A Passion for the Purchase
Investments and Collections?
By Christina D. Williams
Larry Campbell’s eyes light up as he
describes his investment’s habit of nuzzling his wife, Karlyn’s
shoulder before a race. It’s obvious that it’s not about the money.
Which is a good thing, because the fact
that the Salem-based lobbyist and former Republican Speaker of the House and
Oregon legislator is actually making money on his racehorse business is pretty
much a fluke.
In 1996, the year after he retired from
the legislature, Campbell went into a partnership with long-time friend and
lobbyist David Nelson, becoming part-owner of quarter horse foal In Search of
A few years later, he bought out Nelson,
retaining full ownership of the horse, which is technically owned by Campbell’s
family lobbying business, The Victory Group. He has since invested in a
half-dozen other horses, but In Search of Fame, nicknamed “Vic,” claims his
strongest allegiance–to date he’s only missed two of the horse’s 42 races.
And in return, the horse has delivered 25
wins, with another 10 finishes at either second or third.
The strong racing record–and the
accompanying winner’s purses–means that The Victory Group, whose offices are
strewn with In Search of Fame memorabilia from coffee mugs to bridles, is
actually making money on its horse division, coming out ahead on income over
expenses every year since 1999.
Campbell readily admits his investment
success is pure luck. The odds dictate that In Search of Fame was just as
likely to be a racing dud as a success and as a reminder he keeps a
hand-written note from Nelson outlining the risks of investing in racehorses.
But as with many so-called alternative
investments–whether it be racehorses, antique cars, modern art or
memorabilia–the investor’s motivation is passion over money.
For example, consider retired Wells Fargo
Executive Vice President George Passadore’s
collection of special-interest cars. Passadore keeps
six vintage autos and two motorbikes in what he calls his car barn in Southeast
Portland. But step inside the non-descript building and discover not an
investment collection, but a labor of love.
The front section of the cavernous garage
was remade into a 1950’s-era diner, complete with a kitchen, soda counter and
vinyl bar stools. The walls are covered with retro memorabilia: table-top
radios, original art and a flock of gas station signs that he’s collected over
the years from antique shops and swap meets. Three original murals featuring
‘50s-era cars are splashed on the walls and sliding panels blanketed with
family photos fill in any gaps. It’s obvious that the “car barn” does double
“I have a big family so I wanted to have
a place where we could have parties,” explains Passadore,
who bought the building in 1994 and spent two years fixing it up–a project that
hasn’t really ended as he continues to pick up vintage gas pumps and slip them
in among the other memorabilia.
A velvet rope separates the diner from
the car showroom and signs that advise against opening car doors are placed
mostly for the benefit of curious grandchildren.
The car collection includes a 1957
Chevrolet BelAir convertible in classic candy-apple
red and white. A 1959 Corvette Roadster, also red and white, sits nearby. Passadore’s newest purchase, what he calls his “Elvis Car,”
is a 19-foot long 1960 Cadillac–he had it lowered two inches for effect and its
black paint is polished to perfection. His 1965 Harley Davidson motorcycle has
just 13,000 original miles. Every vehicle is in pristine condition and buffed
to a reflective sheen.
To make room for the Elvis Car, Passadore sold a ’39 Chevy. He figures he’s owned 22 cars
over the years. “I buy them all excited and then after a while I start looking
at what else is out there,” he says.
Passadore says he bought
his first car when he was in the 8th grade—a 1929 Ford like
the restored model that sits in his showroom—for $50 and a reel-to-reel tape
He pays more for the cars today and estimates that his current inventory is
worth about $225,000. But he still buys them for the simple reason that he
wants to own and
Still, he likes to characterize his
purchases to his wife, Nancy, as an “asset transfer” and says he could unload
any one of his cars by selling them within 48 hours.
But are they an investment?
“They all think they’re investing,” says
Dale Matthews whose Memory Lane Motors in Portland sells an average of 275 cars
per year, some to Passadore. “But I believe they’re
buying toys. I don’t know of anybody who has pure investment vehicles.”
Matthews says most of his customers have
gray hair and want to buy a car because they remember when it first came out,
maybe even owned one. “If they happen to come out ahead on it when they sell,
they’re happy. But that’s not why they buy it.”
Similarly, those with art collections
rarely talk about resale value.
Hampton, chairman of Hampton Affiliates of Portland, has an extensive
collection of art both in his home and in the office, but doesn’t consider it
to be an investment.
have an art collection but the pieces have never been purchased with the idea
of appreciation,” Hampton says.
after he got married in the 1950’s, Hampton says he and his wife started the
collection by working through the Oregon Art Museum’s rental sales gallery.
They paid to rent a piece for three months and at the end of that time the
rental price was applied to the purchase of the painting if they wanted to buy.
“It was a way to buy attractive paintings at modest prices,” Hampton says.
Hampton’s collection are works by Mike Russo, Louis Bunce, and Jack McLarty.
accidentally bought some paintings that became quite valuable,” Hampton says.
“But whatever appreciation there was, was accidental. We just wanted something
besides the wallpaper.”
Russo, whose Laura Russo Gallery in Portland has been in business for 17 years,
selling several thousand pieces, says most art collectors aren’t in it for the
money. “They buy what they really love and have a passion for rather than worrying
it,” Russo says. “It doesn’t have a market like a stock. I never recommend that
they buy art for resale.”
who has found paintings for corporate clients like Hotel Lucia and The Westin
Portland, says that good quality work will hold its value, but nobody can
same goes for racehorses. If anything, the worry there is depreciation. Yet
Larry Campbell still considers his an investment.
“They were an investment from Day One,”
Campbell says. “It could have been that we’d dive in and spend a lot of money
and then wake up one morning and find that we lost it—we did some of that in
the stock market.”
And Campbell has more than one business
interest in horse racing. His Victory Group consulting firm counts Magna
Entertainment, the company that owns Portland Meadows—In Search of Fame’s home
track–and the Multnomah Greyhound Park, among its
any question about Campbell’s feelings for In Search of Fame are quickly
answered when he’s asked what will happen to the 8-year-old horse when he’s no
longer physically able to race.
Search of Fame,” Campbell says. ‘He’s got a permanent home with our family.”
BrainstormNW - March 2004