Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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3.14 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 2 7 J onathan Blue motions me over to the windows facing east in his Blue Equity ofces, located on the third foor of the Preston Pointe building at the corner of Preston and Main streets. We're looking at Slugger Field. "See where the new brick meets the old brick?" he says. "Te old brick is the spot where I grew up." I follow his gaze toward left feld, home of the Bats and former home of Louisville Scrap Material Co., owned by Blue's father David. Te original building was dismantled in 1983. But Louisville Scrap remained on Preston Street for another decade or so, until the city asked David Blue to move his business to make way for Waterfront Park. For seven bitter years, lawsuits few and tempers fared, but the Blue family eventually sold to the city. Jonathan Blue shrugs a things-change shrug. Better than most, Blue should understand the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of business. At its core, his private-equity company buys and sells, acquires and releases. Over the past decade, Blue Equity formed, grew and sold a worldwide sports and entertainment company; it bought, grew and sold a petroleum company in Jamaica; it bought, grew and sold an ice distribution company in the Caribbean; it bought the Voice-Tribune, bought and sold real estate all over the world . . . . Tere's more, but we do have space limitations. Te 47-year-old's cellphone dings and vibrates with text messages and voicemails. He has the air of a cafeinated New Yorker who squeezes more out of 10 minutes than others do in an hour. Only when I ask about his brother Todd does Jonathan choose not to elaborate. Jonathan Blue's younger brother is infamous for the Whiskey Row imbroglio of recent vintage. Jonathan isn't immune to making news, either. His proftable sale of East End acreage for the new VA hospital earned a hand slap or two from the editorial pages of the local daily. Of late, he's lobbying for a downtown casino — Churchill Downs-approved — with like-minded businessmen as part of an outft named Kentucky Wins. Te Blue Equity ofce is a gallery of contemporary art. A steel sculpture by Alexander Lieberman that looks a bit like an ampersand on steroids greets visitors as they exit the elevator. To the immediate right, a Pollack-meets-Picasso painting by Alexander Calder covers most of a wall. A neon-yellow Shell gasoline sign hangs on the opposite end of the reception area. As we wend our way to Blue's ofce, we pass walls flled with photographs of recognizable athletes and celebrities, including, as he laughingly points out, one of the bearded pitchman for Dos Equis beer. You know, "the most interesting man in the world." "More people wanted to meet him than any of these other guys," he says, then adds in that New Yorker-who's-not-a-New Yorker tic he has, "not kidding." Let's start with the big sports news you were at least peripherally involved in as a member of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. What do you think about Bobby Petrino returning as head football coach? "He's an ofensive genius. In our new league (the Atlantic Coast Conference), you need to score." How does athletic director Tom Jurich work? Did he reach out to the board of trustees? "No. He works autonomously. He goes into his bat cave, and then he comes out with an answer." Blue Notes An interview with private-equity kingpin Jonathan Blue. Are you surprised that Jurich hasn't been lured away to a bigger school? "I think he loves Louisville. I think he works for a president he likes a lot, and he's built it. We have limited resources and tools here compared to, say, Texas. But he's running a multimillion-dollar corporation. It's a business now." Speaking of business, is Louisville an attractive enough city for new businesses? "I think we want to be careful about being complacent, because every other city is competing against us for the same thing: new companies and new jobs or existing companies and new jobs. If you asked me what, other than gaming, the single biggest initiative that we can be involved in with our city, it's new-company recruitment. It's very important to build things from scratch as we're doing with the venture community and the angel (investment) community. Tose people who are doing that are very good. But we need to work harder at recruiting large- and medium-sized companies to move here." Are there certain types of businesses we should be trying to attract? "We're a logistics hub, so there's a lot of logistics business around the airport and around UPS. We should exploit our strengths. We've done a lot on the healthcare side. But I also think there's an opportunity in manufacturing and distribution here because of where we are. We haven't done enough on that. Tere's a lot of that in Southern Indiana, and I'd like to see more of that on this side of the river." What are the city's strengths for attracting a business? "It is the geographic center of everything. It's — what? — a day's drive from two-thirds of the population. Something like that. Even though the fights are difcult, it's still less air time because you're not fying from California. You're in the middle. We've made a lot of improvements to the amenities in this city. Te parks system. Even something as simple as the Big Four Bridge. Now you've connected a whole other part of the community." What else? "I travel all over the world, and the Louisville restaurant scene is fantastic. People visit here and they say, 'How does the city have these places?' We can take clients and partners to a diferent restaurant every time they're here and they're bafed. And now you have all this stuf going on by the Yum! Center. And NuLu, with the historic storefronts; you get the pretty experience and the food." What are your go-to restaurants for clients? "Jef Ruby's for steak. All the NuLu row. So many unique places you can pop in and out. I like it to be an experience for the people from out of town. We'll go to Village Anchor in Anchorage, which is a totally diferent experience in the suburbs." By Kane Webb Photo by Mickie WInters 26-29 Dept.indd 27 2/20/14 2:56 PM

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