The highest-paid chief executive of a publicly-traded Wall Street firm had humble beginnings.
Mario Gabelli, managing director at GAMCO Investing Inc., who earned about $88.5 million in 2014, sat down with OneWire’s Skiddy von Stade to chat about his childhood in the Bronx as well as his famed investing philosophy.
“My first job, I would actually show up shining shoes at the train station on 3rd Avenue and 174th street, as probably five or six years old,” said Gabelli, who was born in 1943.
The shoe box is still among his belongings. Gabelli keeps it around “just in case.”
Shining shoes, however, is not the job that got Gabelli investing. What did?
Working as a golf-course caddy.
Gabelli was hired illegally as a 12-year-old, after a golf course staff mistook him for a 13-year old. He sometimes even hitchhiked to get to work.
“At around three or four (o’clock), the specialists from the exchanges would come up to play … and I got to listen to what they were doing, and it was intriguing,” he said. “I wound up buying ITT, Pepsi Cola, BTI Kraft, and Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.”
The legendary fund manager, who now manages $45.4 billion, was also held back a year after his mother yanked him out of school for skipping class in first grade.
She signed him up for Catholic grammar school to teach him discipline.
“So the religious types there, called nuns, said: ‘You cut out of class, a, we have a police station across the street – they’ll find you, and secondly, they’ll have a spanking machine upstairs on the fifth floor.'”
“I never cut out of class after that – in grammar school, high school, graduate school, and so on.”
Gabelli later enrolled in Fordham, and Columbia Business School.