Bright Idea

Building a business is one thing. Building an entire billion-dollar industry is another. Meet Bob Goergen, an entrepreneur who burns the candle at both ends



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Beyond Business

A Greenwich resident since 1977, Goergen found the town convivial to his family, especially a shared love for sports. He sent Rob and Todd to Brunswick and played tennis with them at the Belle Haven Club. Rob even joined the ATP Tour before following his father’s footsteps in business; he calls his father “a work-hard, play-hard guy.”

“[The kids] got a golf course, tennis courts, a great school system,” Bob says. “They got everything here. It’s terrific.”

For years, Goergen didn’t experience a lot of Greenwich firsthand. He spent more time on airplanes, jetting from Chicago to Oshkosh to Texarkana to look over his various holdings in and outside of Blyth. He calls himself an “operating investor,” as opposed to a passive one. A favorite maxim encapsulates his philosophy on that front: “The best fertilizer is the footprint of a farmer.”

The same idea extends to his other interests. He takes an active part managing his charitable pursuits, whether it be sitting on the boards of his two alma maters, the University of Rochester and Wharton, both of which have reaped the rewards of extending full scholarships to a poor kid from Buffalo many times over, or developing an intensive entrepreneurial program at the latter institution.

There are also art trips to places like Buenos Aires and Berlin. Art is a shared passion for Pam and Bob, something Goergen says has taken the place of tennis as his leg joints have begun to complain. Their collecting tends to be in contemporary art, with a strong focus on sculpture.

“I like sculptures because they are tactile, three-dimensional,” Goergen says. “Sculptures you can touch, paintings you can’t. We’ve got a good balance between paintings and sculpture.”

Pam notes the couple relies on no art adviser, making their own buying decisions. “Ninety percent of the time, we like the same piece,” she says. “We can be walking different parts of the same gallery, and when we meet, we have the same pieces in mind.”

Neither Goergen will talk specifics about their art collection, except that it involves both an outdoor and indoor gallery at their backcountry Greenwich home. Peter Sutton, the Bruce’s CEO, calls the Goergens “generous” both with their collection and their time. The couple supports the Bruce’s annual Icon Awards, to be held this year at Conyers Farm on May 22, and sponsors an ongoing lecture series on subjects like Connecticut impressionism.

“There’s nobody better to have in your corner than Bob,” Sutton says. “He’s wonderfully outgoing and infectiously enthusiastic.”

With all the success of Goergen’s life, one field of endeavor seems beyond his capabilities: retirement. He tried it once in 1986 for what he says was three months.

“It was never three months,” Pam asserts. “More like six weeks. He can’t sit still. He can’t. For some people, retiring means not commuting into New York. But he’s never done that. He’s always had so many other activities, in addition to Blyth.”

Though Pam says she wishes he would take time to smell the roses, Bob prefers to keep his candles burning at as many ends as he can manage.

“I’m not satisfied working forty hours a week,” he says. “When I went to the University of Rochester as a freshman, one of the first things I saw was the college motto, Meliora; it’s Latin for ‘always improving,’ and I thought that was terrific. It’s about never being satisfied with the status quo. I believe that should be true for everybody, whether you want to study more, write better, run faster, whatever it is.”      

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