Whatever Happened to....
Fred Van Etten
February 4th, Leasing News asked if anyone knew where Fred Van Etten
was? He e-mailed and the next day, and February 6th, we printed his
response that he was in Houston, Texas.
When Mark McQuitty allowed us to print the abridged letter to
about the demise of Republic Leasing of Anaheim ( we had the
letter since October, but that is another story , including McQuitty's
brilliant observations on aggregate leasing and dot coms in December,
1999), it became public that the man sent to fire McQuitty as "branch
manager" in Apirl,2000, was also the same person he recommended in June,
2000 to become the new CEO and replace Tom Depping,
Leasing News decided the readers should know more about this "very
interesting" person, especially since he was acknowledged a key "mover and
shaker" to raise the money to start First Sierra/Sierra Cities.
We also learned he was considering starting up a leasing company because
he and American Express made a settlement ( and that is also another story
"When you look up either "good guy" or "salesman" in the dictionary, you
will find a picture of Freddie Van Etten. Freddie always has a smile on
his face and the salesman's positive attitude that the cup is half full
instead of half empty. The only place you cannot trust Freddie is on the
golf course. His handicap is a 2, not the 19 he claims when the bets are
placed. Freddie, you are one of the best and I wish you the best of
success with your new venture with the Redstone Group."
Charlie Lester, LPI Financial, Atlanta, Georgia
" Nicest man in the world; always has a smile on his face. Always has
something nice to say about somebody. I make it a point that when I am in
Houston to visit him every time. Truly, a great guy."
Greg McIntosh, Snider Leasing, Sacramento, California
Whatever Happened to....
Fred Van Etten
Hello everyone_. As previously mentioned in Leasingnews.org, I am still in
Houston, Texas, and healthy, happy, wiser and still occasionally hitting the
little white ball on weekends. I am with The Redstone Companies, which is a
large privately held holding company comprised of several different
Redstone has investments in companies involved in the banking, securities,
hospitality, real estate, golf management, development, and ownership, and
various others. Redstone as you may remember gave First Sierra Financial our
start from ground zero as the primary investment capital and were involved
in the company all the way through to the sale to American Express.
Most of you remember me from First Sierra as one of the founders (in fact my
wife, Julie gets credit for coming up with the name) but I had been in the
Leasing Industry prior to that for most of my career, beginning with
McDonnell Douglas Finance Corp in 1978. From Long Beach, California, I was
moved to Houston by MDFC in 1981 and I have been primarily here working in
leasing and asset finance since then. That probably makes me one of the
longest surviving leasing nuts in this area! But at only 48 years old there
is still a lot of drive which keeps me going and enjoying the chase and the
relationships I have built in this business.
Having been an originator, seller, buyer, and manager with public and
private companies I have to marvel at the way our industry has changed, both
good and bad, throughout those years. Remember the TEFRA act in 1986?
Leasing was supposed to be finished then, but, as we have seen many times
the industry changed to meet the times, not disintegrated because of them.
It seems that as most everything in life, things are cyclical, things tend
to repeat themselves in similar business cycles. Looks like now the industry
is going through what the Equipment Leasing Association describes as "The
Perfect Storm" brought on by credit and liquidity issues. This too shall
pass as soon as margins widen enough in our business to begin to re-attract
capital. The question is, who will the survivors be_
To me the one thing that has made this a great business is that it is people
oriented and relationship based. Doing business with people you know and
trust has safeguards. You have heard it said that the first lesson of
lending is to "know your customer" Certain people have tried, and are
others are continuing to try and completely automate our business. Over the
last few years people proclaiming that the industry would be dead because of
the "New Paradigm" of E-commerce selling have so far been proven wrong.
Do I believe that more companies over time will use the Internet to promote
and inform customers? Of course, and will companies sell more in the future
over the Internet? Yes, of course, but the change won't take place over
night as many have predicted. People still buy stocks, cars, books and
everything else that the e-commerce wizards said would be automated, from
traditional sources, not purely from the Internet. So far the Internet is
only a fabulous information source.
Oh well, enough preaching_
Redstone has kept me very busy since arriving in February of 2001. Initially
I ran the business development activities at Northwest Bank, a wholly owned
Redstone Financial company. I was there until we sold it to The Whitney Bank
from New Orleans in October of 2001. I then moved over to Redstone Bank in a
similar capacity and have been working on all aspects of trying to help this
bank grow. Redstone Bank is only two years old and basically was a branch of
Northwest Bank. When we sold Northwest we decided to keep Redstone Bank.
We are now looking at re-capitalizing the bank, starting a holding company
and adding a few specialty finance companies under the bank holding company
umbrella. We are continually looking at all areas of specialty finance and
we have come to the conclusion that there are some very attractive areas
which we may be able to compete in on some selected basis. We should have
some announcements on those areas in the second quarter of this year.
Lot's of things going on in Houston right now (yes, other things than
Enron!!!) like the worlds largest rodeo, Mardi Gras in Galveston (OK, so
it's not New Orleans) and the excitement which is building for our new
football team, The Houston Texans. Don't worry, the games wont be played at
Enron field!! That's the Astros field. Houston has had it's up and downs as
well, but for me it's always been a wonderful place to live and work.
Julie and I had the best holiday season ever, and we enjoyed being with all
our friends here and in Phoenix/Scottsdale where we spent Christmas and New
Year's. I continue to hear from and stay in touch with most of my colleagues
from the First Sierra days. In fact I think most people know that Roger
Gebhart previously EVP of First Sierra has joined us here at Redstone as
One final note regarding Redstone, the Redstone Golf Club, a new development
here in Houston was just awarded the 2003 through 2013 Shell Houston Open
PGA tournament which was previously played at The Woodlands. It will bring a
lot of notoriety to Redstone and will help with that side of our business,
which manages and develops golf courses.
All my best to all my friends in the industry.
Fred Van Etten
Executive Vice President
Redstone Bank N.A.