Advertisement
  1. Business

Gay CEO: St. Petersburg's C1 Bank chief becomes rare role model

Trevor Burgess, the chief executive of St. Petersburg’s C1 Financial, says he never expected his sexuality to become an issue. “I’ve always believed people should accept me for who I am, and I’m not going to apologize for that,” he said.
Published Sep. 8, 2014

After St. Petersburg's C1 Financial CEO Trevor Burgess rang the opening bell and posed outside the New York Stock Exchange with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders on Aug. 14 to celebrate his banking company's first day of trading, he received a message from Jason Grenfell-Gardner, the chief executive of drug company IGI Laboratories:

"And then there were two."

As far as is known, Burgess and Grenfell-Gardner are the only publicly gay chief executives of publicly traded American corporations. Both said they weren't aware of any others.

There have long been gay chief executives at U.S. corporations, including some who lead relatively open lives. How many remains a subject of speculation.

Burgess, 41, never expected his sexuality to be an issue. "I've always believed people should accept me for who I am, and I'm not going to apologize for that," he said. "Being gay is just a fact, like height, or eye color."

Older corporate executives often felt compelled to be far more cautious, and for good reason. Homosexuality was long deemed a psychiatric disorder, and in many places, homosexual acts were crimes.

Earlier in his career, Burgess spent 10 years as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. He said he was openly gay, and the subject was never mentioned and posed no obstacles to advancement. "I realized there were plenty of gay executives there," he said. "They just weren't out. People would ask them if they were married, and they'd say, 'I'm married to my job.' Everyone knew they were gay, but it was never acknowledged. The whole concept of the closet was a new phenomenon to me. I saw how it affected all aspects of their lives. That never appealed to me."

That's not to say that he has not experienced discrimination. When Burgess was a student at Dartmouth College in the early 1990s, a fraternity brother wrote an article in the conservative Dartmouth Review that referred to Burgess with an anti-gay slur. "Within one week, I resigned from my fraternity and became president of the gay and lesbian student association," Burgess recalled.

Burgess met his husband, Gary Hess, 18 years ago, when he lived in Boston. They married in Massachusetts in 2008. The two have a daughter, Logan, who is 5. "I've had the benefit of a comfort structure that has supported me in my work," Burgess said.

Neither Burgess nor Grenfell-Gardner of IGI Labs would probably be in the public eye now had Burgess not approached Todd Sears, the founder of Out Leadership, on the eve of the initial public offering of C1 Financial, the parent company of C1 Bank.

Several of Burgess' friends pointed out that once his bank went public, he'd be one of the first publicly gay CEOs. "I didn't really think it was a story," he said. "But I did feel a sense of obligation to the generation behind me. We have good gay role models now in professional basketball and football, but there just weren't many in business. I thought if I could be helpful to somebody, that would be great."

After an article about his bank holding company going public appeared in the New York Times, Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the successful Supreme Court challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, sent Burgess her congratulations. "That meant a lot to me," he said. "She's the real hero. I'm just a guy running a bank."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Bins filled with products move on conveyor belts at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Ruskin. Amazon just announced it will open a similar center in Auburndale, Fla. (Times | 2018) Tampa Bay Times
    The new center will span more than 1 million square feet and be No. 11 in the state.
  2. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
A shot taken on June 4, 2019 during the 12-week demolition of the Harborview Center which began in April on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue in downtown Clearwater. The project is a key part of the city's roughly $64-million Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment project. Will residents move downtown once it is done? DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “It’s our biggest challenge,” one city official said.
  3. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.
  4. The Overstreet house at 1018 S. Frankland Rd. is seen in this Dec. 2018 photo from Google Earth. Google Earth
    The family says the house took two years too long to build and claims the contractor subbed high-end parts for low-quality materials.
  5. Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times (2017)]
    Port commissioners approved the raise after a year with milestone achievements on several fronts.
  6. A rendering of the proposed Edge Collective in St. Petersburg's Edge District. Storyn Studio for Architecture
    The "Hall on Central'' will be managed by Tampa’s Hall on Franklin team.
  7. Mango Plaza in Seffner has sold for $12.49 million. The plaza is anchored by a Publix and Walmart, making it attractive to a Baltimore investment firm. (Continental Realty Corporation)
    Mango Plaza’s new owners are based out of Baltimore.
  8. The Southernmost Point marker in Key West. CAROL TEDESCO  |  AP
    The travel website put the Florida Keys on its list of places not to visit.
  9. Philanthropist David Straz Jr. and his wife Catherine celebrate in March after he advanced into the Tampa mayoral run-off election. Mr. Straz has died at the age of 77. TAILYR IRVINE  |  Times
    The former mayoral candidate who lost to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor earlier this year, died Monday while on a fishing trip in Homosassa. His name, and legacy, are integral to Tampa.
  10. The Chick-fil-A on Dale Mabry in South Tampa. The company announced Monday it will no longer donate to The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
    The groups have faced criticism for their opposition to same-sex marriage.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement