brand, a movement.

It’s not easy to do any of those things. The world is a crowded place, it’s hard to get noticed over the din, and it’s darn near impossible to break through and make a dent in the marketplace.

Building a successful company is a complicated endeavor with hundreds of tasks and moving parts to navigate. There are potholes galore, lots of hard work and sleepless nights worrying about all sorts of things.

But people like my friend do it anyway.

They have no choice. It’s who they are. They are driven to act. Driven to try.

I’ve been involved in the energy drink business for 15 years—years spent on the inside and now years on the periphery.

The name of the company I know a little about is Celsius.

Celsius started in a small office/warehouse on 4th Avenue in Delray Beach and has grown from the humblest beginnings to a publicly traded international company with a market cap of over $11 billion.

Pepsi took a stake in the company recently and the stock has become a Wall Street darling. Here’s some stats: year to date the stock has a return of about 44 percent, far outpacing the S & P 500. The one-year return is about 91 percent, the three-year return has been 1,059 percent (not a typo) and the five-year return has been 3,215 percent (also not a typo).

Yes, the past few years have been amazing to witness. The team at Celsius has done extraordinary things; sometimes life exceeds your wildest dreams. And this has happened—somewhat quietly—right here in Delray Beach and now in bigger digs in Boca.

But the road to success was years and years long and full of land mines.

The company went from the pink sheets to Nasdaq only to get delisted before getting back on the exchange.

The little company that dreamed big got on the shelves of the nation’s top retailers only to lose distribution when the product didn’t move. Then the team of believers got those shelves back and now the product is flying—likely to $1 billion in annual sales.

It’s been a remarkable story. Ups and downs, amazing characters who came and went and wildly talented people who ultimately made it stick.

I think it would make a great Netflix series.

The story of the little company that kept chipping away until something magical happened. It’s a uniquely American  saga.

Through it all, there was an entrepreneur who believed.

His name is Carl DeSantis and he never stopped believing even when conventional wisdom would have said: “hey, enough is enough. You gave it a go.”

But my friend Carl never stopped believing. Every setback meant he was one step closer to success.

Entrepreneurs fail forward.

It’s something to behold. Truly something to behold.

My friend—with the new company— knows all this.

He’s built a company before, from scratch. That experience will help.

He understands resilience. He’s still hungry.

In that way, he reminds me of Carl who also built a business before Celsius. The success of Rexall Sundown would have enabled Carl to sail off into the sunset. But entrepreneurs can’t turn it off. They are what they are. They want to solve problems, they want to create, they want to disrupt. They want to win.

As Steve Jobs said: ““Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Photographs & Memories

A newspaper from 1995 and an old Flip digital camera were some of the treasures recently unearthed.

We replaced our bedroom set recently and that prompted a long-delayed dive into my dresser’s junk drawer.

You know, the drawer where you throw change, store greeting cards and keep things that don’t quite fit anywhere else.

The exercise was hard for me. I’m sort of… kind of… borderline-ish…. a hoarder. There, I said it.

I think it’s my sentimentality and my desire to someday revisit these treasures although I hardly ever do. So, opening that drawer and confronting what to do with its contents was a challenge for me.

What to keep?
What to toss?

I found a 27-year-old Delray Times newspaper featuring a front-page story I wrote entitled “The Delray Decade.” The subhead read: “In the past 10 years, the city has gone from pauper to prince.”

That was interesting, but more on that in a later column.

I found a keychain with a picture of Diane and I after one of our memorable outings—a visit to “Capone’s Dinner Show” in Orlando where we dined on spaghetti with a ketchup like sauce while watching actors and actresses dressed as 30s era Chicago gangsters ham it up.

I loved it!

Diane? Not so much.

Granted, the show wasn’t “Hamilton”, but Hamilton didn’t have an Italian buffet either. Regardless, they must be doing something right.  I looked up the show and it’s still running 30 years after its debut. Maybe it the music or the period dress.  Or, maybe it’s the Italian buffet. (I kept the keychain).

I also found an old “Flip” digital camcorder. Remember those? They were hot for about 10 minutes in 2006. They were discontinued in 2011. But I have one. According to eBay it’s worth about $24.99. I’m going to hold onto it a little longer. Someday it could be worth $30.

Besides when I looked at the digital videos I found one of my late cockatiel Butters singing the tarantella. I also found a slew of material that captured the day we filmed a commercial for Celsius featuring Mario Lopez. Heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko showed up that day—as a surprise. We quickly wrote him into the commercial. Today, Mr. Klitschko is in Ukraine fighting the Russians. I find myself thinking about him from time to time. He was a very nice man. I’m going to hold on to my Flip.

There were more treasures, an old business card from Gov. Charlie Crist (no comment), an All America City pin from 2001 and a photo marking Plastridge Insurance’s 100th birthday—all keepers for sure.

But the best treasure was an autograph book I found dated June 1975.

We were moving from South Setauket N.Y. to Stony Brook, and I would be leaving my elementary school for 6th grade at William Sydney Mount.

Apparently, I had my 5th grade friends sign the book so I would remember them forever. I’m not sure kids do that these days, but autograph books were all the rage back in the 70s. I signed a bunch, and I kept this book for the past 47 years. It’s in great shape.

Unfortunately, most kids signed the book with bad poetry—the roses are red, violets are blue style prose that usually ended in some sort of insult. The nicer kids said they were only kidding. I think all of them were, but it was interesting to see a book of sophomoric insults written in ’75 that referenced Nixon and Kennedy, divorces, horses and The Fonz.

Here’s an example:

“The Nixon’s had their Richard. The Kennedy’s had their Jack. The Perlman’s had their Jeff and want their money back.”

That gem came from a girl named Pam, who happened to be the heartthrob not only in the class, but the whole school. Knowing me, I probably was thrilled that she took the time to sign my book—the actual content wouldn’t have mattered. I’m shocked I had the nerve to ask her to sign.

Apparently, I took the autograph book to my new school. Because there were a few 6th grade classmates who signed as well.

The most poignant signature was from Mike Boyle, a friend of mine who would later join the FDNY and perish in 9/11.

“Roses are reddish, violets are bluish,” Mike wrote.

“In school you are newish.” In parentheses, he said to stick with him, and I did.

I was the new kid in school andMike was popular and athletic. He welcomed me into his circle of guys who had been together since kindergarten and all was well, even though our 6th grade teacher was a dead ringer for Nurse Ratchet, only meaner.

The book was also signed by two of my oldest friends—Scott Savodnik and Howie Cohn. We didn’t go to elementary school together, but we did spend summers at the “pool club” in Stony Brook. Both signed the book and said we would always be the best of friends and 47 years later—we are.

In many ways, the book was prescient.

In the front of the book, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire:
Favorite authors: C.S. Lewis and Jack London (Not bad, young Jeff).

Favorite Saying: “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” (Odd choice)

In the future I will be a: Journalist (Bingo!)

Favorite Song: “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by BJ Thomas (very odd for an 11-year-old) and “Philadelphia Freedom” – by Elton John (good choice, big hit during those patriotic bicentennial days).

I’m keeping that autograph book, bad poetry, and all.

Roses are red, violets are blue.

Let’s give old memories—and junk— their due.


Quotes From The Edge

Dare to be different

I’ve always loved quotes.

I used to collect them, but my computer crashed years ago, and I lost them all.

I haven’t had the heart to start over.

But I still enjoy reading quotes and sometimes I save them in my phone—for what I don’t know. Future inspiration I suppose.

I came across a few this past week that got me thinking.

This one is from filmmaker George Lucas.

“The secret is not to give up hope. It’s very hard not to because if you’re really doing something worthwhile, I think you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side.”

This is an interesting thought and largely true. I think of the businesses we’ve been involved with and the fits and starts that they all seem to have. It’s never a straight line. It’s almost always a bumpy road full of pivots, near death experiences and a slew of ups and downs.

My first venture was an education newspaper that started in Delray. It was called “Student and Parent”, a boring title but it told the story of what we were focused on. We covered local schools, wrote about teachers and exceptional young people, and reported on the hot issues in education.

Unable to afford a sales staff to sell ads and wanting to keep our monthly paper free of charge, we decided to try and get corporate sponsors who believed in our mission and would back us for a year.

Frank McKinney was kind enough to loan us one of his oceanfront “spec” houses for a launch party. We figured the novelty of seeing the home would entice business leaders to attend. We were right, and ended up attracting enough sponsors to pay our expenses for a year. They didn’t even mind that my mom incinerated the hors d’ouevres in a convection oven she had never seen before.

We expanded to Boca and then Boynton and then went countywide with a name change. We were now “The Education Times”. We dropped off papers at every school that would have us, bundling papers and putting them in teachers’ mailboxes so they could be sent home in back packs. We also delivered papers to city halls, libraries, community centers and places where we felt families with kids might be.

It was a lot of work. And we did it on a shoestring. No investors; a modest credit line. All the (meager) profits were re-invested in the biz.

Along the way, we were pushed to the brink of hopelessness, as Mr. Lucas says, not sure if we would ever see the other side. My low point happened when my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and my partner injured his back and was unable to work. Was it time to throw in the towel? We were growing, but still not out of the woods.

We decided to push forward. And eventually we came out the other side when a media company decided to buy us out and hire us to run our paper and help run their publications.

Today, I’m pitched a steady stream of ideas from young and not so young entrepreneurs, and I always ask them whether they have the resilience to keep going when the going gets rough, because it always does.

It’s hard to measure grit. Most people think they have it, until they’re severely challenged and then they find out if they really do.

Mike Tyson used to say that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. He’s not a role model, but he’s sure right about that.

Sometimes it is prudent to know when to fold them, as the song says. But that’s an art as well because you never want to walk away too early. Life is one brushback pitch after another. You must stay in the batter’s box and wait for your pitch and then deliver.

Wanting to quit is a common feeling, but you must press on even if you have to start something else.

The second quote that grabbed me comes from Kurt Vonnegut.

“Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. Big, undreamed-of things. The people on the edge see them first.”

This one intrigues me because I am a “center” kind of guy. I’m in the middle politically, appreciate compromise and like to think I’m reasonable. (This is where my friends and wife may chuckle, but they know deep down that I don’t mean to be difficult. For example, because I’m left-handed, I require sitting on the side of the table where my arm won’t bother people. I think that’s considerate, not difficult).

Still, “the edge” intrigues me. I admire the risk takers, the people who go against the grain, the game changers that the old Apple computer ad celebrated.

I’ve known a few and I work with one—Carl DeSantis– who bet big on vitamins and won and bet big on Celsius the beverage and won again. Let’s just say, he’s a human thrill ride and I mean that in a good way, because through it all he has remained humble, down to earth, kind and generous to everyone he comes across.

My friend Carl has a favorite painting of sunflowers. The painting depicts a sea of sunflowers facing in the same direction but there’s one stray facing the other way.
“That’s me,” he told me.

Yes, it is.

Bless the souls that think differently. They make a dent in the world. They make magic.

The final idea I wanted to share came from an essay I saw in the New York Times. The writer, Lydia Polgreen, just lost her dad at 73. She talks about our need as humans to have an anchor, to know what’s next. But life is uncertain and that makes us vulnerable. We live in rough seas.

Turn on the news and you’ll hear about heinous crimes, the threat of nuclear war, the ravages of a hurricane, the doomsday scenarios surrounding climate change. We have high inflation, divisive politics, institutions we no longer trust and different sets of “facts” depending on where we sit on the political spectrum.

“But to tolerate uncertainty,” Ms. Polgreen writes. “Is to become buoyant, able to bob in the waves, no matter the tide.”

Polgreen continues: “You have to be incredibly vulnerable to admit that you think the world can be better, to believe that what you do could actually make some kind of change. We live in a time dominated by pessimism and cynicism. These poses are a kind of armor against the vulnerability of hope. To be cynical is to close the door to the possibility of disappointment. To be pessimistic is to foreclose the risk of being made a fool by optimism.”

The vulnerability of hope….

Think about that phrase for a moment. I can’t stop thinking about those words.

I believe most of us are naturally attracted to the dreamers and the optimists in our world. I know I am.

My favorite words are love and aspiration.

In a world where we don’t have to travel too far to see, feel and witness the destructive power of hate we must somehow find, teach, and spread love.

And in a world where every idea seems to be met with resistance, cynicism, and snark we must find a way to aspire.

Aspire or expire…that’s what I say.


The Best Way To Predict The Future Is to Create It

This can contains years of hard work (still tastes great).

On Aug. 1, a dream came true for a company that I love.

Celsius, born in Delray Beach and based in Boca Raton, announced a long-term strategic deal with Pepsico that will take the brand global, pump $550 million into the company and give Pepsi an 8.5 percent ownership stake in what is now a company valued at  nearly $8 billion.

It was an amazing moment—years and years (and tears and fears)—in the making.

And that’s how it goes.

That’s the entrepreneurial journey—if it works out.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed except…

  •  Lots of hard work.
  •  Risk, that can seem crazy at times.
  • Oh, and whole lot of twists and turns.

Celsius experienced it all and then some.

I’ve had a front row seat on the Celsius ride for more than a decade now and it has been fascinating.

I worked for the company as COO in the lean years when we dreamed big, reached for the stars, made some progress, and took some beatings. It was a thrill.

I had the experience of a lifetime working alongside a team of amazing people who believed Celsius was going to be the next big thing at a time when you couldn’t find it on a shelf if you employed a team of blood hounds.

The company grew when I was there—we landed the big accounts, rang the bell on NASDAQ, taped our first TV commercial and signed a celebrity spokesman (Mario Lopez, he was terrific and believed in the brand).

But it wasn’t our time—and so we lost some of those big accounts and got delisted from NASDAQ when our stock price failed to meet their threshold. Ups and downs. But we never stopped believing.

Not. For. One. Second.


Because we knew we had something special.

And because the man who became the company’s biggest investor (and cheerleader) and saw big things for the brand never stopped believing in Celsius’ potential. This man had boundless faith and we had faith in his talent for predicting what will work in the marketplace.

That man is Carl DeSantis. He’s a visionary.

In full disclosure, I work as an executive for Carl’s family office here in Delray Beach. Carl is a friend, a mentor, a partner and a positive force in my life and the lives of countless others. He means the world to me and my family and a whole lot of other people who have been fortunate to work with (never for) Carl or Mr. D during his long career.

Carl was the founder and chairman of Rexall Sundown, a huge vitamin manufacturer based in Boca. He sold that company in 2000 for $1.8 billion and immediately went back to work forming CDS International Holdings which has been involved in an array of businesses over the years ranging from Celsius and Tabanero hot sauce to restaurants, office buildings, hotels, a South African preserve, a men’s clothing line and real estate. Carl is an interesting man with broad interests—and a keen eye. We’ve learned to listen to what he’s seeing— if that makes sense.

He’s also generous, kind, a tad mischievous, down to earth and a little shy. If you know him, you love him.

CDS has been very supportive of Celsius through the ups and downs. We had faith because faith is contagious, and Carl spread the gospel.

What happened with Pepsi was a dream come true…or was it a prediction? All I know is that for years at every meeting—even when there was bad news— Carl would say with absolute certainty that one day “one of the big boys are going to call” to get involved with what Celsius CEO John Fieldly calls a “disruptive force in the energy drink market.”

That’s what Celsius is….disruptive and unique—and that was always the promise and the potential. Brick by brick,  year after year, you keep pushing until the market says “we see you” among the blizzard of brands vying for their attention and loyalty.

Our friend Carl saw the potential right away…and the lesson here is “ya gotta believe!”

Mets fans will get that reference.

But whether it’s baseball or beverages, a local shop or a vision for your town you have to believe. Especially when the going gets rough and the going always gets rough.

When the dark days came to Celsius, Carl used to say “dig in, we’re going win.”

The team learned a lot, tried a lot of different things and kept plugging away. Celsius never gave up.

Victory, while never guaranteed, is sweeter when you’ve overcome adversity.

Celsius overcame a slew of adversity. That little company, that started in a warehouse like office on 4th Avenue, saw it all—and made it through the maze—for now.

Because that is the other lesson. Success, much like failure, is hardly ever final.

Yes, the company is flying and now they have the global might of Pepsi behind them. But they have to transition successfully to the new partnership, they have to execute and they have to stand up to the competition which never lays down.

Cities are the same way…once you succeed, you can’t get complacent. You must wake up a little bit scared and stay focused. Success is never final. You are never done.

That’s not a bad thing or a curse, it’s a blessing that enables you to grow and innovate.

We, as fans, investors, friends, and supporters of Celsius, can’t wait to see what’s next.

Knowing the team as well as we do, we’re bullish that the best is yet to come.

We lost a local icon last week when former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel passed away.

My friend Blake who knew her well said it best: “An amazing woman and true public servant. It was a privilege to stand with her through thick and thin.

Loyal yet tough, Mayor Susan Whelchel brought out the best in us, and in return gave us her all. She was my friend. I am heartbroken, and will miss her.”

We all will. She was special. We need more people like Susan Whelchel in the public arena. It was a privilege to know her.


Heroes & Villains

Dropout is the mesmerizing story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

We’ve been watching two fascinating series about wayward entrepreneurs on Showtime and Hulu.

“Super Pumped” is the story of Uber and its “tech bro” founder Travis Kalanick. “TK”, as he was known,  broke a lot of dishes while disrupting the taxi business before being dumped for creating a culture more toxic than sucking on the tailpipe of a Checker cab.

“Dropout” is the fascinating story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes who modeled herself on Apple’s Steve Jobs— except for the fraud part. She will be sentenced this fall for essentially lying her way to the top before taking a fall. Her black turtleneck didn’t save her from the fact that her company was built on…well…nothing but hype.

Yes, it seems that Hollywood is taking a dim view of entrepreneurs lately. The trend goes back a decade or so to the “Social Network” which portrayed Mark Zuckerberg as an egomaniacal, socially awkward techie who climbed over a lot of people to build Facebook into a global behemoth. In other words, the movie was spot on.

Also, a fit for the evil entrepreneur narrative: “WeCrashed”, the story of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who ran his $47 billion company off the rails before being given his walking papers.  We can also look forward to  “Billion Dollar Whale” a soon to be released movie about Jho Low who looted the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund before disappearing somewhere in China. He remains at large. But he did take down a government and ensnared Goldman Sachs during his memorable run. In a quirk of fate, I got to know one of the major players in that scheme, but I’m saving that story for my next book. It’s a good one.

Yep, there sure are some cautionary tales about gifted grifters whose magnetism, vision, and ability to tap into greed makes for great books and movies and in most cases bad businesses. The jury is still out on Facebook while Uber and WeWork seek to move past the dubious behavior of their founders.

But the evil entrepreneur narrative doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, there are villains in the world of entrepreneurship, but there are lots of heroes too. I wish Hollywood would publicize their work as well—in many ways they are more interesting if not as salacious.

Admittedly, I am biased, but I work alongside a very kind entrepreneur named Carl DeSantis. He built Rexall Sundown from scratch into a huge vitamin manufacturer right here in Boca Raton before selling it for $1.8 billion in 2000. Rexall Sundown employees shared in the wealth they created—which is Carl’s way. While most people would have retired after such a huge exit, Carl went back to work, creating a family office and investing in companies and people. His latest hit is Celsius, a wildly popular healthy energy drink that trades on NASDAQ. Celsius started in Delray Beach before moving to larger headquarters in Boca Raton. But when Celsius rang the bell on Wall Street, Carl was onto the next thing—Tabanero Hot Sauce, which we are working hard to make a hit. Make sure to try it at Caffe Luna Rosa and Christina’s among many other restaurants.

Another good guy entrepreneur is Delray’s very own Randy Smith, who runs Heritage Flooring. Randy is a serial entrepreneur with a curious mind that I deeply admire.  I’m lucky to call him a friend because having lunch with Randy is like going to business school with salad dressing (always on the side).

Randy and his wife Lennie, have a passion for sailing (and life itself) and I’ve been taken by their devotion to an organization called Warrior Sailing ( which provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. Warrior Sailing reconnects veterans to the camaraderie and teamwork they previously found in military service.

While Randy and Lennie certainly know how to have fun, the Wolf of Wall Street has nothing to worry about from these two.  They run a much cleaner ship.

We understand it is fashionable around these parts to bash developers. But like we’ve been saying, there are good developers and there are bad ones. We need the good ones because their entrepreneurship creates the vibrancy we rely on to make our cities work.

Along the way, I’ve known a few good ones (and a few bad ones too) and my company has dabbled a little bit in this world— as investors anyway. I can say that the development business is not for the faint of heart. Yes, there are great rewards if you do a good job, your timing is right and there’s a market for your work. But there is great risk as well—and mistakes can wipe you out, so can interest rate hikes, pandemics, hurricanes, bad politics, changing tastes and construction costs.

You must be a great entrepreneur to swim—and not sink— in those waters. Still, I know several developers who are very philanthropic, community minded and work hard to serve their communities.

Meanwhile, some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met are in the restaurant biz.

Talk about a tough road.

The competition is fierce, the margins are small, it’s hard to build and keep a staff but somehow, they figure it out.

Fran Marincola and his father started with a small gelato shop on A1A in Delray and built it into Caffe Luna Rosa, a Delray landmark. CLR— as some of us call it— offers health insurance to its employees and the restaurant has given back a lot to Delray Beach over the years.

Same goes for former Boston’s on the Beach proprietor Perry Don Francisco, co-founder of Delray Citizens for Delray Police. For 30 plus years, Perry has quietly been there for so many people while being a steadfast supporter of police, fire, and local schools. He’s one of a kind; a gifted, hardworking entrepreneur.

I can think of dozens of examples of talented entrepreneurs who are role models as well.

So, as much as we are enjoying the drama behind the creation of Uber and Theranos, we are heartened by the good guys. They are everywhere. You just have to look.

And when they cast the part of Randy Smith in the Netflix version of his story (the series should be called “Floor It”)  I hope they consider Brad Pitt for the role.


Facts about entrepreneurship:

America just witnessed the biggest business startup boom of our lifetimes.

  •    5.4 million people applied for small-business licenses last year — a 53% jump from 2019, pre-pandemic.
  •  Global investment in startups shattered records in 2021, hitting $643 billion — 10x what it was 10 years ago.




Change The World

From heavyweight champ to fighting Putin, who could have known what history had in store.

“We can change the world rearrange the world
It’s dying – to get better” -Graham Nash


“I’m sorry, where should we go? This is our home… we defend it”—Wladimir Klitschko, former heavyweight champion.

Ten years ago, I went to Burbank, California with a colleague to film a commercial for Celsius, the beverage company that we worked for and believed in with all our hearts when few others felt the same way.

We were there to film a commercial with Mario Lopez, our first celebrity spokesman. Mario was also an evangelist for Celsius.  He didn’t need to get paid to drink Celsius. But we wanted him to promote the brand.

A few months earlier, that same colleague, Irina Lorenzi, and I had gone to LA to negotiate a deal for Mario to represent Celsius.

We felt beat up by the experience, but later learned it was all part of the game. Mario loved the brand, and it was his passion for our mission that sealed the deal. After all, we weren’t exactly Coca-Cola. (Today, we have a multibillion dollar market cap, so the lesson is believe!).

So here we were a few months later, filming a commercial based on a concept that Mario had conceived.

We went to a boxing gym in downtown Burbank, a place where Mario– an ardent fan of the “sweet science”– trained. The ad was cute but simple. Mario would be sparring with an older gentleman who was being pummeled until he took a swig of Celsius and turned the tables on Mr. Lopez.

During the filming, a very large, very muscular man stepped into the gym. It was heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. He was 6’6” and looked like he was chiseled from granite. He came by to see Mario, his friend.

After a few moments of chit chat, it was decided that we would write Wladimir into the script. He didn’t charge us (we couldn’t have afforded him) but he was gracious, a good sport and willing to help the cause, which is apparently a character trait.

Irina and I were elated. So was Mario. The commercial was better than we had imagined.

Here it is.

I was so taken by Mr. Klitschko’s kindness, that I read up on him. He was born in the Soviet Union and his father was a General who was one of the commanders in charge of cleaning up the effects of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. His dad was later diagnosed with cancer. His brother is Vitali, also a former heavyweight champion and the current Mayor Kyiv. Both Wladmir and Vitali hold PhDs in sports science. They are not your typical boxers.

I’ve been thinking about Wladimir, his brother and of course the Ukrainian people since the Russian invasion.

The brothers are together in Kyiv bravely facing the brutal assault of a ruthless dictator hellbent on death and destruction. I have been following the brothers on social media and praying for their safety and the safety of their citizens.

Both Klitschko’s made a fortune because of their boxing prowess.

They could be in any exotic location enjoying their riches and the opportunities that their fame and their education’s would afford them. Instead they are in Ukraine defending their home and their freedom.

Wladimir signs his twitter posts with the hashtags “we are all Ukrainians”, “stay with Ukraine” and “stand together.”

And we will.

I hope we will.

For the love of Ukraine.

Sand in His Shoes

On a happier note, legendary journalist David Lawrence Jr., received a major award last week from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

It’s aptly titled the “Sand in my Shoes” award and it is given to a Miamian who has added value to the community and to our state.

I can think of no better person than Mr. Lawrence, who is a hero to journalists nationwide and those of us who value public service. He used to work for the Palm Beach Post.

I had a chance to meet Mr. Lawrence a few years ago after he led a discussion with former Governor and Senator Bob Graham at the annual meeting of Leadership Florida. It was a thrill to see two legends trade stories. I bought Mr. Lawrence’s book “A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child.” It was inspiring.

A friend posted 12 lessons that Mr. Lawrence shared after receiving the award last week. I thought I would print them here.

  1. Tell people that you love them while they are still alive.
  2. Believe in people.
  3. Grow spiritually – believe in something.
  4. Racism is the great cancer of societies.
  5. Have the courage to speak up.
  6. Be a lifelong learner.
  7. We cannot get through life without pain – but we can grow through it.
  8. Get back to people quickly.
  9. Believe in redemption.
  10. Always vote for someone with a moral core.
  11. Love this country- help us make it better.
  12. “The purpose of life is not to be happy—but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”-Leo Rosten


Good Begets Good

Carl DeSantis

What do Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett have in common with the gentleman I share Jimmy John sandwiches with every Monday and Wednesday?

I asked myself that question last week when the annual Forbes Billionaires List was released and my friend Carl DeSantis’ name appeared alongside a who’s who of international business icons.

Unlike many flamboyant titans on the list, Carl is a quiet and private person. You won’t catch him tweeting, showing off or bragging about his accomplishments which are many. His modesty is why we were so thrilled to see Forbes include Carl and do a feature story on him as well. We feel strongly that he deserves the recognition he works hard to avoid.

After all, very few business leaders have helped steered two companies to multi billion dollar valuations like my friend Carl.

He founded Rexall Sundown which became the world’s biggest vitamin company and he’s been a guiding force for Celsius which is rapidly becoming one of the hottest beverage brands in the world.

It’s a staggering achievement in a career that started modestly as a store manager for Walgreens.

Along the way, he has changed lives, nurtured careers, delighted investors in his companies and given generously to causes and organizations he believes in. In a word, he’s a mensch.

When we got the call from Forbes, those of us who work at his family office CDS International Holdings in Boca Raton, were more excited than Carl was. In fact, he wasn’t excited at all. As I mentioned, he doesn’t really like the attention but we were thrilled that such a prestigious publication was recognizing our friend and mentor. When we made contact with the editor of the project, he told us that not only did Carl make the list for his ownership stake in Celsius (NASDAQ: Celh) but they were interested in doing a feature on his one of a kind career.

With some gentle cajoling, we convinced him to do an interview and I promised to sit along side him for our phone call with Forbes. Joining us was Carl’s long time friend and assistant Jim Steinhauser who has been at Carl’s side for 34 years.

That’s how Carl rolls—loyalty, family, collaboration. He promotes a culture of input from everyone and lives by a simple credo: “good begets good.”

In short, he has been a blessing to so many lives.

Wealth and riches are not the true measure of a life well lived and while Carl certainly has both, he knows that the only scorecard that really matters is how we treat people and how we use our gifts to benefit the communities we touch. We can all attest that he lives up those ideals. He’s kind, gentle, compassionate and extremely generous. He’s also very unique.

Carl’s innate talent is his uncanny ability to discern whether a product will resonate in the hearts and minds of consumers. He can look at an idea or a brand and tell you with certainty whether it will succeed.

He believes the gift is innate or G-d given; refusing to take credit for a special ability or talent.

In the case of Celsius, he was a steadfast believer even when, especially when, the brand was left for dead a number of years ago after being delisted from NASDAQ and when product was shipped back off the shelves of stores nationwide.

He never stopped believing in Celsius and he never stopped putting his money behind his belief.

It was going to work, he insisted and because he believed we did too. All of us.

Carl doesn’t know it but he’s inspiring in his own unique way. He doesn’t give flowery speeches but he has a special way of letting you know he believes in you and the mission we are on—and that if we stay the course we will succeed.

That’s leadership. The ability to instill that belief in a team. There is nothing more powerful.

The story of Celsius is still being written but it’s a remarkable saga of resilience, hard work, belief, investment, trial and error and a miraculous breakthrough.

The brand that was born in a small warehouse like office in downtown Delray is now sold internationally and is valued at close to $4 billion.

There have been many key players in this ongoing story and I hope someday that the full story will be told because it contains many lessons for budding entrepreneurs.

But the steady thread has been my friend Carl.

We’ve been working side by side for years now on a variety of projects and he has taught me more than I can ever adequately describe.

I adore him.

I’m not alone. Like I said earlier, he has touched a lot of lives.

And at an age when many have long retired, he continues to make some noise. I love that about him.

For all the success he has experienced, he’s never grown complacent. He still wants to win—the right way through generosity, teamwork, love and concern for others.

He knows that success is never final and failure doesn’t have to be fatal. And now we know that too.

A few years back, on the occasion of Carl’s 80th birthday, a colleague and I produced a book on some of the lessons we have learned from out friend over the years. We gave it to Carl and his family which includes those of us who work for CDS, his family office.

When the Forbes piece hit last week, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at that book. Maybe we could flesh it out, freshen it up and publish it because it might help others.

We tried to capture the wisdom and essence of a very special man. Of course, we won’t be able to come close but even if we can distill a little of what we’ve learned it would be worth it.

My friend is that special.

Here’s the link to the Forbes article. It’s awesome. So is Carl.


Go Celsius! From Humble Beginnings….

The line-up.

Wall Street is giddy over a local stock that has been on a tear of late.

Celsius, born in Delray and based in Boca, is a beverage company that is delighting consumers, investors and those of us who love a good story of a small company slaying the giants.

When Celsius (CELH on Nasdaq) released record results last week, the stock soared continuing a run up in price that has caught the attention of CNBC’s Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” fame and lucky investors who remembered a time, not too long ago, when the stock traded under a dollar Over the Counter.

While the results reported were stupendous, nearly $37 million for the quarter an 80 percent increase over last year’s results, Celsius is far from an overnight success story. The team, both past and present, has been hard at work building a brand for more than a decade.

Celsius is a tale of belief, commitment, hard work, love, passion, sweat, a few tears and a whole lot of investment— especially from a local entrepreneurial legend who discovered the drink while dining on Atlantic Avenue.

I would venture to say that if you look closely at most successful brands you will find a familiar tale of perseverance. Each company is unique in their journey but there are commonalities including a bedrock belief that you have something special.

In Celsius’ case, there was a unique selling proposition. The energy drink burned calories—up to 100 per can. The claim was clinically proven by more than a half dozen university studies.

That’s pretty unique.

But the beverage business is brutal and capital intensive. The competition includes huge conglomerates and hundreds if not thousands of upstarts all vying for our taste buds.

But my friend and business partner Carl DeSantis knows a little something about picking winners.

He built Rexall Sundown into the world’s largest vitamin company launching hit product after hit product from its headquarters in Boca.

After selling the company for $1.8 billion in 2000 he went back into business running a vast array of enterprises ranging from hotels and restaurants to clothing companies and an up and coming hot sauce company called Tabanero. Keep your eye on Tabanero; friends it’s the next big hit.

My friend Carl has what you might call an eye for what will work and what won’t. He believed in Celsius and never wavered in his conviction that the  healthy energy drink, with the clean label (no sugar, low sodium, vitamin infused and delicious) would be a winner. It just took a while.

Successful brands are built  brick by brick, sometimes you take two steps forward and three back but you keep going because you believe and failure is not an option.

Carl recruited me to be Celsius’ COO in 2008. I was a year removed from being mayor of Delray and while I knew of Carl, I didn’t know him personally. But he saw something in me and we became friendly.

Carl is kind, generous, gentle and sensitive. There’s also more than a bit of magic in his personality.

He has a sixth sense about products, people and places. His instincts tend to prove true. So all of us who work with Carl listen closely when he has a feeling about something.

I’ve seen him predict hurricanes,  whether businesses will work and he even assured me I would survive COVID.

Over the years, Celsius hit more than its fair share of rough patches. As I’ve noted, the beverage business is brutal. Even Coca Cola failed when it released a calorie burner beverage a few years back.

But when you deploy a great team behind a great product you will break through–eventually.

Celsius has been blessed with a tremendous array of sales, marketing, management and board talent currently led by CEO John Fieldly who is a terrific young leader. He had a terrific predecessor in a gentleman named Gerry David.

Gerry and I sit on the board of Hyperponic, a promising startup which provides technology to the cannabis industry. Keep an eye on that company too. We are doing some groundbreaking work in Michigan and Oklahoma.

Still, the business world is a tough place.

Entrepreneurship can be thrilling and terrifying sometimes all in the same day.

All of us associated with Celsius have enjoyed watching this company grow.

There’s a thrill when you walk into Publix and see an end cap. It’s fun to see someone at the gym drink a Celsius and yes it’s very cool to see a company you care about listed on a major league stock exchange and sold at 74,000 stores domestically and across the world.

Those of us who know the story know that none of this would have been possible without Carl’s foresight and fortitude; without his good natured belief in a little beverage brand that occupied a small warehouse space on Fourth Avenue near the tracks in downtown Delray.

Back then, we were excited to see the cans on the shelf at the local gas station. Today, we have a market value of over $2.3 billion and are loved by thousands of consumers who enjoy a healthy energy drink with no corn syrup, preservatives or aspartame.

The Celsius story story is truly inspiring. It’s about the power of belief, commitment, vision and hard work. That’s what it takes to succeed in any endeavor.

Thanks Carl. Your belief in this amazing company has touched a lot of lives.

We can’t wait to see what’s next.