Capturing the Entrepreneurial Spirit: Paul Sack

First Republic Bank

First Republic client, Paul Sack is the Founder of The RREEF Funds, a real estate investment business which was acquired by Deutsche Bank in 2002. While his career as a businessman is vast, his reach is extended through his work for the Peace Corps in Tanzania and his esteemed photography collection, most of which he has gifted to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Paul’s passions lie in photography, travel and living abroad and First Republic’s relationship-based service and personalized approach have given him the capacity to focus more on the things he loves.

Here, Paul shares with us his unique perspectives on being an entrepreneur and living the life he always wanted.

Taking Chances

When I was 31 years old I was working at The Emporium department store and I wasn’t making enough money to do the things I wanted to do: paint, travel and live abroad. At the time I had a mortgage, a wife and four children, one of which was about a year old. I told my wife that I couldn’t see myself spending my whole life working for 40, 50 hours a week and waiting to see if I would get to be the President of The Emporium, so I asked her whether I could take a chance and quit, with the intent to go into real estate. She said yes, so I quit and we didn’t agonize over it at all.

Living abroad and the Peace Corp

One of my big goals was to live abroad and around 1965 I visited Paris with my wife. I started thinking about what I would do when I walked out of the building each morning if we spent a year in Paris. I knew I could paint a bit, but I didn’t speak very good French, if any French at all. So I decided it would be good to have a job, and this was my original motivation for going in the Peace Corps. It ended up being the greatest thing I ever did. I was not a Peace Corps volunteer, I was a staff person; I was a country director in Tanzania. I think one of the few regrets I have in my life is that I haven’t lived abroad more often and had the chance to be part of other cultures.

On collecting photographs

I have to like the picture if I am adding it to my Here, Paul shares with us his unique perspective on being an entrepreneur and living the life he always planned to live.
collection; and if I don’t like the picture, I don’t buy it. Every picture in my collection I took home on approval for a week to look at the piece and decide whether I really liked it. Sometimes the first day I’d think, “I’m going to buy this one, but not that one”, and then after two or three days I realized that I’d seen everything that was in the first picture and it wasn’t resonating with me anymore and I decided the second one was more interesting. So, yes, I have to like them and I have to feel that they have some enduring quality.

Retirement advice

When people are retiring, I tell them you need something like a hobby to keep you busy about 30% of the time - that’s all, as somehow the rest of the time just fills itself. I spend my time travelling and trying to read the books that I buy. I read The New York Times Book Review and buy the book and then try and find the time to read it. I go to the opera a lot, I go swimming every day, I read The New York Times, the Times and Chronicle -  it takes an hour and a half to read newspapers, I don’t know how I had time to have a job!

The importance of formal education

I think education’s tremendously important. I’m interested in economic development and I think that getting the population educated is the first step to economic development. I’ve often thought how different my life would be if I had not received an MBA at Harvard - not because of any contacts I made, but because I learned a lot. I was a in the retail business, I was a real estate developer, I went to Peace Corps and had a successful career there and then I started a big investment company, and I think Business School has been a tremendous influence on me. I’ll never forget when I had a conversation with the Head of Mergers and Acquisitions of Lehman Brothers and asked him whether I should spend two years at the Harvard Business School or whether I should start work straight away. His exact words were “Paul, two years at the Harvard Business School will give you a certain brashness that’s worth two years of your life here on Wall Street”. I see that as the turning point of my life.

On success

I don’t sit around measuring success or thinking about what success would be. To me, success is a happy life and taking on projects and achieving them. I think I’m achievement oriented and goal oriented and I take pleasure in accomplishing things.

A photo you wish you'd been in?

What an idea. It would have been nice to have had Roger Fenton do my portrait or Margaret Cameron - if there’s a heaven I’ll look into it.

The views of the authors of these articles do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.