Since 1990, for over thirty years Hazak has provided consulting services to companies in a diverse number of industries. Although originally involved with consumer-oriented businesses and retail real estate companies, the development and implementation of business strategies and marketing concepts have extended to many other arenas as well more recently.
Whether it has been any of the following Hazak has helped: Overall strategic planning; marketing and business promotion, governance and assistance with turnarounds, financial restructuring and corporate reorganizations including chapter II; intervening in lawsuits and creating totally new business concepts to achieve resolution: shopping center lease negotiations while developing an overall strategic client vision; analysis and development of physical layout in retail operations to improve productivity.
Whether it's examining the edges, sides, corner, tops, bottom and content of the box that management or ownership provides, sees or is looking outside the box, Hazak has often provided the appropriate sounding board for stymied situations. From startups to successful multi-billion- dollar giants, clients have retained Hazak to assist with special challenges. In some cases they are time-specified projects to be achieved; in others the company has been retained in an on-going basis. It has been said that our “business wisdom” comes from judgment and knowledge tempered by our deep and diverse experience.
I am Robert Sakowitz, and I love to meet and better the challenges of an ever-changing business world. Here are some of my experiences.
Texas American Bank-Galleria:
After serving as an organizing shareholder and a founding director of the Galleria Bank in 1969/1970, he was appointed Chairman of the Marketing Committee;, and was actively involved on either the Loan and Discount Committee or the Executive Committee every year, continuing in those capacities after the profitable sale of the Bank to Texas American BankShares shares. Mr. Sakowitz continued to serve in those capacities for a total of thirteen years, after which he resigned to accept the appointment to membership of the Houston Branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Houston Branch:
Served as a member, Board of Directors (1983-1986) and as Chairman (1985) of the Houston Branch.
Morse Shoe Corporation:
As a non-management member of the Board of Directors in 1974, he was instrumental in policy changes leading to vertical integration of this shoe manufacturing company, creating and successfully concentrating on converting the focus to the Fayva retail shoe shop expansion (led to thirty-fold profit increase); he was a member of the Audit and Compensation Committees; and selected as Chairman of the Search Committee for a new company Chairman, President and CEO, 1982-19893, serving the company until a management Leveraged Buy-Out privatized the company in 1987.
Societe Viticole Europeenne, Luxembourg:
As a Director, from 1981 – 1987, of this real estate and vineyard company with wine producing properties in Bordeaux, France, Montalcino, Italy and Valdepenas, Spain, Mr. Sakowitz was involved in strategic planning, marketing of the products and the eventual sale of all properties.
Tungtex Manufacturing Company, Hong Kong:
Mr. Sakowitz structured and co-founded an apparel manufacturing company in 1977 for men´s furnishings, later expanding into women´s apparel. Assisted in overall direction and successful growth of the company until he sold his half-interest to the daily operations management partner in 1985.
Fresh Brew Group:
1995-2020, Manager Member, Partner and Director of this products and services company with Gold Medal Award-winning coffee roasting and blending capabilities, as well as a regional snacks and beverages vending operations. Originally retained to assist in the creation of start-up marketing plan and distribution system and develop strategic plan: continuing ongoing strategy oversight and marketing consulting responsibilities, 2018-2020.
DI Central, Inc.:
An electronic data interchange (EDI) software company with offices in the U.S. and Vietnam, the company services more than 400 clients including McKesson Pharma, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Holda, connecting with more than 2,500 suppliers throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Independent Member of the Board of Directors, 2010-2020; now merged with TRUCommerce in 2020.
White House National Conference on Small Business, 1980:
Elected as Co-Chairman, Southwest Region, 1978-1980, to help organize and assist in the development of a plan representing the region for the forthcoming Washington Conference. Helped to organize Assisted in the effort whereby the Committee crafted fifteen proposals to be circulated and discussed nationally by all the other regional delegations. Five of these fifteen Southwest Proposals were written into the final President’s Report. For this accomplishment, Mr. Sakowitz was invited by President Carter to the signing of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 at the White House.
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau:
A member of the Board of Directors beginning in 1981, he accepted the Chairmanship for the two terms 1990-1991 and 1991-1992, and assisted in guiding the complete restructuring of the Bureau. During his watch, the city successfully planned and implemented the Republican National Convention of 1992. Continuing as Director Emeritus to present.
The American Institute for Public Service:
The National Jefferson Awards; now re-branded to Multiplying Good: As one of the founding organizers in 1972, Mr. Sakowitz has continued to serve on the Board of Selectors of the Institute, and on its and Board of Governors, Executive Committee, and Finance Committee, from 1972-2021.
The Michael C. Rockefeller Fellowships
Administrative Board at Harvard University.
Houston International Festival:
As a Founding Director, 1970-2014. Mr. Sakowitz assisted in founding and guiding this citywide event for the Houston Chamber of Commerce, conceived as a partial outgrowth of the Sakowitz store Festivals. Over its lifetime it became an internationally recognized multi-cultural celebration. While a member of the Executive Committee, he also served annually as Chairman of the Country Selection Committee to negotiate the honored country´s involvement with the city.
Other national and regional awards include:
Inaugural recipient of the “International Businessman of the Year” award conferred by the International Trade Center of Houston, 2011.
First recipient of the “Mayor’s Award of Excellence for International Arts and Culture,” conferred by Houston Mayor Anise Parker, 2010.
Golden Buckle Award, Greater Houston Visitors and Convention Bureau, 1987
City of Houston, Annual Anniversary Celebration Award, 1985
City of Hope Hospital, Denver, Spirit of Life Award, 1984
National Jewish Hospital and Research Center, Humanitarian Award, 1983
Northwood Institute of America, Ten Outstanding National Business Leaders Award, 1981
National Ileitis & Colitis Foundation, Great Texan Award, 1975
American Academy of Achievement Award, 1973
International Best Dressed List 1970-1975, retired to IBD Hall of Fame 1975
Both during his tenure at Sakowitz, and subsequently in other venues, Mr. Sakowitz has been a frequent spokes-person for the retail and other consumer industries, appearing in all forms of media including NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, international magazines, newspapers, and radio. Speaking venues have been numerous domestic and international conventions, seminars, business, social forums, and University Commencement Exercises (over 87 speaking engagements in all to date).
Mr. Sakowitz assisted in initiating BizRadio KXYZ 1320 in Houston, Texas, hosting a one hour radio talk show, weekdays Monday through Friday, entitled “Strategies with Sakowitz”, and continues as a frequent commentator.
In 2010, he was invited by the National Apparel Manufacturers of China to address the Beijing Fashion Forum on “The Drivers of Global Trends ” and “How to Enhance Chinese Brands,” published later that year in the Chinese language book entitled: in “Seeking For Fashion Orientation.”
Sakowitz, Incorporated and S.I. Investments
Mr. Sakowitz was promoted to Executive President in 1965;increasing sales from $38 million to $140 million and quadrupling the profits during the period as President of Sakowitz, Inc. 1975-1985.
Initiating new in-store marketing concepts: Initiating new in-store concepts of European designer ready-to-wear boutiques of America. Utilizing a European apprenticeship experience garnered from Galleries Lafayette, he collaborated with French couture designers, who were both unfamiliar with ready-to-wear in general as well as the U.S. market in particular. In a series of personal meetings, convincing the first “grand couturier” member of the Chambre Syndicale to make standardized fit, graded and patterned for the U.S. market sizes to be launched for entry into the U.S. at Sakowitz in Houston, Texas – a “first” in fashion and apparel marketing in America; and thus brought Andre Courreges, Jackie Kennedy´s favorite French designer, to the Sakowitz stores to launch his first ready-to-wear boutique in America in 1967. The boutique was successful from its opening day, and the concept of an in-store replicated French boutique, recreated exactly as its Paris store architectural facade, was later emulated by many competitors. This began the series of what was to become the“boutique/Europeanization of America” in many other retail stores subsequently-
Introducing a number of other couture and high-fashion European designers to the United States: After Courreges, Mr. Sakowitz personally negotiated the first distribution agreements for the first American Yves St. Laurent Rive Gauche (“YSL”)boutiques, with its’ owner Richard Solomon to launch in America, and for exclusivity for Texas for seven years. Other such negotiations and first introductions launchings in America were with Ermenegildo Zegna, Kenzo, Fendi, Fiorucci and Jean Muir, to name but a few most notable. This gave the company a market niche and label exclusivity it (and most others) had previously lacked, since it's competitor, Neiman Marcus, controlled all of the top U.S. women's designer labels in their Texas cities. For innovations with French Ready-to Wear, in 1972 he received the Epingle D'Or (“Golden Needle”) award from the French Fashion Federation.
Initiating annual theme-oriented festivals: Initiating annual theme-oriented Festivals in 1964, including international cultural and commercial merchandising concepts sparking events with community-wide participation for trans-industry corporate visibility, that became part of the basis for the now world-recognized Houston International Arts Festival. Educational programs were coordinated with the public and private schools throughout the city to organize for organizing student attendance. Themes such as Festival of Fantasy, Festival of the Renaissance and Festival of Great Religious Cultures, among others, were produced from 1964 until 1984. These festivals required Government and corporate negotiations at the highest levels, convincing Ministries and Corporate executives to invest in joint promotional ventures with the Sakowitz Company. That they continued and grew for over fourteen Festivals, with participation of numerous countries and many Fortune Five Hundred companies, is an indication of their acceptance and success.
Negotiating manufacturing and export programs: Negotiating manufacturing and export programs with European and Far Eastern countries for these events, and for these commercial and cultural successes, which led to personal decorations/knighthoods by President Giscard D´Estaing, Republic of France, as Chevalier de l´Ordre National du Merite in 1976; and subsequent decoration from Premier Craxi, Republic of Italy, with the honor of the Cavaliere dell Ordine Al Merito, in 1984.
Store Planning and Design: Planning and supervising over one million square feet of innovative fashion specialty store design, layout, décor and display, construction and merchandising;, receiving the National Association of Display Industry (NADI) Outstanding Achievement Award for Retail Management in 1976, and appointed to the NADI Hall of Fame in 1984.
Product Development: Creating a product development process, and later a separate division, for private label merchandise in the late 1970´s, in fashion apparel, basics, cosmetics and fragrance, accessories and gifts;, supervising piece goods(fabrics) and pattern system selection; ultimately made into a separate corporate (profit center) division. Sourcing was organized from domestic as well as Italian , English, Japanese, Philippine, Hong Kong and other Chinese facilities. Developed and launched a men´s fragrance, “Rampage”, as a corporate men´s fashion signature, and women’s fragrance, “NightBreeze”.
Fine and Rare Wine Auctions and Development: Initiating the concept of fine and rare wine departments and corresponding auctions (conducted at Sakowitz by Michael Broadbent of Christies, London); innovating one of the first in-department-store upscale gourmet and specialty foods and wine education classes and store departments, with world-publicized rare wine auctions for over eighteen years.
Restaurant operations and outside catering: Developing in-store restaurant operations and an outside catering business to a regionally-recognized and awarded status, creating products that were private-labeled from the Sky Terrace and Old Colony recipes and menus sold at retail.
World-wide media recognized Catalogues: Building a substantial catalogue and direct mail order business, converting stores-sales seasonal mailers into a stand-alone year-round business, operationally separately from the stores. This created and developed a world-wide-media-recognized mail-order catalogue business, featuring the Christmas Catalogue with “Ultimate Gifts”. These were featured annually on Television by NBC’s popular Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS’s The Today Show, as well as in numerous periodicals from Time Magazine to Der Stern, newspapers and in other international publications. The catalogues also served to encourage vendors and suppliers to offer new products and exclusivities first to Sakowitz on a day-to-day basis for better profitability and market differentiation.
Commercial fashion magazine: Conceiving, developing and publishing the first modern-day commercial fashion magazine for a retail store, “The Magazine”, highlighting fashion trends, lifestyles, and product information through use of custom European fashion-runway photography and own text directly following the Shows as they occurred.
Fashion Trend Analysis System: Inventing a fashion trend analysis for Buyers and Merchandisers to better structure the classifications of vendors and merchandising timing, increasing cross-communications between internal store merchants. The Innovational, Directional, and Acceptational (“IDA”) system outline was subsequently published in industry media as a marketing innovation for consideration by others.
Restructure the company: Creating alternatives for a family-owned privately held retail enterprise with limited access to capital to survive. Given the competitive requirements to either expand or expire in the face of national and international encroaching competition, vendor pressure for greater purchases to maintain lines and exclusivities, high interest rate, and ever-increasing minimum wage scale hikes, the challenge was to maintain profits while convincing real estate developers, bankers and vendors that expansion and survival of the Sakowitz company was in everyone´s best interest. Mr. Sakowitz was successful in doing so until the Southwestern home-based economy unexpectedly and devastatingly reversed in the mid-80´s oil market collapse. With consumer confidence destroyed in a depressed regional economy, sales revenues diminished, and no longer supported these previous commitments. In the face of calls by its bank consortium (60% of whom faced their own credit call problems from the U.S.Office of the Controller of the Currency. In 1985, Sakowitz was forced to seek protection and reorganize. For twenty-nine months Mr. Sakowitz worked with attorneys, accountants, vendors, bankers, creditors and creditor´s committees, employees and customers to successfully restructure the company and downsize for efficiency and debt repayment. Managing a turnaround by personally leading the search for and finding new investors to assist the company in emerging from the reorganization. By crafting a plan with Chemical Bank for merging Sakowitz with the Bonwit-Teller and Garfinckels store chains during their offered “de-accessioning” by Allied-Federated Stores, Inc., the offer reached the final round of negotiations, only to be “pre-empted” at the last moment at an “overbid price” by the Australian firm of L. J. Hooker. Mr. Sakowitz contacted them to discuss this plan, and subsequently succeeded in creating a new company to help Sakowitz emerge with a joint consensual creditor plan. The successful turnaround of the remaining Sakowitz stores was halted when in 1990 Sakowitz’ the then-two and one-half billion- dollar Sakowitz Australian partner, L.J. Hooker, was itself forced into reorganization. While preventing Sakowitz from being part of a mandatory inclusion in the reorganization, Mr. Sakowitz found he could not separate and stand alone under the “parent cloud” to return to profitability. Given only ninety days by the Courts to arrange for the repurchase of his former company, financing was not timely forthcoming in spite of all efforts. The parent/partner, L.J. Hooker, could no longer sustain its’ world-wide operations, and chose was forced to liquidate all assets. All Executives were released, and Sakowitz Inc. was liquidated by Hooker's overseers, (along with Bonwit Teller and B. Altman in New York).
“Robert Sakowitz and his Fraying Empire”
Compliments of Texas Monthly
“Behind The Seams”
Paper City Magazine
January 2000 by Carrie Cloud
“Fresh Brew Group USA”
Houston Business Journal
August 2000 by Walker C. Wooding Jr.
“Suit Firm Tailored after Dell Model”
Houston Chronicle (Business Section)
October 13, 1999 by Greg Hassell
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“Coffee gives entrepreneur a fresh start”
November 4, 2011 by David Kaplan
“Fresh Brew Group evolved from Outer Continental Shelf to Vending Operations and Coffee Roasting”
October 2006 by Emily Jed
“International Best-Dressed List for 2004” (inclusion)
“Follow-up File: Robert Sakowitz”
Dallas Morning News
September 14, 2003
“Clean Fuels, Inc. Moves Ahad on Worldscale MTBE Project”
August 30, 1993
“Houston’s Best-Dressed Men” (inclusion)
Houston Metropolitan Magazine
“Robert Sakowitz” (cover feature)
Beretta & Company Retail Magazine
“Merchant Prince and More”
“Sakowitz, J. Magnin in joint purchasing deal”
June 7, 1983
“Robert Sakowitz: The Man Behind the Name”
Houston City Magazine
“The Merchant Prince”
Southwest Airline Magazine
“The Merchant of Texas”
Panam Clipper Magazine
“Small Business Seeks Mobilization on Conference Recommendations”
March 17, 1980
“Robert Sakowitz on Italian Merchandising”
GiftItalia: A Newsletter published by the Italian Trade Commission, Vol. 1, Issue 2
“Newsmakers: Robert Sakowitz, The Inner Circle”
Men’s Wear Magazine
“Seven major forces drove retailers from downtown”
Houston Business Journal
“Houston 1999: These Famous Houstonians – and Thirty Others – Predict Our Future”
Houston City Magazine
“CNN Newsmaker Sunday”, Featured Guest
December 17, 1989
“Houston Chapter of Texas Society of CPAs”, Guest Guest
January 20, 1988
“Harvard Club Annual Spring Dinner”, Guest Guest
May 19, 1988
“University of Texas at Arlington”
Prospects for the Texas Economy, guest speaker on Retail Trade
February 9, 1984
Letter to the Editor
Houston Business Journal
March 16-22, 2001
“How Will We Know When The Texas Economic Slump Has Ended?” Guest Columnist
Guest Columnist, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
May 27, 1988
“The Quality of Being Special”
Enterprise, the Magazine of the Young President’s Organization
“Investing in a New Wardrobe”
“Successful Catalog Marketing from the President’s View”