The Last Interview: Former Monitor Publisher Jerry Parrotto Sits for the First Time as an Interviewee
by David Wiener January/February 2019
Retired editor and publisher, Jerry Parrotto, was in the offices of the Monitor for a visit, perhaps wanting to get his ‘snow fix’ from the Philadelphia suburbs before traveling back to Florida. Monitor Editorial Board member David Wiener caught up with Jerry before he headed south again.
How is Jerry Parrotto, and what is life like after the Monitor?
Life is good. It was underscored by the chilly reception that greeted me at the Philadelphia airport last week. You see it was a pleasant 72 degrees when I left Delray Beach and a frosty 8 degrees when I landed. I think I’m going to like Florida more than Philly — at least until late spring.
This is a switch. For the past three-plus decades it was you who was asking the questions. How does it feel to be on the other side of the table?
This is a first for both of us, right? I’ve never been interviewed. But, let’s see how you ask questions.
Ready for a momentary rewind? How in the world did you get into the equipment leasing and finance industry, Jerry?
This may be a bit long winded. Who plans to get into equipment leasing from the onset anyway?
I began my business career in Philadelphia banking at First Pennsylvania Bank and later joined Industrial Valley Bank. My entry into leasing happened completely by accident. The IVB consumer banking unit head and I were the first to arrive at the weekly credit meeting. He had ripped out a Wall Street Journal front page chiclet that announced a northern New Jersey bank was entering the auto leasing business.
And he wondered what is leasing? And, being first to the meeting, (no deed goes unpunished) I was ‘volunteered’ to investigate it. Based on my study, IVB entered auto leasing, which I launched for the bank. The subject also, incidentally, became the topic of my graduate school thesis at the University of Virginia.
OK … What path led you from being an industry practitioner to a trade magazine publisher?
Well, there was a recruiting stop along the way. In 1985, I joined the staff of [executive recruiters] Molloy Associates as a full time ‘headhunter.’
At that time, Molloy Associates was focused on talent placement. Michael Molloy created a short 4-page tabloid styled newsletter printed periodically and sent to each on our mailing list. To entice recipients to read this recruiting rag, a few stories were added to the job listing. Then some clients who retained us for staff searches inquired about showcasing their business services. With the growing number of companies who now wanted to pay to advertise in this newsletter, we realized that there were unmet needs that could be served by a non-trade association published magazine. So, Molloy’s Monitor was born, later shortened to the Monitor.
Like trade publications in most every industry, the Monitor family of publications has continued to evolve in order to remain relevant to the industry. What stands out as the most significant transformation that has been made on your watch?
In 1990, I was in the lobby area of a prospective client for our recruiting services. Among the pile of magazines on the reception area coffee table was a UK magazine with the cover page boasting the featured article “World’s Largest Leasing Companies.” I was not impressed with the format as the list registered an odd number of participants (88) as it did not properly reflect each of the prominent U.S. equipment finance firms; furthermore, the article noted the size of each firm was just an estimate. Driving back on the New Jersey turnpike, I concluded that Monitor could do this for U.S. lessors and make it accurate. We already had forged relationships with many prominent leasing companies who would be on this list — and we were confident we had earned their trust to capture and present their financial data carefully. I thought of the strong brand value that comes with the Fortune 500 listing. The first Monitor 100 was published in 1991.
Any speed bumps along the way you’d like to talk about?
Most equipment finance companies are proud to be listed among the Monitor 100. Until recently, year after year GE Capital was the top ranked equipment lessor listed in the Monitor 100. One year my PR liaison dropped a bomb when they informed me that GE leadership made the decision to no longer reveal their net earning assets and annual volume for The Monitor 100. At the time, GE Capital was still the largest equipment finance company by far. I knew that the Monitor 100 would not be esteemed as the legitimate Monitor 100 without the largest lessor listed among its ranks.
With the help of my CPA friends, we undertook a mission to extrapolate the GE Capital numbers from their publicly available information. Armed with this accounting supported extrapolation, I contacted GE to inform them that they would be listed in the Monitor 100 based on our independent calculations. We shared the numbers we planned to use. The next day, GE Capital advised us that they had a change of mind and would work to gather their data. We responded that we were going to press within the hour. Within 45 minutes, GE provided their Net Earning Assets and New Business Volume. It is not often that we get the opportunity to motivate a large company to respond that fast.
There have been many changes within the equipment leasing and finance industry over the past 35 or so years. What come to your mind as being the most significant from your trade magazine cat-bird seat?
It has been sad to see General Electric a long-time formidable dominant player within the equipment finance community come unglued.
Is there a favorite article that comes to mind? Tell us about it.
In the September/October 2013 issue of the Monitor I candidly chronicled the improbable story of the Monitor that went from a simple newsletter into a full-fledged published magazine. That was our showcase 40th anniversary issue.
You surprised all of us when we learned around the time of the Fall 2018 ELFA Convention that you consummated the sale of the Xander consortium that publishes The Monitor magazine, ABF Journal magazine and MonitorDaily electronic newsletter. Why now?
I have reached a point where I had another business interest outside of trade publication and recruiting. A viable succession plan with capable staff was in place. Jim Gavaghan joined Molloy Associates three years ago with over 30 years as an executive at GE Capital. He has done an outstanding job of revamping our recruiting practice with a hit rate second to none. Susie Angelucci has served the Monitor for many years in serving the needs of those who advertise in our publications. Lisa Rafter worked with me from 1987-2004 as the editor of the Monitor and sister publication ABF Journal. I attribute the growth and vitality of our publications to her. Lisa already understands the operation of a deadline-driven, forward thinking publication business which will serve her well as owner.
Any words of wisdom to future writers for the Monitor?
Anyone who wants to write must have an ability to listen and to think — and exhibit a genuine curiosity and interest in learning about why things are the way they are and how they should be.
Jerry, for what do you want to be most remembered in your role as publisher of the Monitor?
Dimensioning the industry leaders though The Monitor 100 listing for now over a quarter of a century.
What’s something that has recently surprised Jerry Parrotto?
I was both surprised and humbled to be informed that Kit Menkin, editor of the rival electronic industry publication Leasing News, would be so bold as to name me as “2018 Leasing News Person of the Year.” I was further impressed that Kit would proceed to expound upon the content of our various magazine features and e-mail newsletters in the text of his announcement. Finally, I was personally touched that my 18-year old son, who’s a freshman at Rochester Institute of Technology, would be so proud of his ‘old man’ to boast about this recognition to his college classmates.
Finally, what’s next for Jerry Parrotto?
Are you ready for this? Marketing salad dressing. Yes, you may see me presenting salad demonstrations at a grocery store near you. For over 50 years, Jimmy’s Milan was a mainstay Italian restaurant at 19th & Chestnut in downtown Philadelphia and was known for its signature salad dressing. After the owner passed away, the restaurant closed. My lady friend has the rights to Jimmy’s Milan Salad Dressing formula and has taken this to the consumer market in bottled form. IRI data keeps track of all food items by category, [and] we were proud to learn that Jimmy’s Milan is ranked number 2 in the Fastest Growing Specialty Salad Dressing Category in the U.S.
But equipment leasing and finance remains the industry in which I have made my entire career. I still get up before 5 am. I have told Jim Gavaghan not to be surprised if I show up and help lead one of the recruiting engagements for which he is retained.
So, salad days are still ahead for Jerry Parrotto. After everything we tossed around on this — my very first leasing executive interview for publication — I proceeded to purchase a bottle of Jimmy’s Milan on Amazon.
Barry Shafran, President and CEO , Chesswood Group Limited
Barry Shafran shares the story behind Chesswood Group’s journey from a Canadian new car dealership business with automotive lease receivables of just $80 million in 1999, to a North American public equipment finance business with a portfolio of $1.0 billion in 2019. He says the one constant and key ingredient in Chesswood’s journey is its amazing team of tenured and committed people.