He made billions off of a bitter, sticky liqueur called Jägermeister and a silky-smooth vodka called Grey Goose. But that doesn't mean he plans to just sit back and spend his windfall.
Sidney Frank has spent a lifetime around bars and booze and cigars, and he sounds it. His voice is as rough as cheap tequila. Ashes seem almost palpable when he speaks. Still, at 85, Frank hardly goes to bars anymore, and even though he keeps a Jägermeister dispenser on his kitchen counter, he rarely drinks. The cigars, though, are another story. He still smokes. A lot. And these days, Frank has his stogies custom-made. That's the kind of thing you do if you're a billionaire - and Sidney Frank, as he will happily tell you, is a billionaire.
In fact, Sidney Frank will happily tell you a lot of things. "I got a new cat," Frank says, interrupting our conversation about how he's just bought a few million euros in a hedge against a weak dollar. "It's a ragdoll cat. Name is Honey. You ever heard of a ragdoll cat?"
Frank asks a lot of these "You-ever-heard-of?" questions. "You ever heard of a Maybach?" "You ever heard of Michael Collins?" "You ever heard of a strawberry soufflé?" Stuff like that. His friends say he's brilliant - that he knows something about everything - and that he loves to talk.
You ever heard of Grey Goose vodka or Jägermeister? Those are the brands that made Frank rich. The Sidney Frank Importing Company, which he founded in 1972 with his late brother Eugene, still imports Jäger. But the company sold Grey Goose last year to Bacardi for more than $2 billion. The sale left Frank, who controls 72 percent of his family-owned company, with a pile of cash and a propensity to spend it. These days, in addition to owning Honey the ragdoll cat, he charters a Boeing 727 jet, owns a bulletproof Maybach, and is developing a private golf course. He has given $100 million to Brown University, which he attended for one year (in 1939), and $12 million to the high school he attended in Connecticut. Frank owns a home in Hawaii; spends the summers at his mansion in New Rochelle, New York, just outside Manhattan; and winters in another mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California, in the hills outside San Diego.
Today he's in Rancho Santa Fe, ensconced in a sprawling studio apartment that has been grafted onto the even more sprawling home he shares with his wife, Marian. The apartment includes a bed where Frank spends most of his time and conducts most of his business. The apartment is also home to an expansive kitchen that's staffed by four full-time chefs. Four. They share breakfast, lunch, and dinner duties, and every night, Frank has one of them leave him some freshly roasted peppers for an evening snack. That's also the kind of thing you do when you're a billionaire.
But back to the cat. "The ragdoll is the most loving type of cat there is," Frank says, his voice rumbling. "Honey will just go to sleep on my chest. I read up on the ragdoll. The male is much more loving than the female, so we got a male. The ragdoll's so smooth that, when you pet it, you want to put your face next to it. So, anyway, we're all set on euros."
Euros? Oh, right. Euros. You know what, though? Who cares about euros? Frank should be done by now. Here's a guy who grew up so poor, his mother had to make bedsheets out of potato sacks. Here's a guy who built a fortune solely on the power of his personality. So why doesn't he just hire another set of golfers and watch two rounds a day instead of working all afternoon on his new magazine, a new line of wines, a high-end tequila, an energy drink, and so on? Or why not just put his face next to Honey and take a nap? The reason is simple, really. As anyone who knows him will tell you, for all the jets and the homes and the golf courses and the chefs, Sidney Frank is just not the retiring type. "I've reached the apex of success," Frank says. "I've done it. But I like to keep busy. So why not keep working?"