Monday, July 02, 2012

Local Boy Makes “Very Good”

Photo credit: The Ritz Carlton

by contributor Donna Shor

While Washington’s most happy millionaire, good-natured Mark Ein, is no Horatio Alger, he has worked as hard as Horatio to get where he is now. From boyhood he has been able to triumph over obstacles, as Carol Joynt discovered when she interviewed him during her Q&A Café lunchtime series at the Georgetown Ritz Carlton.

Carol, for years a successful Emmy-winning television producer, knows obstacles. An unsinkable woman, she has been through virtual flames and floods―and actual loss, grief, betrayal, financial hardship and the threat of prison. That’s just for openers.  

Her own recent book, “Innocent Spouse,” tells how her life unraveled after the sudden death of her husband Howard Joynt.  It took years and dogged legal work to prove she merited relief under the “Innocent Spouse Law.”  Unable to hang on to Nathan’s―and eventually evicted over a disputed lease―she recovered through her writings and her revival of the Q&A Café luncheon interviews, which she had begun at Nathan’s.

During her televised Q&A Café programs, she teases out the not-always-easily-obtained details from the lives of various notables. Her interview subject recently was Mark Ein.

Mark described a happy life growing up in Chevy Chase as the son of a successful allergist, Dr. Daniel Ein. (His mother is the oft-quoted health policy expert Marian Ein-Lewin and his stepmother the prominent publicist Marina Ein.) He has a younger brother who lives in Paris.  

He said several times during the hour how much he appreciates the Washington area, its vibrancy and opportunities, and how much he appreciated the chance to spend his boyhood here. He attended local public schools, graduating from Bethesda-Chevy High School where he was the captain of the tennis team, an interest that still reverberates in his life. 

He told Carol he realized very early that his career interest was entrepreneurship, so it was on from BCC to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, with an emphasis on finance; then to Harvard for his MBA.

He said that Donald Trump was an early icon to him and he also praised the business savvy of Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, whom he counts as friends. He himself was a boy wonder with Goldman Sachs and The Carlyle Group where he was handling one hundred million dollar funds at age 27.

When she asked who mentored him, he said Carlyle’s David Rubenstein who taught him how to focus. After seven years there, he struck out on his own as a venture capitalist, beginning his first company.

He agreed that despite the risks, entrepreneurship is in his DNA. Was he worried? “For the first two years I woke up every night worrying, about 3:30 each morning. I would lie in a cold sweat thinking of my responsibilities to my employees and to my investors.”

To “How do you choose what companies to invest in?” he answered that he looks for a company that is aggressive in growing their business and in fund-raising, saying if they can’t manage these they wouldn’t be able to sell their product and would not be a good investment. “At the end of the day, the call is mine.”

He said he truly enjoys figuring out the deals, working on them, and making them happen. 

Asked how many companies he owns he at first was unsure, finally saying there are six, but with a number of other companies in which he has ownership stakes.

He laughed when she asked “When did you realize that you are rich; and will you tell your mother?”

He serves as founder and CEO of Venturehouse Group, a holding company which creates, invests in and builds technology and telecommunications companies. He spoke admiringly of AOL’s Jim Kimsey, saying how much America On Line had contributed to the Washington area. “I’m sure he says the same of you,” replied Carol, while Jim Kimsey chuckled at one of the tables.

Ein himself is also renowned for his contributions and the many organizations and charities which he helps fund and gives his time to serve on their boards.  Asked if he travels he said yes, but that he spends most of his time here to keep an eye on things. 

His traveling sometimes involves tennis. Carrying his high school interest forward he is ranked as a pro player and has won games in a minor pro league, though he emphasized he is not high-ranking.

More to the point, he has brought a World Team Tennis pro franchise to Washington with his Kastles team, starring Serena Williams. “Last year the Kastles were the first team in WTT’s 36-year history to have a perfect, 16-0 season and they have won the WTT top spot 2 times out of the last three years.”  

He has built a handsome stadium for them at The Wharf in Southwest Washington. Most of all, says Ein, with ownership of the Kastles he has been able to further area youth participation in tennis, which he has welcomed and been able to help.

He proved a bit uncomfortable when questioned on his $8 million purchase of the Georgetown mansion of the late Katharine Graham. Carol questioned him on why he lives in Washington’s Palisades district instead of there.  The deteriorating condition of the estate, on which little has been done, has been sharply criticized in the press.

He explained that so much must be repaired on the interior as well as the more cosmetic repairs on the exterior of the house that he has not yet decided on the architect, the contractor or the decorator needed to complete what will be a monumental job. He said he was proud of the purchase, and indicated that he it made him feel that he has “arrived.”

Photo credit:  Attic Fire

“Well, GOSH!!” exploded Carol, thinking of his millions.

He said he was looking forward to living there and raising a family. When Carol remarked that he had the reputation of being a playboy, “Unfounded,” he demurred. 

“Well, it’s out there,” she continued, asking if he thought of himself as shy. When he said that actually he is she commented that he is on the spot as a young, attractive and wealthy bachelor in Washington.

“Washington is important to me and this home fits my vision of the future,” he concluded. ’I want to live out my life here.”

(Carol’s next Q&A Café will be at noon, July 26, at Georgetown’s Ritz, with pundit Howard Fineman as guest discussing politics and conventions.)