Alex Kaufman Movers + Shakers

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 By ADRIENNE PAPP                                    of them, he realized that he was now completely         He eventually was named Entrepreneur of
                                                     on his own. “I was alone,” Kaufman says, “and        the Year and was successful beyond his own
 There have been many stories about heroes and       I decided I needed to create a future for myself,    expectations. But he also believed in giving back,
 survivors who inspired us with their courage        rather than live in the past.”                       feeling a debt to the country that had given
 during history’s darkest hours. And there have         Taking advantage of a free education policy       him so much. “I believe in being generous and
 been many stories that tell of a life beginning     offered in Germany, Kaufman enrolled at Stut-         trying to make the world a better place,” he says.
                                                     tgart University. After completing his studies in    “I initially got involved with an organization
 in poverty yet ending in material success – the
                                                     chemistry, he headed for New York. He arrived        called Seeds of Peace (,
 proverbial “rags to riches.” But there are no       in February of 1950 with a single quarter to his     which brings in children from various regions
 stories that combine these two as dramatically      name. In short order, he began cleaning lab ware     in conflict to a camp in Maine to learn how to
 as the life of Alex Kaufman.                        for a company called Hatco Chemical, where           resolve conflicts.” He also became involved at
                                                     he was quickly promoted to lab technician. He        the political level, assisting with various charities,
    Kaufman is a Holocaust survivor who be-
                                                     learned the business, worked hard, and moved         the state of Israel, forming relationships with the
 came one of America’s wealthiest men through
                                                     up through the ranks later on. His plans were        White House and Queen Noor of Jordan.
 his personal vision and hard work. Today he
                                                     always built around the big picture. “I always          More recently, Alex Kaufman has divested
 is a philanthropic Harley-riding bon vivant,
                                                     had a dream of being successful, but you have to     himself of much of his corporate holdings and
 preparing for the most rewarding part of his life
                                                     start with a vision for yourself. I was determined   now resides in Aspen, where he is an active
 – establishing a program for young entrepreneurs
                                                     to get to a point where I could run things my        contributor to the Aspen Institute (www.
 at the Aspen Institute of Colorado (a world
                                                     way,” Kaufman says.                        , an international nonprofit
 renowned think tank), using his life lessons as
                                                        In 1962 Kaufman was promoted to president         organization dedicated to fostering enlightened
 a guide to fulfill their dreams under the most
                                                     of the Hatco division. In 12 years he had gone       leadership and open-minded dialogue. He also
 demanding of circumstances.
                                                     from dishwasher to running the company. He           established The Kaufman Theater, home of
    Alex Kaufman had it all as a young man. Born
                                                     then began acquiring other companies, expand-        aspiring, young artists.He recently donated a
 into a professional, well-to-do family he was
 provided with all the advantages of an educated,
 cultured environment. However, in 1941 the          Giving Back, Making a Difference.
                                                           A Philanthropist’s Diary
 entire family was taken to a concentration camp
 in Poland, where they were all separated and
 Kaufman experienced what no child ever should:
 He was never to see his
                                                                                                          large sum of money to medical research.
 family members again

                                                                                                             In a booklet titled “A Letter to my Grand-
 or gain any closure on       I decided I needed to create a future for                                   children” he describes his life and lists some of
 what had happened to
                            myself, rather than live in the past.

                                                                                                          the principles he has learned:
 them – it wasn’t until
 many years later that
                                                                                                          It lifted me from washing lab dishes in America
 he learned they were all killed.
                                                     ing Hatco from a small local company into a          to running a great company.
    As a strong young man of 17, Kaufman was
                                                     multi-million dollar global operation.
 put to work pounding spikes on tracks for new
                                                        Eventually Kaufman bought Hatco from the          with hard work is the path to success.
 railroads. Having inherited a quick mind and an
                                                     parent. With that move, the Kaufman Hold-
 educated intelligence, he understood the only
                                                     ing Corporation was born. Over the next few          others, and then strike out on your own.
 respite from this man-made hell was escape.
                                                     years, Kaufman developed innovative specialty
    He jumped on a slow-moving train, and
                                                     products and chemicals for the food, cosmetic,       great by supporting good people who run for
 although he got shot by the Nazis, Kaufman
                                                     medical, aviation and industrial markets. “As        office. Tell them when they are right. More
 was still alive only to enter another nightmare
                                                     proud as I was of our success in the market, it      importantly, tell them when they are wrong.
 of spending the next four years hiding in a dense
                                                     was also very important to me that I was able
 forest. Occasionally working for local farmers
                                                     to create jobs for people and help their children    advice from a man who has a passion for tennis
 to earn enough food to survive and frequently
                                                     get through college,” he says.                       and skiing, an eye for beauty and rides Harleys
 sleeping in snow banks in the bitter winter cold,
                                                        Kaufman hit upon a winning formula: creat-        in his eighties.
 it is a miracle he survived.
                                                     ing a team of employees who were loyal to the
    “People ask me how I survived those brutal
                                                     company and proud of their work, as well as
 winters all alone in the forest,” Kaufman says.
                                                                                                                                                                   Photo Courtesy of Adrienne Papp

                                                     innovating products that greatly enhanced a new
 “It was a combination of my desire to prove
                                                     generation of consumer and industrial novelties.
 the Nazis wrong, the desire to see my family
                                                     Over the years Kaufman became the supplier
 again, and my basic will to live. I had to learn
                                                     of engine lubrication to 750 airlines, developed
 to ignore pain.”
                                                     Nutra Sweet, acquired fashion house Jones of
    After the war ended, Kaufman began to search
                                                     New York and continued to expand his business
 for his family. Unable to find any trace or record
                                                     with several other products and services.

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