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Photo by Karen Brune Mathis - Lawrence DuBow, a former member of the board of trustees of WJCT, has created several companies, served on many nonprofit boards and established the DuBow Family Foundation. Above, he stands in a WJCT corrider after an in...
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 17, 201212:00 PM EST

First Coast Success: Lawrence DuBow, philanthropist, entrepreneur


Lawrence DuBow, known to his friends as Laurie, moved to Jacksonville in early 1956 after being honorably discharged from active duty in the U.S. Army.

A 1953 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy, he was actively engaged for more than 40 years in the wholesale drug business and pharmaceutical sales and marketing industry.

Recently he has been involved in aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, including serving as a consultant to Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. of New Delhi, India, from 2000-06.

He currently is chairman of HMS Sales and Marketing and a member of the Healthcare and Bioscience Council of Northeast Florida.

DuBow, 81, is involved with many community nonprofit agencies, having served as a board member of the Super Bowl XXXIX Host Committee, HabiJax and the board of trustees of WJCT.

He is a member of the Advisory Council at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy and former secretary-treasurer of the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation.

He currently serves on the Shands Jacksonville board of directors and is a founding member of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida and a former chairman of The Community Foundation in Jacksonville.

He served on the Jacksonville Housing Authority for eight years, the last year as chairman. In 1999, he and his wife, Linda, chaired the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of the United Way of Northeast Florida.

DuBow is a former partner in the Jaguars and he and his family, through the DuBow Family Foundation, continue to support charity and philanthropy in the community.

He and Linda have been married 52 years and they have two children and three grandchildren.

The Daily Record interviewed DuBow for "First Coast Success," a regular segment on the award-winning 89.9 FM flagship First Coast Connect program, hosted by Melissa Ross.

The interview is scheduled for broadcast this morning and the replay will be at 8 p.m. on the WJCT Arts Channel or online at

The following are edited excerpts from the full transcript.

Talk about your childhood and your early years. Where did you grow up and what led you to become a pharmacist?

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. We had a very middle-class family. My father was a pharmacist. My uncles, my cousins, everybody was a pharmacist, so when I graduated from high school, I was going to go downstate Illinois with, as my mother said, the rest of the bums, but she said why don't you go to the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy right here in Chicago? And it made it very convenient. So for the unspeakable cost of $180 a year, which was the tuition at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy at that time, I went on to four years of the College of Pharmacy.

Then what?

The United States Army allowed me to finish four years of the College of Pharmacy and graduate and then immediately drafted me. That was Korean War time. I was fortunate in that the Korean War ended just about the time I graduated. I was a pharmacist attached to a MASH outfit and it is just about like you see it on television.

Was the TV show realistic?

Very realistic.

Did you have a nickname?

I did not, although a lot of people did.

Then what? What brought you to Jacksonville?

My sister married a dentist in Jacksonville in 1948 and she and her husband had five children. My parents couldn't stand it. They moved to Jacksonville in the early '50s while I was in the service.

My father had a drugstore at Fourth and Main streets in Springfield and when I came out of the service, I came to Jacksonville, but in order to practice pharmacy and be a pharmacist in the state of Florida, you must take a full exam.

You cannot reciprocate into Florida. I told my parents if I can pass, I'll stay. If not, I'm going back to Chicago. Well, I got lucky and passed and stayed.

But a retail pharmacy was not for me. I was born and raised in the back of a drugstore so I worked for my dad for about six months and then I went on to start some other businesses.

Talk about those other businesses. What propelled you?

I just felt like I needed to do something else. I explored some things. We started a wholesale drug business. We started a manufacturing business of staple drugs. We bought a subsidiary of the Plough Company and it was located in Memphis, Tennessee, and we moved it to Nashville.

I just worked hard and long and was a bit fortunate. Of course, the harder you work, the luckier you get.

It was interesting because in the wholesale drug business, you're calling on and selling to drugstores. Being a pharmacist was a great help to me because I would walk into a drugstore as an equal, so to speak. That did help me a great deal, thanks to my mother.

She's the one who told me to go to the College of Pharmacy. She was a lot smarter than I was.

Is the drugstore that your father ran still there?

No, that building has been torn down. He sold the files and closed the store many years ago. That building is gone.

How did HMS come about? What does that stand for?

It's an interesting story because I had many, many friends in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry because as a drug wholesaler, we were the distributor for all the pharmaceutical manufacturers.

One day a friend called and said that there was a major British pharmaceutical manufacturer, AstraZeneca, that was losing patent protection on a certain product. He said, 'I think you should go talk to them because they want to take it generic and you would be great to take that product for them as a sales company.'

So I did. They were producing the product in Puerto Rico, as many major pharmaceutical manufacturers did. We formed this sales and marketing company to take this major brand product generic. Being a British company, we formed HMS, they thought it was in Her Majesty's Service. Actually, my children are Helen, Michael and Susan, so that's how HMS came about.

We went on to generic-size brand products for many major pharmaceutical manufacturers as a sales and marketing company. It was a very interesting business and quite successful.

Before you sold the wholesale drug company, how large had it become in Jacksonville?

We sold the wholesale drug company in 1986 to what is now McKesson. McKesson owns it now. Back then it was maybe a $300 million business, which today would be very small. Single-house wholesale drug companies today are well over a billion to $2 billion in sales, with the three biggies being in the $100 billion range in sales volume.

Talk about Ranbaxy. What led to that?

That was through the HMS Sales and Marketing company. Ranbaxy came to us. They were the largest and still are the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in India. They were selling raw material product because they are also producers of raw material in India.

They were selling those products in America, but no finished dosage products. They had a lot of finished dosage products so through HMS, they became another client.

About a year or two after we had set up a rather nice business for them, they came and wanted to purchase our sales and marketing company and we told them, well we have all of these clients and they said, well go ahead and figure out a way to get rid of all of them.

We labored over that, but a year or two later we sold our sales and marketing organization, because they didn't really have a sales and marketing organization here in America.

We sold that to them and because of our knowledge of drug distribution, we set up a distribution (center) for them in America in a warehouse here in Jacksonville, distributing throughout America.

Then a few years later we outgrew that, so we built a 250,000-square-foot warehouse and office facility for them here in Jacksonville and we are also housed there and they lease that facility from us. But we helped them organize their distribution here in America.

How many jobs have you created through your efforts?

Oh my goodness, hundreds. But you know, life and business is all about people. I always had a sign in my office: people are important. That is critical, because as smart as you may be, you're not that smart. And you'll never do it without good people.

How do you identify good people?

That's interesting. Whenever I was going to make a key hire, I always asked my wife to sit in. Women, to my way of thinking, have an intuition men do not have. They have that ability, that intuitive quality, to detect whether that person is genuine, whether they're telling the truth, whether they're reliable and honestly I don't have that, my wife does. As I said, whenever I was going to make a key hire, I asked Linda to sit in and without exception she always picked the right one.

How did you become involved in the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise?

As most everybody knows, the city had been trying to bring a major NFL franchise to Jacksonville for many years. Back in the late '80s, two groups formed. There were two groups originally. One was led by Tom Petway and the other by Roy Baker, Bucky Clarkson and a few others. A friend of mine told me about this, and he knew the Clarkson and Roy Baker group, so I went to talk with them and I joined with that group.

I realized, why would you need competing forces in just this one city? I did not know Tom Petway but I went and talked with him and he and I agreed it would be wise to put the two groups together and we did.

It grew. At one point there were maybe 15 people involved. We were funding this movement to bring an NFL franchise to Jacksonville and it went on and went on and as everybody knows, in November '93 we were awarded the franchise.

I felt that I had done my job and I had no real interest in moving forward. I went home and told my wife and children that, you know, the NFL has awarded us a franchise — they had heard it and seen it on television — and Tom Petway wants us to be one of the partners. They said, 'Well you're going to do it, aren't you?' and I said no, and they said, 'Well you've got to do it.'

I said, do you realize the amount of money that you're talking about? They said, 'That doesn't matter, you've got to do it,' because my wife and children are really avid football fans. That's really how it came about.

And Tom was great. Tom Petway is an outstanding individual and he really encouraged me as much or more than my family to be one of the partners.

Can you say how much money that was to invest?

Let's just say it was a lot.

It's been a year since the majority partners, Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, announced they were selling the franchise to Shad Khan at a reported $770 million. What was that like to be on the selling side?

Everything in life is about timing. If you wait for the ideal time to get married, if you wait for the ideal time to have children, it will never happen. There is a right time and you have to pick that right time. This was the right time for us. It was the right time for Shad Khan. This was something that he wanted. He had a vision for it.

We had a great 20 years. We enjoyed it. I think we did well with it. We did well for the community and for our families. I felt good about it. I enjoyed it while we were in that partnership. We had great partners, but it was time. I still have my suite, I have club seats, I go to the games, I cheer hard, and I'll always be a fan.

Was there sentiment in letting it go?

Yes there was. I'm still very friendly with the people in the administration and on the ticket side. (General Manager) Gene Smith is still a good friend of mine and always will be. (Head athletic trainer) Mike Ryan, many of the people down there are our good friends. I haven't really lost any friends. We're still close.

Are you involved with the Jaguars Foundation?

I have now stepped off of the board of the foundation, which is fine. It was a very amicable separation. (Jaguars President) Mark Lamping and Shad Khan have their own vision in how they want the foundation to go and rightfully so.

But Delores Weaver, she was very adamant about that foundation. I recall vividly the first partners' meeting we had, when they were still living in the Omni Hotel Downtown. We sat around and Wayne gave us a little outline of what we were planning to do and how we were planning to do it, and Delores said, now gentlemen, we are going to have a foundation and here is how much money we are going to put into that foundation. And then she went on to say, 'Now are there any questions?' Of course there were no questions, because she was right, she was absolutely right.

The numbers show we've put out something in the $13 million-$14 million range through the years, all into this community. That's a bit of an anomaly. There aren't that many NFL teams that do that, if any.

Talk about the DuBow Family Foundation.

We started the DuBow Family Foundation around 1988, not too long after I sold the wholesale drug company. And we have grown it. We've been very fortunate; we've made good investments. We have tried to do well for areas of the community (including) at-risk children, inner-city children, women, education, religious charities. I think we have helped make an impact.

I am very structured there. We meet as a family regularly, but for formal meetings of the foundation, I have a board book, the requests are in there, we go out into the field, we talk to agencies who are asking us for donations. It is not a kitchen-table-type thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but we are a bit more structured and we try to do our homework and study and really try and understand the agencies to whom we are making grants.

I've heard you speak to nonprofits about the most successful way to request support from a foundation and maybe some of the ways to not request support. Would you share some of your suggestions?

It's important that you have clarity in your mission. It doesn't necessarily have to fit in totally to the mission of our foundation. We are not going to tell you where we want our money to specifically go. It's your business and you know it better than anybody, but I think it is important for us to get a strong feeling of the meaningful outcomes that you are creating. That's important.

Some foundations will not put money into brick and mortar. We don't necessarily feel that way. Without good infrastructure, it is hard for you to conduct good programs. So we don't have strict guidelines but we would like to come out and taste and touch and smell. We will do that and I think that's important and I think that is important for anybody who is making donations to agencies.

You're a very close family. You have been in business together. You have the foundation together. You have mentioned your children and, of course, Linda. Talk about the individual successes.

We are very lucky, because we have good children, good grandchildren. Linda and I have been married 52 years. The most important thing is that we are good friends. You can be lovers and you should be and that's nice, but if you are not friends you're never going to make it to 52 years, I promise.

My son, Michael, and I work together. Michael is a Tulane (University) graduate and an MBA graduate from the University of Florida.

Susan, our daughter, is a University of Florida graduate. She was a publicist for many, many years in New York and California. She had great clients. She is still very close to many names that you would recognize.

Helen, our daughter-in-law, also a graduate of Tulane, is a fourth-generation Atlantan. Her family goes back to pre-Civil War days in Atlanta, which is very interesting. There is some great history there.

We have lovely grandchildren. Our oldest, Sophie, is at the moment in Australia, a semester away from the University of Florida. Charlie, the 18-year-old, is about to graduate. I think he is going to go to Lynn University downstate. Then we have a 12-year-old granddaughter, Shira, who is a delight.

We are a good family and close family and we just enjoy each other, have fun together.

How did you meet Linda?

I was walking on the beach in Jacksonville Beach with a friend of mine. I had only been in Jacksonville maybe less than a year. She was walking with a friend. This friend of mine knew her friend and introduced us. Linda was just graduating from high school. I'm actually seven years older than Linda. We became very good friends.

When I was working I would travel throughout the state quite a bit and sometimes I would travel to Miami and she had friends there and I would take her with me and I would work and she would stay with her friends.

We were very good friends for three, maybe four years before we even became engaged or married. It's been a great relationship all those years.

What motivates you?

I guess it is a terrible thing to say, but work. I love to work. I don't know why. Retirement is for old people. I am older, but I am not old. I just think that it's important to keep your mind and body active. That motivates me.

I like to run, I like to bike. That motivates me. It drives Linda crazy, but work is something I think I will do till the day I die.

How much do you work? How do you quantify that?

Quality is where it's at. You have to know how to work. You can work yourself to death if you don't know how to do it. You have to gauge it, you have to pace yourself, that's very important. But I've been lucky and able to do that. Whether it is working actively on business matters or philanthropic matters, those things excite me, they motivate me.

What would you say your greatest challenges have been?

Probably figuring out how to not make the same mistake twice. I let myself make a mistake once in any business matters or even personal matters, but don't do it twice. Stop and think about it.

I think I also have a challenge of being a good listener. Some people are so quick to talk that they're not really sure what the other fellow has said. I've tried to be a good listener. I think that is important and that's a challenge to a lot of people. I know it is to me sometimes. But I work hard at it.

What would you say your biggest success has been?

Marriage and family, that's been a huge success on the personal side. On the business side, I've been very fortunate because I work hard. The Jaguars (franchise) was obviously a success. It was wonderful for the people of the city, and from a personal standpoint it was a financially successful venture.

What advice do you have for someone who might want to start a business?

Today starting a business is a little different than when we did it 50 or 60 years ago. I would test that market very, very carefully. I would be sure that what I was doing at least had a 50 percent chance of working and then do it in a small way and do a lot of listening.

Go out and ask people about it. Here is what I am planning to do, what do you think? Would you buy it, how should I change it, how can I improve it? Don't tinker it to death; at some point you have to go and do it. And then financially try and be sure you have enough to hang on. That's the biggest challenge is to have the hanging-on money.

But if it something that you want to do, go do it. If you fail, so what? If you're young you'll come back and you'll do it again and you'll do it again and you'll do it again. Nothing is perfect, nobody's perfect. If it doesn't work the first time, do it again, that's OK.

How many businesses have you been involved in?

We had the manufacturing business, we had the wholesale drug business, then we had HMS Sales and Marketing. We work as a consulting business with Ranbaxy. There was the Jaguars business. Those were the ones that worked out well, I had a couple that didn't work out so well.

Can you say anything about those?

I got into some things I didn't know anything about and that wasn't smart. I relied on others who I thought knew it and didn't know it as well as I thought and so it didn't work out. The worst thing that happened was that it cost money. It costs money to go to college and so that is what I did. I had an education.

What else would you like to share?

I often think about what I would do today if I were going to start over and do it differently and I don't think I would. I think I would probably do it just the same. Oh sure I would change a little something here and a little something there, but it's been great fun. It really has, I really have enjoyed everything I have done. I've enjoyed the people I've worked with and I think I would do it just about the same.

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