Supermarket Billionaire: John Catsimatidis

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There’s no money in owning markets, John Catsimatidis told me.

So how did he become a billionaire? He leveraged his supermarkets to buy real estate, gas stations, and more. Owning the markets protected his downside, as he explains in his book, “How Far Do You Want to Go?” and in this interview.

John Catsimatidis

John Catsimatidis


John Catsimatidis is a Greek-American businessman and philanthropist. He was born on September 7, 1948, in Nisyros, Greece. Catsimatidis is the owner and CEO of the Red Apple Group, a conglomerate that includes interests in oil refining, convenience stores, real estate, and supermarkets. He is also the founder and owner of Gristedes Foods, a grocery store chain in New York City. Catsimatidis has been involved in politics, running for mayor of New York City in 2013 as a Republican.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew Warner [00:00:00]:

Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me today is someone I’m so excited to have on, because, you know, there there are few ways to become billionaires today. One is you raise some money from venture capitalists. Maybe you some 10% of the business, and if the overall valuation is a billion dollars, for a moment, you can consider yourself maybe a billionaire in some way or another. Way to do it is to do what today’s guest has done. John Catsy. Matidus. I practiced so much, John, before, I that’s not bad. Have you considered shortening it to Cats? You’re a New Yorker like me.

John Catsimatidis [00:00:35]:

Well, you know, when I ran for mayor, I called it Cats. Cats, cats. C-A-T-S. In high school, they used to call me Catsy. We had a few good laughs, and that’s what life is all about, being able to do things, to have a few laughs and try to accomplish something at the same time.

Andrew Warner [00:00:53]:

You accomplish so much. All right, I read about it in your book. It’s called? How far do you want to go? Lessons from a Common sense billionaire. I grew up knowing your grocery stores as the ones in Manhattan, where we in Queens and Brooklyn aspire to go, and I didn’t realize how much else you’d done. I didn’t realize how much money you’d made from this. I didn’t realize the guy behind those grocery stores was a billionaire who owned oil companies, who owned an airline. Anyway, we’re going to get into all of this. Is the bulk of your money from the grocery stores that your parents didn’t want you to get into or from these other businesses?

John Catsimatidis [00:01:22]:

Well, my money was not in the grocery stores. We started in the grocery store because the capital needed to start a grocery store business was very, very little. I was working for, like, a big brother. I used to call him Cousin. His name was Tony. While I was going to New York University, NYU, Uptown campus, he says to me, I’m arguing with my uncle all day. I’m going to have family problems. I want you to buy my half of the store. I said, Tony, I’m going to school. I can’t no, you have to do it. So he sold me half of his store for $10,000.10, $1,000 notes. So I took over half the store. I’d go to school in those days. College is five days a week. I go to school five days a week, 04:00 in the afternoon. After school, I’d go to the store, work to 01:00 in the morning, go home, sleep a few hours, and go back to school by 09:00 in the morning. It’s a little bit treacherous. But I never had one argument with his uncle. You know why? I made the place profitable. Write this down. If partners don’t make money, they will have arguments for sure. If partners make money, they’ll never argue. And that was the beginning of my supermarket career.

Andrew Warner [00:02:40]:

When it was one store. What did you do to make it grow? I saw in the book that you said that it was marketing, and marketing is all about telling people, but what specifically did you do that worked for you?

John Catsimatidis [00:02:50]:

You make it better when you’re standing there and you say, what does the customer want? I tell people, page 255 in my book, it gives you 16 rules on how to deal with customers and make them happy. Well, you end up making the consumer happy. You give them what they want. For instance, what I would do I used to love cats, cats and dogs. But cats in New York City, in Manhattan especially, there was 3 million New Yorkers. In Manhattan, there’s probably 3 million cats. I used to buy cat food at the right price, deal to deal for manufacturers. I had cat food on sale 52 weeks a year. You know what customers did? They came with my store and bought cat food all the time. And I made the customers happy. Making customers happy helps make success.

Andrew Warner [00:04:00]:

So, John, what you’re saying is you found a few items that people really cared about. You priced them low because you got good deals on them. And when a customer came in to buy those, like cat food, they would come and stay and buy some other items, and that forever.

John Catsimatidis [00:04:13]:

And then in my second store, when I opened up the first Red Apple store on 87th Street, I had a company cat. And the cat used to sit on top of the register all the time. Customers used to love cats. They used to come in pet the.

Andrew Warner [00:04:28]:

Pet the cat by the people hated cats around food because they’re stepping around on everything.

John Catsimatidis [00:04:35]:

We never had one mouse in our store. What would you rather have, mice or cats?

Andrew Warner [00:04:42]:

All right, fair point. All right, how about this? So it seems to me then, it’s these grocery stores that you leveraged. You talked in your book about how you borrowed money against them, and then you were able to buy other things.

John Catsimatidis [00:04:52]:

I was an engineer. I took up engineering in school. I knew nothing about the finance. I had no bank financing. You know who financed me?

Andrew Warner [00:05:04]:


John Catsimatidis [00:05:05]:

No. My customers did business for me, but it was my vendors. My vendors ended up falling in love with me. And I had twelve Mentors. Eight of the twelve were Jewish. Why? It was the Jewish people in the grocery business in that time in New York area, and they were also in the real estate business. So when I proved to my vendors whether it was my grocery supplier, Sam Stein, he owned a company called Filigree Foods, who was a wholesaler, big wholesaler. Gary Meyer owned the milk company. Richard. Oh, my God. Rosenbaum, he owned the ice cream they all supported me. So if I want to build a new store, samsung used to call his controller, give John more credit. He wants to open up another store. So I opened up ten stores from the age of 2021 to about 24 with no bank credits.

Andrew Warner [00:06:19]:

All right. And you talk in your book about how by that age you became a millionaire. Do you remember specifically becoming a millionaire?

John Catsimatidis [00:06:25]:

That’s when a million dollars was really worth a million dollars, right?

Andrew Warner [00:06:28]:

Yeah, when there were few people who had it, when it was like a goal of a lifetime to even get close to it, let alone to hit it. Do you remember when you actually hit it? Was it a memorable day or was it just another day and the numbers were in the back?

John Catsimatidis [00:06:40]:

You know, my mentors would say, you’re doing well, and one day you’ll do even better. And that day came when I realized, no matter how well your stores do, if you have a lease and you don’t have real estate, guess what? You have no business. So in 1977, the world was coming to an end. Real estate in New York who was worth nothing. Yes, I took $5 million, $4 million in cash flow from the supermarket companies, put it into the real estate, bought real estate. That was what’s the Greek Jewish word for captain, in other words, that’s a good Greek Jewish word, isn’t it? And I bought it. I bought something alexander’s department store. Robin Faucus. When they were over 96th street in Broadway, they were going to build a big Alexander’s department store. When the community shot them down, they sold me the building on 99th in Broadway for $400,000. I sold that building for 40 million.

Andrew Warner [00:08:01]:

Okay, wait, let me pause for a second. What I want to understand is how you were able to see that New York City would come back afterwards and the calculation one of the things that you said in your book was I’m sorry to interrupt, but I want to make sure to really get this. One of the things you said in your book was you looked at a piece of real estate and you said, look, if I can’t make this profitable by putting a tenant in it, think I can put in a grocery store, and then I don’t have to deal with these real estate. That’s what it was.

John Catsimatidis [00:08:26]:

That’s correct. I use the grocery stores to back up my real estate.

Andrew Warner [00:08:33]:

So even if it becomes like a break even business, you still get to.

John Catsimatidis [00:08:36]:

Own it and the mortgage.

Andrew Warner [00:08:39]:

But Alexander’s people don’t realize, I grew up in New York, so I remember Alexander’s was massive. It was like bigger than Walmart of the time in Manhattan. Are you even going to be able to sell, like, what, cat food in this Alexander’s giant place? Was that really the calculation or was there something else?

John Catsimatidis [00:08:54]:

Take me through your alexander’s was buying all the property in the neighborhood, and that’s just one of the properties they just sold.

Andrew Warner [00:09:02]:

No, but if you couldn’t find a tenant for it or if you couldn’t sell it years from then, what was your backup? Was it to actually really open up a grocery store?

John Catsimatidis [00:09:12]:

Yes, open up a grocery store.

Andrew Warner [00:09:14]:

And you could open up that big of a grocery store and feel confident that you’d make money?

John Catsimatidis [00:09:17]:

Well, the piece they sold me was about 20,000, 25,000ft.

Andrew Warner [00:09:20]:

I see. It wasn’t the whole big got it.

John Catsimatidis [00:09:22]:

It wasn’t a whole big thing. No, it was it okay. Now the the key thing is all the real estate I bought in 1977, when the world was coming to an end yeah. When I woke up three, four years later, I made my first hundred million. And that’s how I made my first 100 million. And see, beginning it is easy once you make your first hundred million. And then I went into I always wanted to go to the Air Force Academy. I got the Congressional nomination for for West Point, so I wanted to start to fly. So I bought my first jet at the age of whatever, I was 29. And I said to my pilot, you know, it’s expensive to run this thing. So what do we do? What do we do? We go down to Atlantic City. We make a deal with the casinos. They were bringing in their suckers, their customers from Philadelphia, from New York, by limousine. They used to lose their money, have dinner, and come back, and they were happy. I convinced the casinos. You know what I convinced them? We’ll bring them in from a 600, 700 miles radius, we’ll fly them into Atlantic City. You’ll pay us $5,000 for the jet. They’ll lose $20,000. You buy them dinner, and they’re happy as a pig in well, I’m not allowed to say the four letter word, a pig in.

Andrew Warner [00:10:56]:

You know, I get it in sloppy or whatever.

John Catsimatidis [00:10:59]:

They yes, and they’ll be happy. Oh, my God. Casino sent me down by corporate jet, and we took that company from one company, jet and me and Jim Jacobs, to 48 jets, and we sold that company to Santulle, eventually from Goldman Sachs. Guess what that company became Net Jets. And Jim Jacobs stayed with them, and they eventually sold it to Buffett. And Jim Jacobs. My pilot started. He ran 800 airplanes. That’s a lot of it for this.

Andrew Warner [00:11:37]:

Jet business that you had started. And the reason you started it was because I wanted to fly jets. But you didn’t want to pay money. You wanted to see, can I make a profit out of this?

John Catsimatidis [00:11:47]:

That’s it.

Andrew Warner [00:11:48]:

Okay, pause for a second.

John Catsimatidis [00:11:49]:

I had to be creative.

Andrew Warner [00:11:51]:

This is the kind of energy that I miss. And this is what I loved about your book. And you even said, look, my parents didn’t come from Greece because they were poor. They came because they wanted a better life, and I think you even said more money, more like this is the type of thing we don’t talk about much.

John Catsimatidis [00:12:05]:

My two grandfathers came. One came from Constantinople with a Turkish passport. One came from the Greek island Misidos with an Italian passport. They were looking for the streets paved with gold. Well, it took me 100 years to find it.

Andrew Warner [00:12:25]:

They found it. All right.

John Catsimatidis [00:12:26]:

I found it.

Andrew Warner [00:12:32]:

I went to Brooklyn Tech like you did. I went to NYU like you wait.

John Catsimatidis [00:12:36]:

Alamar molder of men.

Andrew Warner [00:12:39]:

By then, it was no longer men. They also got rid of the naked swimming, which apparently was going on in your time, right?

John Catsimatidis [00:12:45]:


Andrew Warner [00:12:46]:

Yeah, that was something. They also had a shooting range, apparently, that we used to see, but we couldn’t believe. In New York, there was a shooting range for high school kids. Were you there?

John Catsimatidis [00:12:55]:

Absolutely. And we had a radio station. We had a radio station all the way on top. On top floor. And cousin Bruce, who works for us at WABC, that’s where he learned how to run a radio station.

Andrew Warner [00:13:09]:

He learned at Brooklyn Tech?

John Catsimatidis [00:13:11]:


Andrew Warner [00:13:12]:

You know what? I had no idea cousin Bruce, he was still on the air. I also didn’t realize, do you own WABC radio now?

John Catsimatidis [00:13:18]:

ABC. When I bought WABC, he was 87 years old. I brought him back to his home station of WABC, and guess what? 87 years old. I gave him a 30 year contract.

Andrew Warner [00:13:29]:


John Catsimatidis [00:13:30]:

All right.

Andrew Warner [00:13:31]:

Here’s the thing that I’m getting at. When I went to Brooklyn Tech, it was all engineers, just like you, and I was busting out to be an entrepreneur the way you became. When I’m reading your story in your book, how far do you want to go? I don’t see an entrepreneur who’s stuck in an engineering school. I see almost you flying through Brooklyn Tech, and it’s hardly mentioned. Were you entrepreneurial in elementary school and high school? I know a little bit about your college stuff. The way you were, was it in your bones or not?

John Catsimatidis [00:13:57]:

I don’t know. The only reason I went to Brooklyn Tech, all my friends went to Brooklyn Tech from my grammar school. I didn’t want to be I’m an only child. I didn’t want to be alone. You know why I went to Brooklyn Tech? It was my friends.

Andrew Warner [00:14:13]:


John Catsimatidis [00:14:13]:

And I wanted to be with my friends. And it’s scary. You know what me and Len Regio did for Brooklyn Tech? We were so appreciative. We started the $10 million foundation, first time ever for public high school, and we raised $10 million for Brooklyn Tech. And then I think they’re up to 20 or 30 million now to give the kids of Brooklyn Tech something if the board of education couldn’t afford to buy for them new computers.

Andrew Warner [00:14:46]:


John Catsimatidis [00:14:47]:

We did it.

Andrew Warner [00:14:48]:

Wow. I remember going there, and the school would be shut down on a random Monday because the school ran out of money. It was literally a funding holiday. Like a lack of funding. All right, let me continue with your story, okay? So you get this and you say, this is way more fun than owning grocery stores. This is the jet business. What’d you call it at the time? I forget the name.

John Catsimatidis [00:15:06]:

United Jet Fleet.

Andrew Warner [00:15:08]:

Okay? And you say, all right, if I could do United Jet Fleet, I think I could do a deal to buy another one. And you started looking and then you bought an airline. What was that airline?

John Catsimatidis [00:15:17]:

1983, this banker came to me. His name was Nelson. He was a big banker out of Kansas City. But he borrowed his own money from his own bank to buy the airline. That’s taboo. You can’t do that. So they knew I loved airplanes. They knew I love airplanes, and I’m a suffer to write a check. I bought an airline in December 1983 to give him the money to pay back his bank, his own bank, so he doesn’t get in trouble. So I bought the airline and I go down the headquarters was down in Smyrna, Tennessee was a subsidiary of Nashville. And the first meeting we go to in January of 84, we meet the CEO and he wants to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy. My bad. What did we buy here? So you know what we did? We fired the CEO and we kept the company going. And the company did well for a long time.

Andrew Warner [00:16:26]:

Wait, don’t take me to the end of the story yet. This is a fascinating story. John, I got to stop you. Don’t take me to the end of the story. This is a fascinating story. You buy it. What did you do to turn it around? I know eventually what happened in the end, and we’re going to get to that. But what did you do to get this airline to grow?

John Catsimatidis [00:16:39]:

No, we put in responsible people that cared about the company. We made it go. Remember that word, common sense?

Andrew Warner [00:16:53]:

Yes. So what was the common sense thing?

John Catsimatidis [00:16:55]:

Common sense. We sat down with the unions, we applied common sense. We sat down with the executives, applied common sense. And guess we were successful. Until one day people what was it? Express. The biggest crooks in the world. Because everybody, they’re the ones that screwed Wall Street. They told everybody they’re doing so well, they’re going to fly to San Francisco to Los Angeles for $99. Up to that point, Capital Airlines was the cheap. Flight 199 to Los Angeles, 199 to San Francisco. Our airplanes were full all the time. We’re scratching our heads. You can’t put enough fuel in the airplane for $99 to fly these people. Well, it turns out but it was late in the process. There were a bunch of crooks and they were cooking the books. Is that what we say down in Wall Street? We sold the airline. The people we sold it to blew up. We went to bankruptcy court to cover our airplanes. Then we started a Canadian airline. That’s a separate story. We got back on our airplanes in bankruptcy court and we met a trustee. And by the way, I had come back to New York to run the grocery stores after we sold the airline. I was bored. I was bored.

Andrew Warner [00:18:28]:

You know what? Actually, it was more than that that you said in the book that I thought was really helpful to hear. You said it was almost like you felt like a lesser person. Here you are flying around the world, running the world.

John Catsimatidis [00:18:38]:

Running the whole world.

Andrew Warner [00:18:39]:

Running the whole world. I love that you say that. That’s a thing you’re not supposed to say outside of the 1980s. And you say it and you go, I feel like I’m running the world. And now I’m back to grocery stores selling cat food, which it wasn’t bad.

John Catsimatidis [00:18:52]:

30 stores, I’m running the world. Now I’m back to the west side.

Andrew Warner [00:18:56]:

Okay? And so then you say, all right, what do I do next? Here’s the realization that I think you had. It was, I have the ability to buy companies here, and because we have a cash flow based business, I can use the cash flow to pay off any debt that I take. And this is what you did. Go borrow money.

John Catsimatidis [00:19:12]:

Don’t forget the $100 million in real estate.

Andrew Warner [00:19:14]:

And the $100 million in real estate.

John Catsimatidis [00:19:16]:


Andrew Warner [00:19:16]:

Okay. So you go and you say, I’m in search of a deal. How did you end up with Ron Pearlman, who ended up buying Revlon and Marvel and all these other things?

John Catsimatidis [00:19:26]:

I’ll give it to you real fast.

Andrew Warner [00:19:27]:

Go ahead.

John Catsimatidis [00:19:28]:

I’m bored. Remember my first lawyer that financed me? Sam Stein Filigree Foods Wholesale grocer. His brother was Lu Stein, chairman and CEO of Food Fair. Big chain in those days. Food Fair went bankrupt. They owned paint. You pride in Florida. Guess what? They brought me in. They liked me. Sam Stein liked me. Remember? He was my lawyer. And we ended up buying all the Pantry Pride stores, which was a subsidiary of Food Fair from Key West all the way to Riviera Beach. And they sell it to me. Such a great deal. Maybe it’s the only time Ron Perlman didn’t get the optimum price. He was asking for 100 million. 100 million was a lot of money those days. And I paid $38 million. And you know what Chemical Bank lend loaned me to buy that? Those deals? $38 million. I had to put up 2 million in equity. And I came to the closing somehow. I was a million dollars short. But the deal closed. So I bought pantry pride then? So so I have a big Florida operation now. Then. Grasdis was owned by Southland Corporation. 711. They have 7500 grassidi stores. The CEO finally says, what am I doing with 48 grassiti stores? I fly down to Dallas on a Friday. We have lunch. You know, lunch for the guys in Dallas in those days was Scotch by 05:00. We had a letter of intent to buy grassidis in New York.

Andrew Warner [00:21:28]:


John Catsimatidis [00:21:30]:

And then we go to the bankruptcy court, and the guy selling me Capital Airlines in the airplanes, he also has he’s a trustee for an oil company called United Refining.

Andrew Warner [00:21:45]:

Wait, let me pause for a moment. That part is I want to spend some time on that. By the way I’m looking at you, you’re dressing like I could dress. I’m trying to look beyond you to see is there any wealth or anything? What do you get to do that’s fun with all this money that you have? I’m going to come back because I want to talk to you about the.

John Catsimatidis [00:22:04]:

Grocery for I just have fun. You know what I did for fun lately?

Andrew Warner [00:22:09]:


John Catsimatidis [00:22:10]:

I bought WABC Radio.

Andrew Warner [00:22:12]:

I get that. I get that. You probably grew up listening to them. This was for people who don’t know. WABC Radio is and was incredibly influential.

John Catsimatidis [00:22:22]:

The most iconic station in the country by far, 100 years old. And I used to listen to Cousin Bruce when I was going to school, and the first thing I did is bring Cousin Bruce back to WABC. He was 87 years old. I gave him a 30 year contract.

Andrew Warner [00:22:39]:

But here’s the thing with them. If you went to a Yankee game, they were the ones who would broadcast the game, right? So that was huge. They also were the ones who got Rush Limbaugh on the map, sean Hannity on the map. What’s her name from the view. I forget. The woman who’s the head woman who’s on The View there who took over for Barbara Walters, she was on there. And we’re talking about a storied company. So I get that. That would be a fun thing for you to do. Let’s go back then to the grocery store.

John Catsimatidis [00:23:09]:

Yes, yankees, you meant to you brought up the Yankees.

Andrew Warner [00:23:13]:

I love the Yankees. Yes.

John Catsimatidis [00:23:14]:

The Yankees call me up and says, we want you to be a partner. We’re opening up a new minor league team in Staten Island. Guess what? Who’s going to say no to the would you say no to the Yankees? No, I’m not going to say no. So we bought a minor league team with the Yankees, a partner with the Yankees, and we named them the Fairy Hawks, and they’re in Staten Island, and they’re doing great.

Andrew Warner [00:23:37]:

All right, you see, what I’m looking for is, like, you end up getting cars. You end up getting all kinds of women and parties. No, you’re a guy who went back to your old Greek religious Orthodox roots. You’re not looking for that.

John Catsimatidis [00:23:50]:

I am the highest ranked person in the Greek Orthodox Church in North America.

Andrew Warner [00:23:55]:

You know what? I could go off on tangents here. Let me come back into the grocery store because here’s the thing. What I thought that was interesting was it wasn’t that you just bought these grocery stores from Ron Perlman. It was that Ron Perlma was trying to make a deal. These grocery stores he had were not part of the deal. He needed to shuck them.

John Catsimatidis [00:24:11]:

Chemical bank said tell you what happened.

Andrew Warner [00:24:13]:

Please tell me the whole story.

John Catsimatidis [00:24:14]:

They wanted $100 million for it.

Andrew Warner [00:24:17]:


John Catsimatidis [00:24:17]:

We’re negotiating for six months with my God, whatever was his name. He passed away. Not Bruce Sloven. His other big guy that Ron Perlman had. I don’t remember his name. And we were negotiating for six months. Chemical bank.

Andrew Warner [00:24:34]:


John Catsimatidis [00:24:36]:

Finally says to Ron Perlman, you better close on this deal, because if you only know how to buy assets, we’re not going to lend you the money.

Andrew Warner [00:24:43]:

You prove to us that if you buy this big basket of assets, that you can sell some of them and recoup the money. He’s desperate to.

John Catsimatidis [00:24:50]:

So he told Perlman, you want 500 million from us, you have to prove that you know how to sell. So we ended up buying instead of $100 million for Pantry Pride, we ended up paying 38 million of which was 2 million in equity, and I was a million short. So now I bought Pantry Pride.

Andrew Warner [00:25:15]:

And then Grastidis.

John Catsimatidis [00:25:17]:

And then I bought Grastitis from the side.

Andrew Warner [00:25:19]:

Why are you known as the Grastides the Grastides guy, when that’s just one.

John Catsimatidis [00:25:24]:

Aspect she didn’t lose that name. Why is Prominent known as the Revlon guy?

Andrew Warner [00:25:31]:

I get it. You know what I think it is? I’ll tell you what it is. For me, it’s not the biggest business. I grew up in New York. Grastides was one of these places. You know what it was? It was grastidis. And then there was Key Food and A and P. A and P. And Key Food was for the lesser boroughs, which is what we say to me.

John Catsimatidis [00:25:45]:

You know what people say to me?

Andrew Warner [00:25:46]:


John Catsimatidis [00:25:47]:

You’re in New York. Oh, Grastitis is too high, me. And you know what I say to them? Restitas is the only one that hasn’t gone bankrupt. Everybody else has gone bankrupt. We bought Young Esteem because they were going bankrupt.

Andrew Warner [00:26:00]:

Why did you not go back? Oh, you’re saying you didn’t go bankrupt because you didn’t lower your prices?

John Catsimatidis [00:26:04]:

You didn’t no, it is not lower the prices is to be able to run the right business and not just go in there and just give things away like the traditional supermarket. Oh, we’re going to have 19 $0.10 milk. Look, we ran a business. We ran it correctly, and we stayed in business.

Andrew Warner [00:26:23]:

Okay? All right. So then you’re seeing, I can buy these assets. Let’s look for more distressed assets. You come across a gas station collection that also refines gas, refined oil.

John Catsimatidis [00:26:33]:

And I said, oh, my God, I’m going to get 400 gas stations for this deal. Little did I know it wasn’t the gas stations making the money. It was the oil refinery making the money.

Andrew Warner [00:26:45]:

Not know that. You seem like a very analytical person. Did you not know that till after you bought the deal?

John Catsimatidis [00:26:50]:

Better I didn’t know until after I bought okay. And then America I remember going to the creditors committee.

Andrew Warner [00:26:57]:


John Catsimatidis [00:26:58]:

And I’m sitting in front of there’s like 40 lawyers in this big long conference room. I bet you the billing rate was probably 50,000 an hour. And I sit down with the creditors committee of the oil company of Chase Manhattan Bank, Marine Midland. Oh, I forget who else. I remember saying, Jeff, what was this? Whatever. He says to me, what do you know about oil business? I want you to be the CEO of the oil company. What do you know about the oil business? I said, Well, I know about olive oil. I know about Western oil, Mazona oil, crude oil is just another they were not happy I said that. But I became CEO. And after 30 days of running the oil company, I have to have a creditors meeting with the creditors, the banks, the 50 lawyers in one room along with the bankers. And you have to give them a financial statement. So the first month I ran the company, I ran it for about two, three months before the next creditors meeting. And they said, Mr. Cats, Matiti said you bring a financial statement? I said, yes, I got it, I got it right here. I got it right here. How much did you make last month? Don’t forget, I paid seven and a half million dollars for the oil company, for the stock. We still owed the bankruptcy debt 100 million. So I borrowed seven and a half million dollars or $7 million from my personal credit line at Bankers Trust. Remember that name? Bankers Trust? Yeah. And I said, well, here’s our financial statement. Last month we made $7 million. They all fell off their chairs. It was no longer can you be CEO of an oil company. It was, oh, okay, how are you going to pay us back 100 million? Well, I said, I’ll give you 10 million a year for 10 million plus I’ll pay pay post petition interest. They said, okay. We shook hands and I bought your company.

Andrew Warner [00:29:22]:

And the way that you grew it was I know later on it was america was facing high gas prices from Middle Eastern countries. America had you were talking about hostage taking. There were people who’d taken hostages, I think of your airline and you were able to go on television and say, this is an American, a North American oil refined and sold in America.

John Catsimatidis [00:29:48]:

We have our own pipelines going into Canada. We bought all our oil from Canada. I created a commercial which I’ll give it to you if you need it, if you want it. Then my first commercial, our gasoline is made from 100% North American oil made. By American workers. And this is the time where everybody hated OPEC, everybody hated Venezuela. Why would you buy your gasoline from sitcom? Why? Owned by Venezuela. Why would you buy foreign oil? Guess what? We doubled our sales, and we did great. And the company did great. So no matter how good we were doing before, we did even better. And by creating the fact that you buy your gasoline from me, you’re buying American made gasoline.

Andrew Warner [00:30:48]:

And that’s what turned it around. That’s what allowed it to grow.

John Catsimatidis [00:30:51]:


Andrew Warner [00:30:52]:

Okay. Are you trying to buy CNN right now?

John Catsimatidis [00:30:58]:

There’s a rumor like that this morning. I think Ted Turner created CNN.

Andrew Warner [00:31:07]:


John Catsimatidis [00:31:08]:

We didn’t agree with everything they did, but he delivered the news. Right now, CNN problem is they only deliver opinions. And his latest CEO, he only have 400,000, 500,000 viewers worldwide. And guess what? He put on Donald Trump, who I don’t agree with on everything he says, but he had three and a half million viewers. Suddenly fired a guy. Can you believe you’re finding a CEO because he brought in three and a half million viewers?

Andrew Warner [00:31:44]:

You’re saying? Because that’s a lot. Everyone was expecting even more from that and that’s they’ve had three and a.

John Catsimatidis [00:31:50]:

Half million viewers in 30 years.

Andrew Warner [00:31:53]:

So what would you do? You’d bring him back?

John Catsimatidis [00:31:56]:

No, I would bring more common sense to CNN and I’ll bring back Ted Turner. Look, I believe in common sense. What I tried to bring to WABC common sense democratic voices, Republican voices. Tell the truth. Tell the truth about everything. As we are talking, rudy Giuliani, if there’s too truth, tell both of them. Let your listeners of your viewers decide what they want to believe.

Andrew Warner [00:32:27]:

John, as we’re talking, Rudy Giuliani is on the air right now. The guy who said that the election was stolen and among among other things.

John Catsimatidis [00:32:35]:

So I have Andrew Cuomo on. I got in trouble for putting Andrew Cuomo on.

Andrew Warner [00:32:39]:

So that’s what you would do.

John Catsimatidis [00:32:40]:

You’re saying who’s the first person who was the first person to put Robert Kennedy on?

Andrew Warner [00:32:46]:

You had Robert Kennedy on.

John Catsimatidis [00:32:48]:

I see the first person made worldwide news.

Andrew Warner [00:32:53]:

All right, so you would do that on CNN. You would say, let’s get Rudy Giuliani on CNN. Let’s get Andrew Cuomo on.

John Catsimatidis [00:33:00]:

I would have my 05:00 show. I’m on every day for true five and six. I have common sense Democrats. Common sense republicans. I had Kevin McCarthy on the night that they got the election results in from the from the budget. You know what I say to people? Let the people in the middle decide. Extremism on the left, extremism on the right. Let the common sense Americans right in the middle of both sides make sure that our country goes in the right direction. You know who I admire? I ran Bill Clinton’s campaign for a while, but you know who I admire? Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton. They didn’t like each other. But they sat down and they made a deal and took the deficit from five and a half trillion, brought it down to 5 trillion. You sit down on the roundtable and you make a deal. Common sense. Ronald Reagan tip O’Neill. Same thing. They sat around the roundtable, made a decision. And what I said to Kevin McCarthy, I’m glad that you and Joe Biden sat down and made a deal, because I don’t know who was running Joe Biden’s campaign before or Joe Biden’s White House, but it seems like when there was a change of Chief of staffs, look at it. They opened up. They made a deal in Alaska to pump more oil. Let me tell you what the story is in Alaska. You got and nobody tells you these things. You have a pipeline that we own. The United States owns it. We have the 2 million barrels a day. You know how much they’re shipping? 375. They’d rather buy oil from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia and Russia instead of buying it from our own country. Senator Dan Sullivan. Whatever I tell you, go back and double check.

Andrew Warner [00:35:19]:

I’m double checking right now the list of people who are on your site. I don’t see a lot of, like, both sides on there.

John Catsimatidis [00:35:24]:

Dan Sullivan went okay. The White House made a deal with Joe Biden. They’re pumping an additional 200,000 or 250,000 barrels out of Alaska. They brought down the price of oil down to $68 a barrel two weeks ago. And guess what? The saudis panicked. They go on television at Sunday morning and say, we’re going to cut we’re going to cut a million barrels a day to panic the American people to raise the price back to 80 or $90.

Andrew Warner [00:35:57]:

John has moved, okay, you’re taking me out of my element, my element business. No, you take me all you want, but I’m going to bring ours both back into this. Here’s the thing that I’m taking away from this. Yes, I see your passion for this, and it feels to me like this is really your fun thing that you got to buy after all the hard work. This is you getting to express yourself, getting to bring people on whose ideas are kind of I don’t know, they boil the blood in one way or the other, and you get to express your ideas with your show.

John Catsimatidis [00:36:29]:

I love our city. I love our city. I love our state. I love America. And what I want to do is have common sense prevail. And that’s the important thing.

Andrew Warner [00:36:41]:

Why go into this instead of business? You’re so good at business. Why not say, I’m going to be the person who’s going to create the I don’t know, the next education of business, make it more interesting?

John Catsimatidis [00:36:52]:

I don’t give a crap about making another billion dollars. I don’t give a crap.

Andrew Warner [00:36:56]:

Why not teach other people how to make a billion dollars?

John Catsimatidis [00:37:00]:

I want to do the right thing I want my kids and grandkids to come someday to survive. I want the kids. I’m chairman of the Police Athletic League. Bob Morbid or DA, trained me. And now what I want to do is help the kids of the inner city. Right now, all our black and brown kids are getting killed because there’s nobody taking the believe in law enforcement.

Andrew Warner [00:37:28]:

All right, let me close out with this. By the way, I’d love to have you on even longer. You are one of my favorite guests now, but let me close out with this. One of the things that people will want to take away from this is why him? Give us a few reasons. What is it that got you to reach a billion dollars that we can all emulate and get closer to your success?

John Catsimatidis [00:37:47]:

Well, if you look back into page 255, if you’re afraid to lose, you can’t win. Okay, now, you’re a West Sider, are you? Manhattan.

Andrew Warner [00:37:59]:

I moved from New York to California. Now I’m in Austin, Texas. Brand new for me.

John Catsimatidis [00:38:04]:

My God, you finally got chased out of California. California is great, but I didn’t love it. You know who created the West Side? You remember the west side of Manhattan? How it was? You know who created the Columbus Avenue Festival?

Andrew Warner [00:38:20]:

No. Oh, that was you?

John Catsimatidis [00:38:23]:

Me and my wife. Mark.

Andrew Warner [00:38:24]:

I had no idea. Okay?

John Catsimatidis [00:38:25]:

There was no Columbus Avenue festival. You know why? To have fun. All right. We had a million people.

Andrew Warner [00:38:33]:

Have fun. Enjoy life. Give me more more of like, what am I going to do tomorrow? Because if I have fun tomorrow, I’m going to end up drinking with some of my friends and having some of those afternoon lunch whiskeys that you mentioned.

John Catsimatidis [00:38:44]:

Well, what you do is we’re looking for the next thing to have fun with. I’m bored. I don’t have enough to do. If I could fix CNN worldwide to what Ted Turner envisioned originally and create Recreate, the iconic name of CNN, that’ll.

Andrew Warner [00:39:05]:

Make me I can see you doing that. I can see you doing it. And frankly, I don’t see other people wanting to do it, because, truthfully, it feels like television news is old business. YouTube channels are more exciting. TikTok is more exciting. But for you, you’re not looking for the next modern platform. You’re not looking to do what Elon Musk did. You’re looking to say these are legendary brands that are languishing. How do I pick them back up?

John Catsimatidis [00:39:31]:

How do I fix it? I’m a fixer. I’m not a breaker.

Andrew Warner [00:39:37]:

Hey, John, I’m excited to have you on here. I do like the book here. Actually, let me give you one negative feedback on the book because I think it’s important for the audience to hear that first freaking chapter you go. The first chapter is where you get to brag in a biography, where you get to say something like and then I walked into the ABC studios and this thing that was a childhood dream of mine I owned. I own it. Instead, what you do is you start off very small. It’s like then I go and I help with this building in New York City and this is why it mattered to me. You should brag more in the beginning and then people see, I want to be more like him. I’m going to put in the time and read the rest of the book.

John Catsimatidis [00:40:11]:

No, I’m not the guy that wears the Rolex watch.

Andrew Warner [00:40:15]:

I noticed that.

John Catsimatidis [00:40:16]:

I looked at the apple watch.

Andrew Warner [00:40:18]:

That’s not even like the high end.

John Catsimatidis [00:40:19]:

Watch when people wear Rolex watches and my friends come over and look at my watch. Look at it. It’s $100,000. You notice it. What do you want me to write a check and put 100,000 on my hand?

Andrew Warner [00:40:31]:

A little bit of bragging would have helped. So I’m glad that we did this interview where I could brag on your behalf.

John Catsimatidis [00:40:38]:

Thank you so much and I look forward to meeting you in person and having a drink together.

Andrew Warner [00:40:44]:

Let me ask you this. I’m going to hold you to it. I have loved as a kid growing up in New York, WABC can I come and see the inside? As a person who’s obviously broadcasting, I.

John Catsimatidis [00:40:54]:

Will put you in the studio. I’ll put you on my 05:00 show that we do live every day and give you the experience of listening, of talking to a million people at once.

Andrew Warner [00:41:04]:

Just to walk in there would be a dream. To be on the air would be a killer dream. Thank you so much.

John Catsimatidis [00:41:09]:

Thank you.

Andrew Warner [00:41:10]:

Thanks for being on here.

John Catsimatidis [00:41:11]:

Thanks, everyone.

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