Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House – Dallas, TX
By Cheryl Hall, The Dallas Morning News – September 26, 2007
Dallas businessman Shad Rowe believes impatience is a virtue. That's why Michael J. Fox likes him.
The 61-year-old investment fund manager and the 46-year-old TV and movie star are both battling Parkinson's disease. Every minute without a cure is a precious moment they can't afford to lose.
"For those of us in the patient community," Mr. Fox says in a telephone interview, "Parkinson's disease is not a time-neutral situation. It's a ticking clock. If that's impatience, then I guess we're impatient."
These two men's common quest has created an uncommon alliance.
Mr. Rowe is putting on a highly unusual investment seminar in Dallas next Tuesday to benefit Parkinson's research. Mr. Fox is coming here for the first time since Jimmy Johnson was coach of the Dallas Cowboys to say thank you.
"Having Michael J. Fox come is a big deal," says Mr. Rowe. "It's a strain for him to travel."
So why is Mr. Fox making the effort?
"Shad Rowe is a force of nature," he says simply. "We need guys like him who have tenacity and resilience and a network of people they can reach out to and express our message."
I've worked with Mr. Rowe on several columns involving his role as chairman of the Texas Pension Review Board. He's like a Scottish terrier who entices you with a favorite pull-toy and then won't let go — whether it's Parkinson's research or shareholder rights.
It's been nearly nine years since he was diagnosed with the progressively debilitating nervous system disorder that began with a slight tremor in his left arm. "Putting became a terrible problem," says the president of Rowe & Co.
Anyone who knows the avid golfer knows how unacceptable Mr. Rowe would find that.
Shortly after making the diagnosis, Mr. Rowe's physician gave what was meant to be a professional dig at the actor-turned-medical activist. "My doctor said, 'People like Michael J. Fox have no patience with our protocols.'
"It certainly wasn't meant as a compliment," says Mr. Rowe, who so far has kept his disease in check with regimen and medications. "But I took it as a message that Michael and I are on the same page."
Next Tuesday, Mr. Rowe is putting on the Great Investors' Best Ideas Foundation Investment Symposium at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
Ten investment tycoons — including Rusty Rose, T. Boone Pickens and Susan Byrne – will spend 15 minutes each sharing one key strategy with those paying to attend.
Also on the program is investor activist William Ackman, president of New York-based Pershing Square Capital Management LP, who has taken on McDonald's Corp. and Wendy's International and now seems to be targeting Target Corp.
They are doing this gratis for their buddy Shad.
Half the proceeds — currently at $1.4 million — will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. The other half is going to the Vickery Meadow Youth Development Fund, the favorite local charity of John Neill, partner in Dallas-based Telesis Co.
Mr. Neill attended a similar symposium in New York nearly two years ago, wanted to re-create it here and enlisted the help of Mr. Rowe. The two men are footing all the event's costs.
Individual tickets at $1,000 are still available for the three-hour event. "I hate that it costs that much," says Mr. Rowe, "but that's what we've got to charge to make significant money."
Is Mr. Fox surprised at how fast Mr. Rowe amassed this impressive lineup and the money he's already raised?
"As I get to know him, I'm less and less surprised," answers Mr. Fox, diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's as a 30-year-old in 1991. He didn't go public until 1998, when he became a staunch advocate of aggressive medical research.
One of Mr. Fox's long-running sitcom roles was that of Alex P. Keaton, the arrogant yet endearing teenage business whiz of Family Ties. He finds it ironic that some of his key donors might have considered Alex a role model.
"This is karmic payoff," he says. "Alex's peers are stepping up and doing the right thing."
Mr. Rowe and Mr. Fox played golf in a benefit tournament last week in Manhasset, N.Y., with three other successful businessmen.
"We didn't play very well, but we had a good time," says Mr. Rowe.
"Shad played golf. I tortured the ball and dug trenches with a 9-iron," says Mr. Fox.
Did they talk business or pleasure?
"A little bit of both," says Mr. Fox. "Shad's a big movie fan. There's a movie called Amazing Grace that I hadn't seen. He made me call Netflix and order it right away."
Mr. Fox likes the way Mr. Rowe can be both fixated and not.
"Shad can quickly switch from being absolutely driven about a goal that he wants to accomplish, to hit a 210-yard tee shot, and then turn around and say, 'Did you see Bill Murray in the clubhouse?'
"He's an interesting and complex guy, as most quality people are."
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