The Ties That Bind

Balancing their hobbies with the demands of being CFO is easy, say some finance chiefs fortunate enough to combine their passions with their professions.

Likewise, being a self-described wine enthusiast gives Doug Walker insight into his industry’s future. “The success of the movie Sideways has given a boost to our industry just like ’60 Minutes’ did years ago with its piece on the health benefits of red wine,” says the vice president at $600 million (in revenues) Beringer Blass Wine Estate Holdings, a division of Australian beverage giant Foster’s Wine Estates. Also, wine is “being appreciated by people at an earlier age,” says Walker. Both trends give him comfort as he leads the U.S. integration team for Foster’s $2.8 million acquisition of Australian wine producer Southcorp, which will increase the company’s volume in the United States by 50 percent.

Roses and Thorns

As if combining their passions with work weren’t enough, these CFOs enjoy other benefits. Within the wine industry, for example, there are certain discounts fellow vintners offer, says Walker, who is partial to cabernets. And thanks to Ping’s sponsorship of tournaments and events, Trueblood has played some of the world’s most famous courses, although his best round was an 83 at Moon Valley Country Club, right in Phoenix.

There can also be an upside to sharing a pastime. At The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., the horticultural- and turf-products giant, CFO Christopher Nagel recently shared his passion for gardening and perennials with his finance staff. Last May, Nagel, who insists that he is “not a master gardener,” volunteered the staff and their families to plant a community garden in Columbus, Ohio, for a local conservation group. “We weeded beds, spread mulch, and planted flowers,” says Nagel, who adds that the event was an ideal way to give back to the central Ohio community. At the same time, while the finance folks “showed up with a lot of enthusiasm, they aren’t in danger of losing their day jobs,” says Nagel.

But there can be impediments to the marriage of passion and profession. Sometimes, for instance, the job takes over. In Nathan Eckhart’s case, the grind of his work means that the Allen Organ CFO — who actually started his career as a student at Boston’s Berklee College of Music — doesn’t play very often. And, of course, competing interests may take precedence. Given the time he spends with his four children, Mike Trueblood says, “I tell everyone that I’m 10 years away from being a 10 handicap.”

Their Favorite Things
CFO/Company Favorites Comments
Doug Walker
Beringer Blass Wine
Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages blended wine Walker had a hand in developing and naming the wine.
Betsy Cole
Booth Creek Ski Holdings
Cranmore Mountain Resort,
North Conway, N.H.
Cole grew up skiing at Cranmore.
Christopher Nagel
Scotts Miracle-Gro
New Guinea impatiens Loves the impatiens “because of their rich, vibrant blooms.”
Mike Trueblood
Karsten Manufacturing
Pointe at Tapatio Cliffs, Phoenix Course has a “nice shape and variety, with elevated T’s.”


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