Jeffrey A. Martinovich, founder and CEO of MICG Investment Management, knows pretty much everything there is to know about life’s ups and downs.
Martinovich was a big success before the 2008 Financial Crisis but was prosecuted afterward for fraud. He was sentenced 14 years in prison but worked his way to home confinement, only to end up in prison to finish his sentence for a highly technical violation of the terms of his sentence. Martinovich is a free man again, with a distinctly changed point of view on life, more supportive of other people and more aware that there is a lot that happens that we have little control over. He has written a new book, Just One More: The Wisdom of Bob Vukovich. We asked Martinovich about the lessons he has gleaned from his life so far.
Let’s get this out of the way first. You were convicted of financial fraud following the financial crisis of 2008 and served time in federal prison. Did that experience change your life perspective?
Jeffrey A. Martinovich: Of course, but not in the expected manner like the movies of terrible rich person finds religion. It more taught me that life is fragile and can be totally transformed on a random Tuesday. I was also very naïve about people, governments, and “the system.”
What did you learn from the other inmates? How much do life circumstances have to do with why people end up in prison?
Jeffrey A. Martinovich: Circumstances and surroundings mean a tremendous amount. If someone has characteristics, intelligence, and drive to be a leader or successful person, depending on the opportunities presented that can be positive in sports, academics, or business, or negative in criminal or destructive behaviors.
You were in the military during the First Iraq War. What lessons did you learn from that experience?
Jeffrey A. Martinovich: I did not go over to Iraq, but instead was at Tactical Air Command Headquarters, Langley AFB, Virginia during the First Gulf War. I have tremendous respect for our veterans and enjoy working in the defense industry and supporting charities and causes for our veterans. I have great admiration for the men and women who make this commitment for our country, and their maturity and independence are evident while serving and also later in business.
Contemporary American politics seems to be one ongoing schadenfreude festival, with the conservatives eager to “own the libs,” and liberals laughing at anti-vaxxers who die of covid, yet you have written a book that advocates the exact opposite. Why this message, now?
Jeffrey A. Martinovich: I believe my personal views do not align with either side. I believe in freedom, self-responsibility, free-market capitalism, and charity for those in need. I feel these are the ideals of our great country, but human nature can run contrary to these purist truisms. Our success has allowed us to forget these ideals, look to government to take care of us, wanting something for nothing, and believing the universe owes us security and prosperity. It is a dangerous time.
Everybody says they would like to be rich, but most people are reasonably content simply with a secure job. What is your definition of success? How do you advise other people to view their own successes and failures?
Jeffrey A. Martinovich: Certainly “rich” is not monetary wealth. It is the ability to be happy and secure. But monetary wealth can play a significant role in creating happiness and security if kept in context. I have always taught my employees that if we want to save the world, we can do it much easier with $100 million! Jack Welch, the iconic CEO of GE, continuously taught that the responsibility of a corporation is to be profitable in order that its employees will have great jobs, their children will have top schooling and health, and their communities will prosper through charity and civic contribution. Dumbing down America and redistributing wealth not based on merit only destroys everyone and everything in the process. Richness is achieving, striving, taking care of your family. I know this, as I have made more mistakes than anyone along this challenging journey.