What can you say about Ted Sabarese? Perhaps one of most “colorful” people the Pick market has ever seen.
Inventive. Super friendly. Likable. Energetic. Risk Taker. And of course, always entrepreneurial!
“Ted Sabarese was the first person I saw make an international cell phone call – from a yacht on the Thames river in London in 1984 using one of those Motorola brick size mobile phones. I was privileged to meet Ted during my International Spectrum years and was always larger than life and a true Italiano.” – Gus Giobbi, former co-owner of International Spectrum
Enjoy and check out other people profiles at www.pickmultivalue.com
In the beginning there was Microdata. Then came The Ultimate Corp and the market (and the world) would never be the same.
My background in computers began in 1963 when I was hired by Blue Cross of New Jersey as a computer programmer. With a starting salary of $98 per week, I was excited to work on their 1401 card system. After a few years, I moved on to bigger and better things going to work for a computer center in New York City (The Insurance Data Processing Center), which, as the name indicates, did computer work for several insurance companies. They had much bigger equipment, including two 7070 series computers and later a few 360s. I distinctly remember that when we sorted the automobile master file, it took three days.
In the early 1970s, I started my own company, Diversified Computer Technology, and that’s when John Keogh walked in the door and changed my life.
Keogh convinced me to sign up as a Microdata dealer. This was an exciting experience!
Under the name of MSL (Minicomputer Sales and Leasing), we ran with the New Jersey and Atlanta territories. In the meantime, Keogh took the Southern California Microdata territory with a dealership of his own.
Keogh and I became personal friends, and we started the Microdata Dealers Association, which eventually consisted of all of Microdata’s dealers – a good number of which became prominent players in the Pick world. Side note – as a Microdata dealer, I sold Chick-fil-A their very first computer in Atlanta.
Dick Pick also became a good friend of Keogh and me, and we would hang out — he took the Microdata dealership in Hawaii just so he could join the dealer’s association.
Over the years, Microdata became a very difficult company with which to work. One night over a few cocktails, Pick, Keogh and I were lamenting when one of us threw out the idea of doing this on our own. (I’m not sure whose idea it was). Pick was all for it.
Keogh and I shook hands on our partnership, and The Ultimate Corp was born.
I went to work on raising the money to pay Pick for the implementation of his system on the Honeywell Level 6. I convinced Honeywell to put up $25,000 to get started. By the way, Ultimate became Honeywell’s largest reselling customer and its 3rd largest maintenance customer in the world.
Pick rented the top floor of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, CA, and things got started. I went out there one time to see the progress and never returned. I prayed that “high” people could work constructively.
Well, they did, and six months later, we had a working system.
Our next task was to go back and sign up the Microdata dealers. Everyone was wary at first, but then things began to click.
Ultimate was the first entrant in COMDEX, which became the largest computer show in history and gave us some credibility, but the knockout was the next COMDEX show.
At that time, connectivity was a big issue. A Microdata machine could support 8 terminals. Ultimate rented a large floor space at that next show. We set up a basketball court, had Jerry West and John Havlicek handing out autographed basketballs. In center court was an Ultimate machine, and in the stands were 256 terminals. Everything ran, and Ultimate took off from there.
Ultimate’s sales went from a few hundred thousand to over $250 million and a stock trading on the New York Stock exchange in a few years.
Dick Pick passed away in the mid-1990s, but John Keogh and I remain friends to this day.
What is a memorable event or funny story from your time in the market?
When we signed the Honeywell deal in my office, we all shook hands. As we were leaving, I asked who was going to do the maintenance on these systems? Honeywell, of course, said they would. But I commented this machine did not run like a Level 6. It ran like a Pick machine. So, I suggested Ultimate would take the first call. We would solve it if it was an operating system problem and bring in Honeywell if it was hardware.
This part of the maintenance business grew to $45 million – not bad for an afterthought.
Ultimate Dealer Meetings – Every six months, we held an Ultimate Dealer Meeting. We would invite the dealers, their families, and top salesman. Morning meetings and then afternoon and evening fun. We brought in top entertainment like The Beach Boys and Paul Anka, to name a few. There were terrific activities so that the wives and kids would say, “Daddy keep selling Ultimate. We want to come back in 6 months.”
Imagine your son playing volleyball between Bobby Orr, John Havlicek, K.C. Jones, Phil Esposito, Jim Taylor, Milt Campbell, Phil Villapiano, Dave Cowens, and more. We insisted on no Jerks! We only brought in good guys, down to earth, with great personalities who loved to socialize with our guests.
We always honored our dealers at the meetings, including one meeting in Disney World when we chartered the steamship that traveled between two of the lakes. As the boat entered the narrow pass between the lakes, I called up Joe Apprendi, the leading dealer for that period. I made a big deal of his accomplishments and awarded him a toy corvette. As he walked back to his seat, I said I forgot the keys. The lights went on down by the beach, and there was Goofy in Joe’s brand-new Corvette. Or another in Atlantic City, Bill Walsh, and another dealer were vying for the top prize of a brand-new BMW convertible. They were very close in points, each checking with me to see where they stood almost daily. At the meeting, I spoke about how good they had both done and how close it was. As I finished my talk, the curtains opened, revealing two BMW convertibles as I said, “so we gave one to each.”
The dealers were loyal to us because we were loyal to them!
Customer Service – a top priority at Ultimate
At Ultimate, I believed in a lean operation. No one had secretaries – everyone answered their own phones. One morning at about 7 am I picked up my phone to find a pissed off customer yelling at me from Australia. Shouting things like I was putting him out of business, the machine didn’t work, etc. I calmed him down and said, let’s fix the problem – yell at me later.
I told him I would put Steve Sorenson with the parts on the noon plane from Kennedy to Sidney. Meet him at the airport. Make sure there was not a problem with customs and talk to me later. The next day I got a call back from a happy customer. He said things like, “How can I not love Ultimate. I call the company early in the morning local time. The President answers the phone. He puts a specialist with parts on a plane departing in a few hours who arrives and fixes the problem.” This customer became an unbelievable reference.
What are you doing now?
I was always passionate about work. When I retired (?) in 1990 and moved to Fort Lauderdale, I soon purchased an air conditioning company. My brother, Rick, and Bob Gerdung from Ultimate ran it. I met John Amodeo, my partner for 25 years, and we have built 8 restaurants. Over time they have had combined sales approaching $200 million. There are two that remain active. Check out the Drunken Taco. It’s my favorite. (www.drunken-taco.com).
I work about 60 hours a week and will never stop. I just passed my 80th birthday.
I have always loved to work. No matter what it was. The Pick/Ultimate years were some of the best of my life. The memories are just fantastic. Although my Fort Lauderdale years are pretty good too, I’ll probably die over my computer.
Anyone interested in bullshitting I’m at 954-240-9658, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, and Instagram too.