John A. Catsimatidis Jr. grew up with a father who was, and is, a successful businessman. As his dad bought, grew and ran a number of successful companies in a variety of industries under the Red Apple Group umbrella, John Jr. caught the entrepreneurial bug early, accompanying his dad on visits to companies.
In addition to usual kid activities, such as playing basketball and video games, John developed computer programming as a hobby, eventually launching software applications during his time in high school and NYU’s Stern School of Business, where he had a double concentration in finance and management.
Today, John, along with his father, is a Principal at Red Apple, a conglomerate that owns and operates assets in the energy, real estate, finance, insurance and supermarket industries. In addition to his involvement in the portfolio companies, he also leads the investment team that manages approximately $700 million in assets in strategies such as energy equities and high yield. As part of the investment team, John also spends time in venture capital. The firm’s venture investments range from tech and biotech to banks and media.
“We are highly selective with our investments and have a disciplined approach to capital allocation. The downside scenario is just as important to consider as the upside, and we do everything we can to avoid mistakes. We see so many fly-by-night blue-sky investment ‘opportunities’ that I have actually started a ‘wall of shame’ of bad pitches in my office!” he chuckled.
“Our company has a long history of doing business with IDB. They are a fantastic partner to work with, and their diverse industry knowledge allows us to work together on many different areas of our company.”
As an example of a recent success, Red Apple purchased the terminals and operations of Metro Energy, a New York-headquartered energy business on the brink of bankruptcy that would leave 130 workers without jobs. Red Apple restarted the business, expanded it, and today, United Metro Energy is one of the largest commercial and wholesale energy distribution companies in the New York metropolitan area. It has grown throughout the East Coast and is now a strong player in several states. United Metro is also a pioneer and leader in bringing biofuels to the New York City area.
“With a focus on hard assets, we’re very good at understanding the potential downside as well as the upside of any acquisition,” John says. “You have to fully understand the risk/reward balance. If we buy, we’re highly confident we will succeed. United Metro was a great example of this. We are proud to say the company is doing well and is expanding quickly.”
This is quite the challenge because the companies in the Red Apple portfolio are so different – including supermarkets, energy distribution, gas stations, a crude oil refinery, real estate development, insurance operations, investments, aviation and many others.
John is also involved in the philanthropic activities of the Catsimatidis Family Foundation, which supports organizations such as the Police Athletic League and the Alzheimer’s Association. Independently, he serves on the Emerging Leaders Council of the Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting the families of men and women in law enforcement.
John is pleased to call IDB “a fantastic partner to work with,” primarily negotiating loans for real estate acquisitions and the energy business. “Our company has a long history of doing business with IDB. They are a fantastic partner to work with, and their diverse industry knowledge allows us to work together on many different areas of our company.
“IDB is not bureaucratic,” he continues. “They understand us and work quickly and efficiently, so we can make deals.” And that seems to be an ongoing process.