Reprinted from the March 18, 2009 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper
By Scott Morgan
Meet Marty Tuchman. Capitalist. For 40 years he ran one of the largest companies in the transportation industry — Interpool — and in the process built a hefty fortune by being able to adopt tactics, ideas, and procedures with uncanny prescience. His ideas for the design and marketing of interchangeable parts for the shipping industry shaped the intermodal transportation of goods, and the company’s business practices became so influential that the Smithsonian Institute gave him a medal.
Now meet Marty Tuchman. Idealist. Head of the Tuchman Foundation, which oversees the Parkinson’s Alliance. Benefactor and trustee for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. Able to take his unflagging business acumen and apply it to charitable causes, Tuchman helped shape — and continues to shape — how research into Parkinson’s disease is conducted.
In the front room of Princeton International Properties, a property management firm run by Tuchman’s brother, Herb, and for which Marty Tuchman serves as chairman, Marty is showing some videos. The first is the past; a production from his days at Interpool, which he sold last year to Seacastle Inc., the California-based transportation firm that took over Interpool’s chassis business as well as its office space on College Road East and its place atop the transportation heap (see page 39).
The subsequent DVDs are Marty Tuchman’s present. They do not feature corporate procedures, they feature faces most people would never recognize. But these faces belong to people living with and living beside Parkinson’s. And in that way promotional videos have of making their point, these faces remind you that they could belong to anybody.
Even Marty Tuchman’s wife.
The video outlines the efforts of the National Parkinson’s Foundation, an organization and cause to which Tuchman has been indelibly tied for a little more than half his marriage. Margaret Tuchman was 38 when she contracted Parkinson’s disease. That was 1981, just about the time that the Tuchmans were looking to adopt a child and expand their family. But the disease, an incurable, degenerative illness that manifests in involuntary body movements, sidelined those plans and cut into what Tuchman admits was an enviable life of great money and world travel.
But don’t get too far ahead. The Tuchmans still enjoy their lives together, still have lots of money, and they still have a marriage that makes him incredibly happy. More than anything, he says, his love for Margaret drives him to find a cure for a powerful enemy. And he approaches the task with the business sense that propelled him to the top of the transportation industry and the optimism ground into the fiber of every native-born Brooklyn Dodgers fan — that no matter how far out the odds, things eventually will turn out OK.
Wired from day one to believe in philanthropy and the greater good, Marty Tuchman understands the value of money to a good cause. It is this fact, says friend and frequent consultant Irwin Stoolmacher, owner of the Lawrence-based Stoolmacher Consulting Group, that has made Tuchman such a successful philanthropist.
Better stated, it is what has made the organizations with which Tuchman has become involved — from the Parkinson’s Alliance to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen — able to do so much good. Tuchman, Stoolmacher says, has the business sense needed to make sure the bottom line is met and exceeded. And yet, he also has the compassion to do good by his fellow man.
Tuchman makes no effort to hide his financial savvy and remains invested in transportation and other industries. Likewise, he makes no attempt to hide how he’s using his money. Worth millions, the Tuchman Foundation is fueled by a career spent applying his capitalistic instincts to the world at large.
Both halves of Marty Tuchman, the philanthropic and the capitalistic, were forged back in the 1940s and ’50s. When he was a boy Tuchman’s parents moved from Brooklyn to Belleville, near Newark, and the young Marty Tuchman cut his business teeth helping keep journals for his father’s furniture making business. That was at the behest of his mother, and Tuchman says the early exposure to the ins and out of business endowed him with the pragmatism he has put to use repeatedly.
His father also instilled in him a sense of social empathy and responsibility. The kind that demands that when you succeed in something, you need to recognize that success as a gift and give some of it back to the world that bestowed it.
Though he loved working with his dad, Tuchman, like many young men, had his own interests and a slight lack of direction. Back in the day when high school guidance counselors expected you to know your career path by the end of junior year — and stick with it for the rest of your life — Tuchman didn’t really have a clue what to do with himself. But he liked basketball (he is still a fan, and thinks LeBron James gets better every time he plays), cars, and mechanical things. He opted to study mechanical engineering at the Newark College of Engineering (today NJIT).
He met Margaret when he, a member of his school’s varsity basketball team, and she, a member of Rutgers’ varsity fencing team, were at an athletic gathering. Having just finished a paper on Hungary, he had his opening gambit — to talk to her about the country she and her family fled just two years prior. Margaret , in fact, was a revolutionary, part of the anti-communist student uprising in Budapest in 1956 that was brutally quashed by the Soviet Union. Though the movement failed, young Margaret Ujvay helped spread revolutionary word across the airwaves from the school station. She came to America just a couple years after.
In 1962 Tuchman graduated from college and took his love of cars to Railway Express Agency, where he worked as an automotive engineer. REA was run by 44 separate railroad companies that owned 33,000 trucks and was looking for a way to make their cargo shipping operations more efficient. Tuchman worked on the team of a dozen engineers who developed the locking device — twist locks — that mounts cargo containers to rail cars and chassis. The containers have socket holes into which the chassis-mounted locks slip, and with a turn, the T-shaped lock secures the container in place.
The invention (still the industry standard) revolutionized the shipping industry and advanced intermodal transportation, meaning that standardized cargo containers could now be mounted to ships, trains, and trucks interchangeably. Cargo no longer had to be stored directly in the hold of a ship and later removed, piece by piece, at great consumption of time, to be left on pallets. Now it could be loaded into containers that are put aboard a ship and can be unloaded wholly. Gantry cranes, equipped with inverted versions of the twist locks, stack containers on trains.
Tuchman is cautious when it comes to information about his contributions to the world, no more so than when it comes to his contribution to the shipping industry.
He emphasizes that he was not the inventor of the twist lock, merely a 25-year-old member of the team that developed it at the direction of his employers. But the idea itself didn’t get patented. Which Tuchman thinks was great.
“This isn’t rocket science, it’s a hole,” he says. Rather than setting the company up to quibble over rights and chase down infringement, he helped develop the “hot potato” concept — lease the chassis to someone for $2.50 a day, for as many days as needed, with the ability to drop out at any time. That way no one got bogged down in politics or contracts, and shipping could grow unfettered. The move helped build a sizable business.
It also helped build his own. In 1968, the same year he earned his MBA from Seton Hall, Tuchman left REA and with Warren Serenbetz formed the container leasing company Interpool. Interpool went on to become one of the biggest names in the field, and Tuchman left it to form a chassis leasing company called Trac Lease in 1987.
Like Interpool, Trac Lease became a titan in its field, eventually becoming the largest chassis leasing company in the United States. Tuchman then bought Interpool back and ran a joint operation with Trac Lease.
In 1993 Tuchman listed Interpool on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $67 million to bring the company’s total equity to more than $100 million. In the ensuing 14 years Interpool paid out that same amount to investors and was still worth $600 million.
In 1995 Ernst & Young named Tuchman its Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 1996 NJIT named him its alumnus of the year. Three years later Interpool won Cisco Systems’ grand prize in its “Growing with Technology Awards,” which recognized companies using the Internet and networking technology to grow.
In 2000 Tuchman prepared an extensive case study of Interpool for the Smithsonian Computer World Collection. The effort earned Interpool a Smithsonian Award and Tuchman’s case study was added to the institute’s National Museum of American History’s permanent research collection.
Tuchman admits it is one of his proudest achievements. His report outlined how Interpool had, years before, developed innovative tracking and administrative software and applications that became industry standards. And, like the twist lock, Tuchman saw no need to cloister the technology. Rather, he shared it with businesses of all sorts, effectively leveling the playing field. Interpool promoted programs that could be run on desktop computers rather than expensive mainframes, allowing more competition and more opportunities for small businesses to get in the game.
In other words, Tuchman crafted a policy of selfless capitalism that helped grow Interpool’s fortunes while others got fat as well.
By 2007 Interpool had been a publicly traded company for almost 14 years and its value had soared. That April Interpool’s board of directors took Fortress Investment Group’s offer of $27.10 a share and sold the company for $797 million, according to a Reuters report at that time. The deal, completed last July, led Fortress to remove Interpool from the ranks of publicly traded companies. Fortress is now re-branding the assets as Seacastle, a privately held company, according to Steve Rubin, president of Seacastle Chassis.
Tuchman, contractually forbidden to discuss any part of the deal, refuses even to acknowledge the details. But he does admit that he and Warren Serenbetz, who according to the Reuters report together owned half of Interpool at the time, had considered buying the company back from the board and make it into a private company again. Fortress, apparently, simply came along with a better offer.
But it worked out. Tuchman was fine with the outcome and Serenbetz, 18 years his elder, decided he didn’t need and didn’t want to worry about this stuff anymore anyway. So after almost 40 years as one of the biggest names in shipping and transportation Tuchman decided to retire.
As it were.
On the one hand, Marty Tuchman does the things retired businessmen do. He sails. He plays tennis, which he learned from his brother, Herb, owner of PJ’s Pancake House on Nassau Street. He nurtures his creative side. This grand room with the grand television has a small nook at the other end of the table where Tuchman keeps some of the art he makes in what he swears is his down time. Confident and sure about his work in the business world and in philanthropy, Tuchman becomes endearingly self-deprecating when it comes to his paintings and giclees (computer art printed directly onto a canvas). He says things like, “This is my art, if you can call it that. More like crafts,” but any art student would notice that his lines, his representative figures, his colors are nothing to dismiss.
He does not have a sample of the music he makes, but then he makes that at home. He has a program on his computer that lets him plunk in a piece of music — Beethoven, he suggests — and alter the sounds as he sees fit. Putting guitar on a classical symphony goes a long way toward nourishing his soul.
But there’s still a lot of capitalist in Marty Tuchman, even as he does much of his work for the Tuchman Foundation, on Route 27 in Kingston. When Tuchman sold Interpool the timing coincided with some tenants leaving this site. Herb offered his brother the space and he quickly settled in. He even hung the 8-foot “Interpool” wall sign behind his desk. Most people would know Herb Tuchman as the owner of PJ’s, but he also is a member of the Parkinson’s Alliance and, as owner of PIP, is the manager of 21 properties in central New Jersey.
Years ago, when Marty went into the shipping field, Herb ran the family business and started accumulating real estate. Today PIP owns office, residential, and warehouse space. Herb could have grown the business threefold, his brother says, but he tapped into an innate Tuchman business savvy and decided to hold the properties he had and pay down the debts on them. A move for which all concerned are eminently glad.
Beyond that, neither the publicity-shy Herb Tuchman nor his respectful older brother would care to say.
Marty Tuchman does not dabble much in real estate deals, but does help oversee the Tuchman Group’s holdings in real estate, banking, and international shipping. Mostly he devotes his schedule to certain business and philanthropic pursuits because, as he puts it, “I have the luxury of time.”
But Marty Tuchman does not live by the same concept of downtime as most people. Even when he was on a vacation in Bermuda years ago he dropped by a container yard there just to see how things were working. He was aghast to find that containers were being strapped onto chassis by chains, but the good news is that things have changed in Bermuda and more companies are using twist locks.
Still, he is technically retired, and this downtime is occupied by the following endeavors:
• He is chairman and CEO of the Tuchman Group, which is the umbrella company for the Tuchman Foundation and the Parkinson’s Alliance, and which works closely with Parkinson’s research organizations that seek grants and approval from the National Institute of Health.
• He is a member of and advisor to the United Nations Business Council, which is comprised of top international executives for the purpose of promoting cooperation among businesses and governments throughout the world.
• He is a member of the NJIT board of overseers, now that he is no longer a trustee at the school, and on the board of directors at Stevens Institute of Technology’s Web Campus, which features distance graduate education.
• He is on the board of directors of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York.
• He is on the board of trustees at RWJ-Hamilton.
• He is on the Board of Managers at the Mercer County unit of the American Cancer Society.
• He is vice chairman of First Choice Bank in Lawrenceville, which replaces his positions at Yardville National Bank. In 2000 Tuchman was named to YNB’s board and executive committee, and he served as chairman of the bank’s Community Reinvestment Act before Yardville National was acquired by PNC in 2007. Tuchman says he hopes to recreate the community spirit and actions with First Bank that he so admired in the board and staff at YNB.
It was through YNB that Tuchman became involved with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. A member of TASK’s Board of Trustees since 2003, Tuchman first learned of TASK through a community project the bank was working on. It is also how he met Irwin Stoolmacher, who is listed as a consultant for TASK.
Stoolmacher describes how Tuchman has changed TASK for the better. As a kitchen and education center in one of Trenton’s poorest neighborhoods, TASK needs to raise money from grants and donations. It had found, early on, that direct mail appeals to residents worked very well. So when Tuchman came along one of his first questions was “Why not do more of that?” Stoolmacher says.
Well, first, there is no guarantee that more frequent mailings would generate more contributions, and second, there was the money it costs to ask for money by mail. TASK simply did not have enough to gamble on maybes.
Tuchman loaned TASK the money to cover an expanded mailing. Rather than more frequent appeals to the same crowd, TASK’s appeals went out to more people. And not by third-class junk mail that people disregard before it’s even out of their mailbox, but by first-class mail, with a stamp and everything. The psychology, Tuchman says, is that stamped mail just seems more important and relevant. So people tend to open it.
The loan was one with only one catch — if TASK made back the investment of a few thousand dollars on top of its fundraising goals, pay it back. If not? Well, nobody knows because TASK not only made its money back it doubled its expected donor base.
“It’s all about looking at it in a different context,” Tuchman says of the money spent on the expanded mailing. “They looked at it as an expense. I looked at it as an investment.”
Stoolmacher finds this balance of capitalism and altruism to be Tuchman’s most powerful trait. It takes a business mind to realize that it really is money that gets things done, but it also takes an innate generosity and sense of social responsibility to keep them moving. This newspaper’s own photographer can attest to the latter.
Craig Terry, a Vineland-based photographer, has shot many of the images you’ve seen in U.S. 1 over the years. A few years ago, while on assignment at TASK, Terry returned to his car to find much of his gear missing — including a $1,200 Nikkor zoom lens.
“I got a call from Marty’s point person, asking me what I had lost,” Terry says. “She told me that Marty wanted to replace the lens at his expense. “The cool little additional thing was that he also hired me to shoot a couple of company events shortly after that. He is a good guy with a great heart. It is special treat to experience first hand someone so far removed from a problem respond so altruistically.”
But despite the laundry list of boards, committees, and causes, it is Parkinson’s disease that takes most of Tuchman’s time these days. After his wife contracted the disease Tuchman entered the fight to research and cure it, and at first approached the task like everyone else — by trying to get money for research grants. The trouble was, there was no shortage of non-profits focused on Parkinson’s all tapping the same well, otherwise known as the NIH.
The other trouble was that NIH does not give money for pilot research programs. If you get money from the institute, it is to continue work that already has shown some progress. Essentially, Tuchman says, it is like a venture fund. And that’s fine. But the approach strangled new research and sent many a researcher spinning his wheels on information he never knew other scientists had worked on. And discarded.
With research for the disease badly underfunded and the NIH looking at proposals from myriad good causes, not much was happening. “We had to organize this like a war,” Tuchman says. But rather than vanquishing the network of Parkinson’s efforts, the plan was to unite them. The Parkinson’s Alliance was set up to help early-stage research projects and combine research and information under one umbrella. A major component of this was Tuchman’s insistence on sharing the failures in Parkinson’s research so that subsequent researchers would not trip over the same issues ad nauseum.
The alliance helped turn Parkinson’s research from a $25 million grab bag to a $300 million enterprise. It also was a major player in the passage of the Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Research and Education Act (also known as the Udall bill) in 1995. The bill, named for the Arizona congressman who served 12 years while inflicted with the disease, was the first legislative effort to be devoted to Parkinson’s research. It authorized $100 million in annual funding to the federal Parkinson’s research program administered by NIH.
The alliance also sponsors the Unity Walk, the nation’s largest one-day fundraising event, held in New York City every spring. Annually the Unity Walk raises more than $2 million.
Tuchman himself has been an advisor to New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who became the founder and chairwoman of the Congressional Working Group On Parkinson’s Disease after working with the Udalls. In 2006 Tuchman also accepted Maloney’s invitation to be an advisor on the (New York) 14th Congressional District Advisory Council On Homeland Security, for which he has advised on port security. In a letter to the Trenton Times in March of that year, for example, Tuchman made the case for regulatory oversight of all foreign entities operating an American port, whether air or sea.
But Tuchman’s work with Maloney on Parkinson’s research has been his most personal. With his assistance, Maloney has been able to push for legislative support of cure research, including her bill to incorporate stem cell research.
Tuchman’s biggest contribution to Parkinson’s research is through the Parkinson’s Alliance, which does something very few charitable organizations can claim — it gives every cent donated by individuals directly to research. The Tuchman Foundation provides matching money so that administrative costs are covered internally.
Tuchman admits it is a lot of work, but he shares much of it with his wife, who is the president of the Parkinson’s Alliance. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) Parkinson’s, Margaret Tuchman is not the type to take it easy. After graduating from Rutgers in 1965 Margaret received her master’s in personnel and counseling from Newark State College (now Kean ) in 1970.
From 1965 to 1980 she administered programs and provided educational counseling to economically disadvantaged people for the federal government. Then until 1996 she was the president of PIP, becoming more deeply involved with the Parkinson’s community. She steadily built her grassroots efforts to combat the disease, starting with mailing postcards for the Udall bill and continuing until she herself became a face on Capitol Hill. In 1996 she received the Lou Fishman Award from Parkinson’s Action Network for advocacy work in the community and Washington, D.C.
In 2000 Margaret Tuchman had successful bi-lateral deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus — or DBS-STN, a procedure in which surgically placed electrodes emit high-frequency stimulations to help curb involuntary muscle movement — and subsequently founded DBS-STN.org, an online community designed to help improve the quality of life of DBS-STN patients and their caregivers and provide a unified bank of information. She is personally involved with every aspect of the site, including its forum and patient and caregiver surveys.
Marty Tuchman speaks of his wife with unabashed awe. Twenty five years into her battle with Parkinson’s disease, she still to him is the young college student who broadcast the revolution to Budapest over her school’s radio waves. Not long ago, the Tuchmans watched a broadcast of “Frontline” focusing on the Hungarian uprising. It was serendipitously followed by a program about Parkinson’s. Margaret turned to Marty and said, “That’s my whole story.” And he came to a conclusion. “She’s still the same fighter she was back then.”
Marty Tuchman himself is tougher to define. A rare mix of karma and capitalism, he talks about making money with the kind of fervor jocks have when they pore over memories of their greatest victories. At the same time, he becomes uncomfortable the moment it seems as if anyone is impressed, as if his mother is scolding him for thinking too highly of himself. In fact his biggest discomfort with being interviewed seems to be his fear that he might come across as gloating or smug for talking about his achievements or having a lot of money. He insists that it is his crew at the Parkinson’s Alliance, as it was his team at Interpool and even at REA, who really get things done.
People who have dealt with him professionally for years find it hard to put Marty Tuchman into words too. Steve Rubin, who met him during the sale of Interpool says “He’s really an amazing man.” Jerry Fennelly, CEO of the NAI Fennelly commercial real estate firm on Quakerbridge Road who has worked with Tuchman on the annual 5K Parkinson’s race at Carnegie Center, is similarly succinct.
“He’s on a higher level than most,” Fennelly says. “He’s incredibly intelligent. He has a photographic mind. All I know is, if you do what he does, you’ll make money.”
Irwin Stoolmacher puts it this way: “Marty likes to keep kind of a low profile. But I hope that seeing his story will inspire people with money to do some good with it.”
The Tuchman Foundation, 4427 Route 27, Box 582, Kingston 08528; 609-924-6006; fax, 609-951-0362. Martin Tuchman, chairman.
Princeton International Properties Inc., 4422 Route 27, Kingston 08528; 609-921-3257; fax, 609-924-0361. Herbert Tuchman, owner.
This article originally appeared in the March 18, 2009 issue of U.S.1 Newspaper. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2009 from http://princetoninfo.com/index.php?option=com_us1more&Itemid=6&key=03-18-2009%20Tuchman and reprinted with permission.