Last year Forbes had its top 400 wealthiest Americans, and only three men from Indiana made the cut: Carl Cook, Herb Simon, and Jim Irsay. While Simon and Jim came in at #250 and #287 respectively, Carl was ranked 49th, making him the richest person in Indiana. Most people hardly know anything about Carl because, just like his father, who preferred keeping a low profile and hated being on the Forbes 400 list, Carl also does not entertain publicity. Unfortunately, whenever you command a net worth of $10.5 billion, you will attract attention whether you like it or not. Now that he is the CEO of Cook Group, he has opened up regarding how he wound up in the company. Read on to see how he became a billionaire through the medical field despite wanting to become an engineer.
Becoming a billionaire
When Carl attended Purdue University, he aimed for a career in engineering; thus, he pursued his bachelor's degree in the field. He further added to his knowledge with a master's degree from the University of Iowa. Despite spending years in school, Carl did not know where his engineering skills would best be utilized until his father floated an idea. As he told Hoosier Time, Carl's father, Bill Cook, suggested that Carl should take up some work in Europe. The Cook Group's offices needed computers set up, and mainframes were too expensive.
With that boost in morale, Carl traveled to Europe, to set up the system in France and Germany. Besides dealing with computer systems, his engineering skills came in handy when he worked with pacemakers, and the last product he remembers working on is a Doppler blood flow monitor. His education did not go to waste, and he also helped develop a computer program that has remained useful to Cook Group through the years. Still, he is reminiscent of the first opportunity he had to put his theoretical knowledge into practice. He, therefore, holds on to the Apple Mackintosh he worked on the first time his father handed him the opportunity.
However, even though he has proven his proficiency in the engineering field, he had to take over the family business when his father died in 2011. Although the company was supposed to pass on to Gayle, the couple opted to pass on Cook Group to Carl upon Bill's death. According to Bloomberg, the process took over 15 years to ensure that the estate taxes would not bankrupt the company because as Bill explained transferring shares to your children can kill a company due to the burden of estate taxes. With revenues worth billions and the company being valued at over $8.9 billion as of 2019, it is no wonder that Carl Cook became a billionaire upon taking over the family business.
The Cook Group's humble beginnings
After Bill Cook graduated from Canton High in 1949, he was unsure which college he wanted to attend-he was considering Northwestern and Illinois. All he knew was that he would major in pre-med and become a doctor. Eventually, Bill chose Northwestern and majored in biology pre-med to realize his dream of being a doctor. Unfortunately, he was so sympathetic to patients that he knew that was not the career for him. Thus, like Carl, who had no idea what to do after college, Bill also was confused. Somehow he ended up becoming an army medic where he taught physics of anesthesia. He also became an engineering recruit at Martin Aircraft and, later, worked at American Supply Hospital editing supply catalogs. It is during his time here that he began envisioning himself as an entrepreneur, specifically dealing with disposable hypodermic needles; thus, he co-founded MPL to manufacture the product.
Unfortunately, MPL was based in Chicago, and he wanted to move to Bloomington with his wife, Gayle. So he sold his stake to his partner for $1,500 and used the money to co-establish a new business of making catheters, wire guides, and needles with Gayle. The business was based in their two-bedroom home, where one bedroom served as the company factory. With little money to spare, they could not afford to employ anyone. Therefore, Bill was in charge of manufacturing and sales while Gayle was tasked with quality control and billing. By then, Carl was only a year old, and the couple took turns tending to him since they had to discharge their duties. After one year, they needed someone to help with product design; thus, they employed their first employee, Tom Osborne, whom Bill described as a genius. Before long, the company grew, expanding the manufacturing operations to a different building; today, it has over 12,000 employees and a global reach. With Bill gone, Carl Cook and Gayle receive much of the profits as published by Wistman Media.
He has other sources of revenue
Any shrewd businessman knows that you should never put all your eggs in one basket; thus, even if the medical supplies businessman earns the Cook family billions of dollars, they diversified by venturing in resorts. One of the Cook Group's resorts is the French Lick Resort, which, as Bill Cook revealed during an interview with Bloom was not a planned investment. Instead, the Historic Landmarks of Indiana asked if Cook Group could help restore it to its former glory, giving a $10 million budget. However, much to their surprise, the restoration took up $35 million, and Bill searched for a buyer, but no one was interested. Consequently, he suggested that to restore the French Lick's lost glory, they would have to consider reintroducing casino gambling. Thus the French Lick Resort Casino and French Lick Springs Hotel were opened on November 3, 2006. By 2017, the resort revenue was $62.3 million, while casino revenue 87.5 million; not bad for a project that was once considered a white elephant.
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Written by Allen Lee
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