Profiles of Success
Profiles of Success: The Resnicks, and the Fortune that Bought Their LACMA Pavillion
Doing good while doing well
The next time you drink some POM Wonderful juice or some Fiji water, order flowers through Teleflora, or snack on a handful of pistachios, you might be making Stewart and Lynda Resnick a little richer than they already are. And when you visit the new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), you’ll be enjoying the benefit of their significant philanthropy to the arts.
They are not universally admired, however, and have inspired some controversy, despite Lynda’s expertise in her chosen field of advertising, marketing, and public relations.
The First Million
The two met when Lynda (born Lynda Rae Harris) was trying to land the advertising account at Stewart’s firm, American Protection Industries, the burglar alarm company where he made “his first million dollars,” according to the website AlterNet.org. In Lynda’s 2009 business book, Rubies in the Orchard, she says that his fortune also sprang from founding a janitorial services company that he later sold to ITT Corporation. Lynda was an entrepreneur as well, and had started her own ad agency after working in the in-house advertising agency at Sunset House catalog. They married in 1972.
Together they now own a privately-held holding company, Roll International, a $2 billion corporation with over 4,000 employees worldwide. They have acquired diverse companies under this umbrella. In 1972, they purchased Teleflora, where Lynda became Executive Vice President of Marketing, and later president and Chairman. They owned the Franklin Mint from 1984 to 2006, a mail-order collectibles firm. POM Wonderful was developed because there were pomegranate trees already growing in a pistachio orchard purchased in 1990, an orchard that became the basis of another very lucrative business, Paramount Farms.
Knowing there was folklore related to health benefits of the pomegranate and that they were supposed to be a rich source of antioxidants, Lynda sponsored millions of dollars worth of medical research and has promoted these benefits heavily in the marketing of the juice and an extract called POMx.
The Resnicks planted 6,000 acres of pomegranate orchards in the San Joaquin Valley, which by 2005 were producing more than half of the pomegranates grown in the U.S. Some experts dispute whether the studies sponsored by the Resnicks have been on a scale large enough to be watertight. The Federal Trade Commission has recently filed a complaint against their health claims, which the company is contesting.
Paramount Farms owns and cultivates 118,000 acres in Kern County and the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley; pistachios, almonds and pomegranates are grown under this label. Paramount Citrus produces Cuties tangerines, as well as oranges, lemons, and other citrus products. As a very wealthy corporate farmer, AlterNet.org reported that Stewart Resnick was able to request and get, through Senator Dianne Feinstein, a re-examination of an environmental protection plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The plan would protect endangered fisheries by directing water flow away from farmland irrigation. Resnick was not the only farmer to object to this plan, of course. Thirteen different lawsuits have been filed against the environment protection plan; however, one of the suing entities is a nonprofit organization that happened to be set up by Paramount Farm executives.
Controversy over Fiji
The Resnicks founded Fiji Water in 1995. The company has been accused of pumping large volumes of water from the island’s aquifers “while many Fijians, including Fiji Water’s own workers, have inadequate supplies of quality freshwater for their own use” [Ecocentric.org blog, Dec. 20, 2010]. Various sources have reported that “Fiji Water is economically powerful on the island nation” and enjoys nearly tax-free status there. They have had, however, a sometimes contentious relationship with the military junta that rules the country. A government threat to impose an “extraction tax” on the water company in December 2010 resulted in a brief company shut-down until a compromise on the tax was worked out.
The Art of Being Resnick
Despite the controversies regarding their business practices, the Resnicks have given very generously to Southern California art and health institutions, in both time and money. In 2008 they donated $45 million to LACMA for the construction of the new 45,000-square-foot exhibition pavilion that bears their name. They have also loaned part of their own collection to be shown in the hall, and pledged $10 million for additional acquisitions of artwork.
Lynda is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of LACMA, and a trustee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as well (Philly is her hometown). Stewart, who has a business degree and a law degree from UCLA, serves on the Board of the Getty Trust. They have donated millions to Children’s Hospital Central California and are on the Board of the UCLA Medical Sciences; ULCA’s Neuropsychiatric Hospital is named for them. They’ve given $10 million to Caltech for a “sustainability center” that will also bear the Resnick label.
Suzanne Ridgway gave up life in the cubicle six years ago to embark on a freelance adventure. She loves learning and writing about entrepreneurs of all stripes and has fun redistributing the wealth as a grant writing consultant for nonprofits. She can be reached at email@example.com.