Friends detail value of Wise investments
CHAMPAIGN — Friends and business partners describe Murray Wise as a man who always knows the value of a good investment — whether it's scooping up farmland that skyrockets in value or adopting two children from Russia and watching them grow into young adults.
The chairman and CEO of Murray Wise Associates was honored Thursday night by the Parkland College Foundation as the 2014 V. Dale Cozad Entrepreneur of the Year.
Greg Cozad, CEO of the asset management company his father, Dale, incorporated, called Wise a "focused, creative and forward-thinking" leader.
But his greatest legacy, Cozad told the crowd gathered at the I Hotel and Conference Center, isn't his development of a multi-parcel real estate auction system that yields maximum returns. It's the impact Wise has made on the lives of those around him — his partners, his clients, his children.
"While Murray has been successful professionally, he has also been very charitable, giving time, talent and treasures to worthy causes, including those focused on entrepreneurship," Cozad said.
David and Diana Wise spoke Thursday about the personal side of their father, who along with wife Valerie adopted the siblings 11 years ago, raised them and helped them become U.S. citizens.
Said a proud David: "We are planning on graduating from high school next spring."
Prospect Bank President Dick O'Neill said Wise showed aspirations for greatness at an early age while growing up on his parents' grain and livestock farm in Ontario, Canada.
As the story goes, a young Murray purchased his first car — a 1930 Model A Ford — for $175.
He was 10 at the time.
"The problem was, he wasn't big enough to drive it until he was 12," O'Neill said. "Murray still owns the car and has restored it to mint condition."
Then, at 17, Wise acquired his first farm, for $20,000.
"His dad wouldn't guarantee the loan," O'Neill said. "Within six months, he sold off the house, sold off the timber, paid off the bank, had money in his pocket and had 85 acres of tillable land."
Attorney David Sholem, who has represented Wise for more than 25 years, described him as "high-energy."
"He is truly the Energizer bunny." Sholem said.
"If everyone was like Murray, I would be out of work because his word truly is his bond."
Ken Nofziger, the president of Murray Wise Associates, described the company leader as a "deal junkie."
"If there is a deal out there," Nofziger said, "he wants to be a part of it."
But it's Wise's willingness to include partners in many of his deals that makes him so unique and successful, Nofziger said.
"A partner makes him a better performer," he said. "If it is good for you, it is good for Murray."
During his time to speak, Wise thanked his family, friends and business partners for being part of his lifetime journey into entrepreneurship.
"Entrepreneurship is a very, very important field of study," he said. "I want to share with you two quotes. The first is from Winston Churchill: 'Socialism is the equal sharing of failure and misery.' The second is from Ronald Reagan: 'There is no such thing as public money; there is only your tax money.'"