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Monday, August 5, 2013

Richard Cohen, The Jewish Billionaire No One’s Heard Of

Rick Cohen, left with wife, Jan, center and daughter Rachel, right, is a hidden billionaire

One of America's richest men has managed to escape the spotlight so much so that even people in his small New Hampshire town don't recognize him.

Richard B. Cohen, third generation owner of supermarket supplying giant C&S Wholesale Grocers, lives with his family on a street in Keene, where the average residence costs just $294,000.

He goes to work everyday at a nondescript office that was slated to house a county jail and the truckers who deliver goods from the company's 54 distribution centers drive in unmarked trucks to avoid attention.

'We're the biggest company no one has ever heard of,' Bryan T. Granger, a company spokesman, told Bloomberg. And its CEO is even more under the radar.

Cohen, who goes by Rick, has a net worth of $11.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg index, and C&S - the largest grocery wholesaler in the world - had sales of $21.7 billion last year, distributing more than 95,000 products to 4,000 supermarkets from Maine to Hawaii.

Its customers include Safeway, Target, A&P, Stop & Shop, Ralphs and Foodtown.

The company, which Cohen solely owns, is valued at $11 billion, according to a Bloomberg estimate.
As well as the Keene home he shares with wife Jan, which, at $1.5 million, is the most valuable single family residence in the town, Cohen owns real estate in Ogunquit, Maine, and Jackson, Wyoming, according to local property tax records.

But he isn't flashy, and is not in the least interested in being famous, giving his last formal interview a decade ago and shying away from the media since.

'You'll run into Rick and Jan at the grocery store in Keene and at a show in the Colonial Theater downtown,' said Keene Sentinel executive editor Paul Miller, who previously coached one of Cohen's daughters at soccer.

Cohen is one of the 100 richest people in the world and the wealthiest man in New England after Connecticut hedge-fund manager Raymond T. Dalio, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

However, he's never appeared on an international wealth ranking.

The 61-year-old's grandfather, Israel, created C&S in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1918 and following a devastating flood in 1929, he opened a new warehouse twice the size a few blocks from the city's Blackstone River.

Cohen's father, Lester, later expanded the business to supply military bases following World War II.
Cohen went to the prestigious Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, graduating in the class of 1970.

He then attended University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school where he gained a degree in accounting, and joined the family business in 1974.

Some 15 years later, in 1989, Cohen became CEO and chairman, when his father retired.
By focusing on efficiency, he has made a huge success of the company in the small margin game that is grocery wholesaling.

For example, in 2002 Cohen agreed to pay floor workers at his distribution centers $18 an hour if they moved 25 pallets during that time.

He said teams not only rose to the challenge but surpassed expectations. Their employees' wallets were fatter and productivity shot up 40 per cent - a win win.

Now his daughter Perry Cohen works with the family business, as vice president of corporate learning and talent management.

Cohen is a stickler for retaining customers but isn't remotely concerned about making the brand a household name.

'I tried to put our name on the trucks and he didn't want any part of it,' Edward Albertian, 58, a former C&S president told Bloomberg.

'He wanted to continue to be stealth and operate in this little, dinky Keene, New Hampshire, marketplace.'
Harvard Business School professor Thomas DeLong said Rick was the smartest, most analytic and quantitatively driven person he's met.

'Many CEOs have a need to prove they're the smartest guy in the room. Rick is not like that,' DeLong explained to the news website.

Even the Keene Chamber of Commerce overlooked C&S as one of the town's largest employers, Bloomberg reported.

'As far as quality of character, quality of intellect, and quality of taking care of his people, Rick is as good as anybody I ever worked with in my career,' Albertian said. 'I love the guy.'

Cohen has two other daughter's - Rachel, who is a humble high school teacher, working at a charter school in Lynn, Massachusetts - and Jill.

Perry has two young children with her wife, Brooke Bull, making Cohen and his wife grandparents.
Jan Cohen is executive producer of the Kaddish Project, which is a touring musical on genocide.

The Holocaust studies center at Keene State College was renamed after the Cohens in gratitude of the family's financial support, according to the school's website.

As well as his roles of chairman and chief executive officer of C&S, Cohen has been a director at Food Marketing Institute since May 2008, according to Businessweek.

He is also a director of Food Distribution Institute and has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.

Cohen serves as a Member of the Young President Organization and has sat on the boards of various civic organizations in both Brattleboro, Vermont and Keene, New Hampshire.

In 2002, Cohen was a national finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Assumption College.

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