When Gerald L. Parsky was ready to leave the Treasury Department in 1977, his friend and mentor William E. Simon invited him to join in forming an investment firm. Despite Simon's promise that he would make more money than he had ever imagined, Parsky declined.
"If I had gone with Bill, I would always have wondered whether I could do it on my own or whether I'd always be his boy," Parsky recalled in a recent interview.
So Parsky, who in 1974 had become the youngest assistant secretary of the Treasury in modern history at the age of 31, became the first outside lawyer hired as a partner by the Los Angeles law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
He helped build the firm's Washington practice before coming to Los Angeles in 1983 with his wife, Robin, a native of Pasadena and former assistant vice president at Crocker National Bank.
Once here, Parsky continued to set records: At 40, he became the youngest senior partner at the law firm, a tribute in large part to his role in its expansion into a truly national firm. He also built a thriving corporate practice, which included negotiating some major real estate transactions and other investment deals. And that led to some frustration.
"I found many people wanting to retain us, in part because of a counseling role that I might play in assisting a principal or an investor in negotiating his transaction," he said.
So, he asked himself, why not be a principal and reap the benefits of his own expertise?
The opportunity to do that arose in September, 1985, when Simon, who had made a fortune in leveraged buyouts since leaving his post as secretary of the Treasury nearly a decade earlier, telephoned and asked Parsky to join him as an investment partner in a new endeavor.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the last two years, the partnership has bought four savings and loan firms, interests in two banks and invested $50 million in real estate projects. Parsky and Simon have also joined with an Australian takeover firm to start a fledgling merchant bank and are eyeing other acquisitions in the financial field.
The number of partners has increased to a core of six, with some deals bringing in others as investors. But Simon and Parsky have remained the two senior investment partners in every deal.
So now, although the 44-year-old Parsky also remains at the law firm and says he is committed to his practice, he is finally a principal.