And Unpopular Choices Is The Essence Of Potent Governance
Chairman and CEO of Global Private Funding. Sam Francis Senev.
Century City, USA
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!” Sir Winston Churchill, British politician, army officer, writer, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-1945. His speech at the House of Commons, 4 June 1940, following the evacuation of British and French armies from Dunkirk as the German tide swept through France.
You may be wondering why I chose this iconic quote from The British Bulldog as the forerunner or the cover picture at Brocket Hall where both Queen Elizabeth as well as Sir Churchill resided backdrop of this exclusive feature.
As well as many other traits of leadership and the skill to see past the façade, Sam’s love for nation and mankind has led him down a path that Sir Winston Churchill travelled. His admiration of Winston Churchill extends to sharing a love for the ship Churchill travelled in after the war.
For the last three years, Sam has been restoring the oldest private ship launched since WWII. There are still some of the original furniture and personal items of Sir Winston Churchill present onboard. Sam says he can feel Prime Minister Churchill’s powerful spirit and sense the aroma of his cigars.
Sri Lankan-born Saman Francis Seneviratne became known as Sam Francis Senev, Chairman and CEO of Global Private Funding (Global), whose approach to life is to meet every opportunity and challenge with precision and tenacity, has changed the world’s economic landscape.
He has advised governments and Presidents of America, Colombia, Belize, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Japan, France and royal families, spoken at the US Congressional Auditorium and at the French Senate. Most recently, Sam was honoured with a Fellowship at the Social Phenomenon Thinktank, an organization dedicated to ensuring success even through times of adversity.
He is a National Security Advisor, co-authoring a book with Leslie Shaw, a university professor, on the impact and resolution of inclusion, delusion and the losing of culture and identity.
While EB5 is a buzzword among those who peddle US residency for investment, Sam was a pioneer in legislative drafting and reform to create economic development leading to job creation through foreign investment. Sam is an immigrant who understands immigrants, loves America and values the cost of admission to the land of the free. He currently sits on an Immigration Reform Committee.
Sam was one of the architects of The Walt Disney Company restructuring in 2000 which resulted in consolidation of several data centres, and the workforce reduction of approximately 2600 through a Voluntary Separation Package (VSP) and an Involuntary Separation Package (ISP).
In 2007, Sam, a Lieutenant Colonel, participated in the search for Steve Fossett, the record-setting aviator, sailor, and adventurer, and best friend of Sir Richard Branson who disappeared in the September of that year. Sam as the Commander of the Clover Field Composite Squadron of USAF Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol led his team using cutting-edge anomaly detection system, ARCHER (Airborne Real-time Cueing Hyperspectral Enhanced Reconnaissance) to identify potential crash sites.
Sam was featured for an exclusive article for the Chinese market under the presidency of Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China. To this date the Chinese gravitate to Sam, and Chinese government officials have sought his international trade advice out of respect for his expertise.
In 2012 he was also featured on the pages of Bloomberg and on the NASDAQ tower when he bought an island in Belize which he later named “La Isla de Alma”. Though originally as an investment towards building a dynamic wellness centre and hospital for stem-cell therapy and research, at present, it is a sanctuary for the wealthy who seek privacy.
Sam doesn’t like the limelight, nor does he take credit for what his team builds. He measures success not by revenue, rather by sustainable jobs.
Sam works hard and plays even harder. Traveling through 11 cities in 5 countries in 7 weeks with late night emails and the occasional 2 AM calls isn’t out of the ordinary for him. His work schedule is demanding, and he works with just 4 hours of sleep. “I live my life to the fullest. We are blessed with relationships, projects, opportunities, and challenges; all teaching us something new. We must learn from these, evolve, and move on. I live my life with gratitude instead of a sense of entitlement. The more I am grateful, the more I am blessed with reasons to be grateful.”
Global Private Funding. The Intellect of Secondary Underwriting.
To understand how secondary underwriting has shaped the landscape of investment, healthy returns and risk minimization, let’s look into how Global Private Funding has evolved into a thriving risk mitigation company.
“Secondary underwriter is someone who is the public facing entity that is able to take the threats, the hits, the hate from anyone who the investors and the venture capital firms do not actually fund or invest in. Everyone thinks they are a good investment” said Sam during an interview.
Matching the confident leadership of distinguished patrician Sir Winston Churchill, Sam evoked the idea of a Financial World to rule through pluck and audacity. He created a shared vision owned by all financial institutions to expand lending while reducing risk. Yes, this does come with a price. Sam has to make difficult and unpopular decisions without regard for the consequences. Everyone who doesn’t get money hates him but being hated doesn’t faze him. He navigates to a true north that protects those who invest in what he invests in.
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Sir Winston Churchill
Global’s roots go back to the late 1980’s. Several successful young entrepreneurs united to pool their financial resources to privately invest in start-up companies. In time, services such as revenue financing, purchase order financing, and factoring were added to the venture capital offering. All of these services were provided to ventures that were hand-picked for the sole purpose of supporting their growth and success. However, it is important to note that Global does not fund operations.
As these principals steadily and predictably grew in their success, they expanded their service offerings to include a large sum of funds invested with small private banks, credit unions and factoring providers.
Historically, all services were provided through the utilization of industry partners so as to accommodate all regulatory agency requirements. In addition, this model created synergies between Global and banks such as Home Savings and Loans, Security Pacific Bank, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), Washington Mutual and CIT, some of whom have bought each other.
Then on 4 February 1991, the first ever computer virus in the history of mankind to attack multiple operating systems and system architectures named “Michelangelo” was discovered. Michelangelo set out to destroy personal as well as commercial and industrial operating systems on the birthday of the famed Renaissance man.
Sam created the antivirus for this vicious virus. “This made me a lot of money. By this time, I had very close relationships with several bank CEOs. But the more I asked them about investing through the bank, the more I realized the banks made all the money and the investors made very little. Then one day I told one of the bank CEOs that I was going to pull all my money out because I was thinking about starting my own bank. I was 22 at that time. He was very upset as the liquidity of his bank was at jeopardy. I said to him: I will lend you my money at 3% a month. He was stunned “Why would I pay you 3% a month?” That was my final offer. Following morning, he called me up and he said “Okay fine, and so I entered the factoring and bridge loan market. I then went on to provide mezzanine funding.”
Sam continues “I created a whole industry pioneering way of doing business. After the agreement, I realized because of the US banking system, banks are very vulnerable. I didn’t want my money to be vulnerable. By the end of the second month, I distributed my funds over several banks with my proposition of taking the mezzanine risk that banks couldn’t or didn’t want to take.”
During the down-turns in the economy, Global stepped in to provide management expertise and carry its equity-based investments through to a sale, merger or a strategic acquisition, recovering their investment and a healthy return. With this unique equity-based lending model, Global gained a reputation in the industry as a bail-out company, and was hated by many.
Sam says “If not for our firm, major banks, credit unions, financial services companies, and investors can’t really have the flexibility they have. Doing it right the first time is our goal. Do it well enough to sign our names with pride is the mission. Our goal and mission may sound too simple, but they are the building blocks with which we build each and every relationship. Success is most easily achieved when there’s trust. Integrity is choosing to do the right thing even when no one is watching.”
Today, banks, credit unions, financial institutions, and investment companies present their liabilities to Global. Unfortunately, there is a “bad wolf” aspect to the firm. If the borrower defaults, it is Sam and Global who go after that person for recovery; sometimes through foreclosures and other times through litigation. It’s a thankless business where we only make enemies when we do our job right. There’s plenty of mudslinging, name calling, and slander. Threats are an occupational hazard.
Global continues to provide a litmus test when many Banks, Credit Unions, Financiers, Portfolio Managers and even Family Offices come seeking strategic support and recovery assistance. The commitment is to radically change the client’s potential for success without disruption to their ongoing business.
Hollywood and the Movie Industry. Is It A Good Choice for Investors?
In 2017, The American film industry generated $43.4 billion in revenue, increasing in each of the past five years at an annualized rate of just 2.2%, according to a report by the research firm IBISWorld.
Even in the worst of times, movie studios still make movies. They have budgets set aside, they have operating costs that they can cover, and they also have existing agreements with larger companies for product placement. And yes, for the likes of Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Sony, and Walt Disney Studios this is easy as they already have great relationships and diverse sources of income.
For an independent movie producer, raising the funds is critical to whether they’re going to have their movie made or not. The independent movie producer needs to diversify revenue just as the Big Studios do.
Investing directly in a movie sounds glamorous but it can be a perilous endeavour. If a corporation wants to fund the creation of a movie because that corporation gets to put their name on it or gets to have their high-rise building in the movie, maybe it’s an advertising cost.
But why should someone invest in a movie?
According to Sam, the reason should be no different than investing in real estate or buying a classic car. You may live in it for a while or drive it on Sundays, but the aim is to sell for more than original purchase price. Otherwise, it is not investing. “If one goes into a deal knowing they are not going to make money, it’s not an investment, it’s a donation. We look at a project at its face value as well as the value or the cost it may ultimately have.
For example, someone might come to an investor with a request of a total budget of five million dollars investment in a movie. This person may think it is only going to cost five million dollars because they have taken into consideration all their special relationships with Studios, cast, camera and set crews. What happens if that person got struck by a truck, and the investor is left with a project that might cost them 12 million dollars? The cost of recovering your investment can often be greater than the investment itself.”
Number one and most often, the reason for investing in a movie is glamour. But in reality, when the writer, the producer, or the director is telling the investor that they may or may not make money, or want funds for a slate, that is never a good sign. “In life, always trust those who say they will lose your money or will kill you. Trust them enough to avoid them” Sam Senev
Best part of being in finance is that it’s an absolute. Everyone says that their industry is different. It’s not. As much as people make mistakes, unless the calculator breaks down or the wrong formula is put in an excel spreadsheet, it is absolute. In finance, a 100% is the total budget. When you have an allocation, the 100% cannot be 98%. If it is, someone is stealing. If its 110%, someone is lying to you.
The finance part of moviemaking is really the litmus test for the investor, and Sam always looks the investor in the eye and asks: “Are you getting your return and more? There shouldn’t be any exceptions!”
Sam recalls very fondly a drive from Los Angeles to San Diego with his childhood source of inspiration, Steve Wozniak (Woz).
Sam first met Woz at age 15 at a conference. Sam recalls “Woz took the time to talk with me, while Jobs hid himself behind arrogance. Woz is my hero. He founded Apple, even paid out of his pocket to give a computer to a teacher and has been the brains behind Apple. Yet he paid a price for his freedom by bringing in Steve Jobs to be the hood ornament of Apple. Everyone saw Jobs while Woz did the work. Everyone heard Jobs while Woz built the technologies. Woz was the first employee and remains at Apple. Jobs left and came back 12 years later. Woz inspired me to hire hood ornaments like Jobs at various stages of business and in various ventures so that I can be the engine, write code, build businesses while others did the sales and got the credit.”
During the almost three-hour drive on their way to honour Dr. Robert Dennard, the inventor of Dynamic Random-Access Memory, the two men talked about life, business, lessons learned and what to do with life. Dr. Dennard received the Kyoto Prize. “If not for DRAM, the iPhone might be the size of a school bus” jokes Sam.
Sam still smiles when he talks about a simple formula that Woz wrote down for him. F-S=H, Frowns minus Smiles equals Happiness.
Global Institute for Entrepreneurship
In 2012, a personal experience prompted Sam to lay down the foundations for an accredited certificate program in business studies. Global Institute For Entrepreneurship (GIE) was born. “There are so many people whose lives and businesses have been destroyed because of attacks and slander. I often talk to governments about this “Business Terrorism” which attacks businesses, people and the economy.
So, the more I investigated, the more I realized there was a need for education. I met with US Legislators, Congressmen, and Judges. I said we needed to change the laws so that when people are attacked this way, there are consequences. Europe is ahead with their laws and America needs to catch up”
West Los Angeles College, with an active student population of nearly 12,000 regular and extension students, 110 full-time faculty, more than 300 hourly faculty and 112 classified staff, was the chosen State and Federally funded college where the program was presented as an essential and innovative college extension program teaching how to navigate around and survive the potential perils that sink so many companies: from start-ups to those that have a legacy.
The goal of GIE is to create entrepreneurs who can survive “Business-Terrorism” and thrive in their entrepreneurial ventures. Lecturers and panellists include executives from Fortune 100 companies, successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, business financiers, underwriters, attorneys, M&A experts, the Small Business Administration, government contract managers, grant writers, and economic development representatives from the Los Angeles Mayor’s office.
GIE has a unique expedited foreign student visa component which doesn’t require the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for admission required for all other student visa based programs. Sam supports his mission with financial resources providing 100 scholarships a year reducing each resident student’s cost to a mere $1,500, a reduction of $5,000, that’s a half a million dollars a year commitment through the family office.
At the time of the interview for this article, Sam was wrapping up assisting an American university with a clean-up of a study abroad program gone bad. A hospitality management program out of Switzerland had misrepresented its capabilities, curriculum, and even the housing facilities. Because the American university receives federal financial aid, grants and scholarships for their students, their study program abroad has to meet American standards and accreditation. Sam advised the university, the State Department and the Department of Education to terminate the program for the safety of the students and for violating Federal Student Aid requirements.
Charity Work: City of Hope, and Veteran Service Support Centre
Sam is passionate about the maintenance and improvement of health economy. He believes that innovation is man discovering another of God’s gifts and a path for the divine healing. He invested in one of the world’s first stem cell research and treatment hospitals. He has himself received stem cell therapy, and is an avid supporter of medical innovation.
Located just East of Los Angeles, California, City of Hope is a leading comprehensive cancer centre, which played a role in the development of synthetic human insulin, and has performed tens of thousands of hematopoietic stem cell transplants. The City Of Hope also serves as a teaching hospital where faculty, residents and fellows conduct biomedical research, treat patients and educate medical professionals.
In 2013, NASDAQ broke the news that Sam was elected as Member of City Of Hope Board of Governors by virtue of his medical investments and involvements ranging from IPAs, wellness centres, hospitals, long term care facilities to medical equipment. The scientific expertise combined with Sam’s financial resources enhances the board’s capabilities to establish further treatment solutions.
In addition to funding the Global Institute for Entrepreneurship Program atWest Los Angeles College, Sam financially supports a Veteran Service Centre opened by West Los Angeles College Student Services Division. With the help of Sam, veterans receive expanded academic and financial aid counselling, permanent housing support, and guidance on the whole range of resources available to help them thrive in and outside of school. ” I hope that this will help our great men and women who served our nation achieve something more that they can feel proud of.”
Sam’s Life Philosophy
“I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve got in my life. My mom and dad were very hard-working people. My dad with all his wisdom never did make a lot of money, but he told me the only thing that can never be stolen from me was wisdom. My dad had seven doctorate degrees, I have one. I am blessed to have had my dad as a mentor to share my vision and influence my strategies. My mom has been my role model whose incredible work ethic drives me. She taught me that anything was possible if I just put my effort into it. Take the pain, no excuses, no entitlement, and no drama.
My kids inspire me and give me purpose. If life was given a second chance, if for no other reason, to have the same two most amazing children, I will marry the same person all over again.” When asked if he plans to have more children, he said he would love to.
Sam raced a Rolls-Royce in a Lamborghini Rally because the Rally rules only said one had to own a Lamborghini, not that you had to drive the Lamborghini in the Rally. Oddly enough, the Rolls-Royce Ghost and the Wraith has seen about as many laps on the race track as the Lamborghini Aventador. He flies a Cessna and enjoys gliders. The oddest thing of all is that instead of the Rolls-Royce or the Lamborghini, his favorite is a bright yellow convertible Smart car.He says: “I’ve never met someone who didn’t smile when they see my little yellow Smart convertible car. It hasn’t intimidated anyone yet.”
After three heart attacks and six heart procedures, he is still as resilient as a bulldog with stamina, strength, and persistence. He shares that God heals through the humble hands of Dr. Ravi Dave and Dr. Peter Lefevre of UCLA. He is sincerely grateful.
“I know God has a purpose for me. So, I find many ways to give without the accolades. To do just because. Because I can. I have one best friend and I think one is more than most have. A real best friend will give you an organ without having to ask, and tell you when you are wrong without judging. Anything one must ask someone for isn’t worth getting. Be it a hug, a kiss or a call. Societal definition of friendship has devolved.
It is vital to understand that positioning and posturing, be it in business or personal life, over a deal or affection, comes from that same fear and a lack of confidence which often becomes an inferiority complex that is demonstrated as a superiority complex, an ugly defence mechanism or mask. Good leaders know when to apologize while bad leaders argue. Only argue in court, where it matters. I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t have to do business with anyone I don’t like. So, I don’t deal with those with a superiority complex, an artificial deadline, or lack of regard for team benefit; most definitely no one who takes me for granted.”
Thoughts that linger
It is very easy to forget that one is in the presence of a profoundly wise, accomplished and powerful individual. Sam’s down to earth personality and uplifting nature draws others to him. At the end of each call and meeting, he asks if you accomplished what you came to accomplish. If not, he gives you more time with him. His personal goal is to leave everyone better than he found them. His pet peeves are entitlement and lack of gratitude.
We both sat back continents apart and took in the dialogue, savoured the moment and paused before I asked for his final thoughts.
“I want to build real relationships instead of chasing after the next big deal. The best deals happen when there’s depth in relationship and personal connection; when interests are aligned. Speak only to share facts, never to speak poorly or negatively about someone behind their backs. The more I live in gratitude, the more I am blessed with to be grateful for.”