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KINGS' McNALL: A SUCCESS STORY : He Has Two Things Going: Luck, Money

October 22, 1987|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

Bruce McNall sat in his spacious office in Century City the other day, discussing his varied business interests.

He recently returned from Paris, where Trempolino, a horse that he co-owns, won the $1.1-million Arc de Triomphe, Europe's richest race.

His film production company was preparing for the release this Friday of "The Sicilian," and his collectible-coin brokerage was discussing a deal with Merrill Lynch.

Asked how he manages to keep tabs on his far-reaching financial empire, McNall said: "I'm like a fireman. Wherever the fire is, is where I happen to be."

The local National Hockey League franchise is his latest flame.

McNall, who bought 25% of the Kings last year and another 24% last summer from majority owner Jerry Buss, was named president of the team last month.

So McNall, who attended about 75% of the Kings' games last season, will be around even more this season, entertaining guests at the Forum and flying in his jet to road games.

General Manager Rogie Vachon will continue to handle the day-to-day operation of the team, but McNall will be around to lend moral and financial support, trying to repair the team's poor-cousin-to-the-Lakers image while selling hockey to Los Angeles.

Why would a successful entrepreneur want to get so deeply involved with a chronic loser?

For one thing, McNall, 37, is a fan. He has followed the Kings since he was a student at Arcadia High School 20 years ago.

For another, "It's sort of a challenge," he said.

His other companies, he said, have reached the point where they basically run themselves.

"In the case of the Kings, they need help," he said. "It's something that obviously is an ailing thing. It needs something, so I've been trying to develop what the heck that is. I'm not sure I know what that is yet."

Once he puts his finger on it, though, McNall believes that he can turn the Kings around.

In fact, he talks of bringing the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles "within the next three years."

That may sound farfetched, but McNall has a track record of turning unlikely ventures into multimillion-dollar successes.

Buss calls him Mr. Lucky.

Just five days before the Arc de Triomphe, McNall bought a 50% interest in Trempolino, who had won only twice in eight starts, and watched the 20-1 longshot come home a winner in France's most important race. In record time, no less.

McNall did something similar in 1980, buying an interest in a colt named Argument shortly before the Arc. Argument finished second, then several weeks later won the Washington D.C. International at Laurel, Md.

"Dollar for dollar, I've done better in racing than in any of my other investments," McNall, who grew up less than a mile from Santa Anita, once said.

That's saying a lot.

McNall made his first financial impact as a teen-age coin collector. He became so knowledgeable about ancient coins, he said, that shop owners from all over Los Angeles sought him out to identify and price their coins. In exchange, they gave him lesser coins. Eventually, he opened a shop of his own.

Aiming at a professorship, McNall graduated with a degree in ancient history from UCLA when he was 20. He began work on a doctorate in the field, but his coin business continued to grow and eventually forced him to set aside his studies.

"I decided that maybe I'd make a little money first," he said.

He was 24 when he paid $420,000 for a 2,000-year-old Greek coin that he later sold for almost $1 million.

Today, he said, his coin company, Numismatic Fine Arts, Inc., is the largest of its kind in the world.

His film production company, Gladden Entertainment Corp., is responsible for such box-office hits as "Mr. Mom" and "WarGames" and, most recently, "Mannequin."

He also owns Summa Galleries, which imports ancient artifacts, and Summa Stable, Inc., which breeds and races thoroughbreds. He said he owns or has interests in about 250 horses. Track Robbery, which he owned, won the 1982 Eclipse Award for older fillies and mares.

McNall's net worth has been reported at $34 million, but he said it is probably about three times that, or about $100 million.

He lives in Holmby Hills, down the street from Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion and next door to Barron Hilton of the hotel empire. He also has homes in Malibu and Palm Springs.

Although he is a neighbor of Hefner's and a business partner of Buss', McNall describes himself as a family man. Short and probably about 50 pounds overweight, McNall has been married to his second wife, Jody, for five years. They have two children, Katie, 4, and Bruce, 2.

While Buss' nights begin at the Forum, McNall said, his end there.

But McNall said that, apart from their life styles, he and Buss are "extraordinarily similar." For one thing, they share a common interest in coin and stamp collecting, which is how they met.

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