Thursday, April 26, 2018
Business

Frank Morsani writes of business, philanthropy in memoir

TAMPA

Seeing his name on buildings is not what made auto dealer Frank Morsani one of the Tampa Bay area's biggest philanthropists.

Rather, living the American Dream is what made him want to share his good fortune, as well as the values that helped create it and the responsibility it brings, all of which Morsani writes about in a new memoir, To Be Frank: Building the American Dream in Business and Life.

"The capitalist system is pretty doggone good, and I wanted to tell the story we've been privileged to live," Morsani said during his first book signing, a reception last week at the University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. Co-authored with former Tampa Bay Times writer Dave Scheiber, To Be Frank is available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and at bay area Barnes & Noble stores.

Over the years, Morsani, 84, and his wife, Carol, the high school classmate he took to the prom and married a year later, have donated tens of millions to arts, education and health organizations, including the University of South Florida (which is not their alma mater), Oklahoma State University (which is), as well as to the University of Tampa, Moffitt Cancer Center and the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

"He works hard and gives hard," USF Foundation CEO Joel Momberg wrote in the book's foreward. "The Morsani name on a building is a seal of approval."

The biography tells of Morsani's journey from poverty in Arkansas to owning more than 30 dealerships nationwide through his company, Automotive Investments.

From his boyhood, he remembers the "sense of wanting to do the right thing" as he watched his mother feed the men who came knocking at the back door during the Depression. "Never the front door," he said. "Too much dignity." Never mind that nine family members were squeezed into a two-bedroom house without plumbing or electricity.

"We didn't have anything, but neither did anyone else," Morsani said. "We didn't know we were poor. Everybody was poor."

Morsani enlisted as a mechanic in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Serving aboard the aircraft carrier USS Antietam shaped his management philosophy.

"The military teaches you to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator, and I managed my companies that way," he said. Decentralizing responsibility "permits many things you couldn't do if you were a micro-manager."

"Growing people to be successful" and "improving a person's price tag" has given him the most satisfaction, he said.

Later, Morsani supported his wife and two daughters as a master car mechanic for Ford Motor Co, The family moved to Tampa in 1970 when a Mercedes-Benz dealer fell ill and sought Morsani's help. A year later he bought the business from the dealer's widow.

Success is often a matter of timing, he said. He sensed Toyota's potential in the United States sooner than most. So in early 1973, when he opened University Toyota on Florida Avenue, he was the carmaker's sole dealer in Hillsborough County.

He also saw an advantage to accepting federal regulations on the auto industry.

"That's when a lot of people wanted to get out of the business, and I could get them out," he said. "I bought them out for nothing."

Other chapters chronicle the 10 years he chaired the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and traveled extensively on behalf of American business. "I gave five speeches a week between here and Beijing and Frankfurt in the '70s."

Morsani also shares his frustration about a personally costly, decade-long attempt to bring Major League Baseball to the Tampa Bay area.

In the latter third of his years, Morsani, who lives with his wife in Brooksville, continues his charitable ways, though he is now sought after as much for his business acumen as his philanthropy.

"We live our lives in thirds," Morsani said. "We learn, we earn, and then we return."

Comments
Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflected racist stereotype that Asian American restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 9 hours ago
As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

As more emotional support animals fly on U.S. airlines, Congress eyes new ways to tighten the leash

WASHINGTON — With hundreds of thousands of emotional support animals taking to the skies on U.S. airlines, Congress may start pulling a tighter leash.Two new legislative options emerged this week to address a hairy issue for American Airlines, Southw...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

ST. PETERSBURG — The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving his post to take a new role with the utility’s parent company June 1, the company announced on Wednesday.Harry Sideris, 47, was appointed this week to serve as vice president and chief distr...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Comcast challenges Murdoch with rival bid for U.K.-based Sky

LONDON — U.S. media giant Comcast on Wednesday offered $30.7 billion for Sky PLC, topping a bid from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and setting up a bidding war for Britain’s biggest satellite TV company.Comcast said it would pay approximately $17...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality st...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Published: 04/25/18
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Published: 04/25/18
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Published: 04/25/18
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Published: 04/25/18