Crain’s Detroit Business features outstanding leaders on its 2020 list of 40 Under 40: talented problem solvers, all under the age of 40, who exemplify why leadership always matters and how it can make all the difference.
Five Broad College graduates were honored on this year’s list, showcasing “the kind of leadership that will see us through a difficult time and help define what comes after,” according to Crain’s.
Ryan Sullivan (B.A. Finance ’06) has followed his desire to help foster communities and a “long-standing passion” for Detroit to build a successful career here in Michigan.
Sullivan is CEO of Xenith LLC, the industry leader in football helmet technology. As noted by Crain’s, Xenith provides underfunded school districts subsidized equipment and, under Sullivan’s leadership, frequently runs programs introducing kids to career opportunities.
Many youth sports, however, have been sidelined this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Xenith may be facing big revenue declines this year, Sullivan is not discouraged. He’s leading a restructuring of the company that he believes will position it for growth.
“We have support from our ownership group for this new business model, so we’re very confident in the outlook,” he said.
Sullivan’s positive mindset and service to communities truly exemplify what Spartans Will is all about.
Andrew Dickow (B.A. Finance ’06) has leadership skills that haven’t gone unnoticed. He was recognized by DBusiness magazine on its 2017 30 in Their Thirties list, and his dedication is recognized once again this year by Crain’s.
Dickow serves as managing director at Greenwich Capital Group, a middle-market company with a niche in investment banking. Most recently, the company launched Townsend Street Capital, a private-equity fund buying majority stakes in Midwest companies.
In March, COVID temporarily stalled mergers and acquisitions, but “despite challenges, Townsend managed to hold a first close of almost $15 million for his private-equity fund on June 1,” according to Crain’s.
In such unprecedented circumstances, Dickow’s optimism and ambition is incredibly admirable.
“Having a first close in the middle of a pandemic was crazy,” he said. “I’ve been really pleased by the amount of volume we’re seeing.”
As noted by Crain’s, Dickow has also invested personally in many businesses in the food industry, such as Pop Daddy Popcorn, a snack company based in Whitmore Lake, and Drought Juice, a maker of organic raw juice based in Royal Oak. Sales from these snack items have rapidly increased since quarantine, which has also been a plus for Dickow.
Alex Calderone (B.A. Accounting ’03, M.S. Accounting ’04) serves as managing director of Calderone Advisory Group. Like Dickow, Calderone was recognized on DBusiness magazine’s 2017 30 in Their Thirties list for his work in providing cost-effective turnarounds and litigation support services to the middle market.
Calderone has worked with a diverse range of clients, from Romulus tarp manufacturer Detroit Tarpaulin and Repair Shop to Radio Shack, Loose Plastics Inc., Pontiac General Hospital and more.
Although the industry presents its difficulties, Calderone is very passionate about his work. “The field is very fast-moving,” he said. “Most of the time, we’re dealing with crises that present opportunities if we can get through them.”
When he comes into a situation where he’s able to impact people’s lives, he said, that is what feels rewarding for him.
Christopher Letts (B.A. Finance ’06) co-founded the Pine Harbor Group, a wealth management group at Morgan Stanley, at the age of 29. Only six years later, the company “has grown to a staff of five and $825 million under management for some 300 families,” according to Crain’s.
Letts has shown outstanding leadership and has been recognized for his dedication the past few years, receiving many honors in his industry.
He has also remained an active alumnus, being appointed to the finance advisory board at the Broad College last year, where he has helped develop the new wealth management curriculum.
With his diverse background and relatively young age in comparison to other advisors in his field, Letts has been able to take advantage of his unique strengths to become an inspiring leader.
Eric Van Dam
Eric Van Dam (B.A. Finance ’07) is one of the youngest individuals to be promoted to managing director at Cowen and Co., having done so at age 34. Van Dam has worked on more than 50 mergers and acquisitions transactions that represent more than $11 billion in enterprise value.
“Helping business owners sell their businesses and raise capital to grow their business is one of the most important life events they will ever go through,” Van Dam said. “To be able to have such a meaningful, positive impact on a business and the owners is what attracted me to the investment banking industry.”
As an MSU alumnus, Van Dam helped start the Financial Markets Institute, the Broad program that helps students pursue financial services careers on Wall Street. He is now on the FMI board of directors, mentoring and coaching many Broad Spartans.
Van Dam continues to work to expand opportunities for financial services professionals at Cowen as the company has made it a priority to recruit people from Michigan, hiring some of the top undergraduates out of MSU.