HUMBLE HOT SHOT
By Christine Montanti
Photography By Gen Nishino
“The way you treat the waiter says more about who you really are, than what you say you care about at a cocktail party,” says Matthew Bruderman, his feet planted in his signature Vans as he looks out over Oyster Bay Harbor from his sprawling Centre Island estate. Bruderman, the scion of a family synonymous with finance and investment for five generations, is in a reflective mood.
One gets the sense he’s been reflecting a lot lately, perhaps about his next big move.
He talks about the race cars he redesigns, his next project on the property and his family. But there is a sense that he’s uncomfortable talking about himself and his enormous success. It’s a rare and remarkable trait for someone who’s at the top of his game in business, expanding his reach into entertainment and even politics.
Bruderman’s family helped found Southampton and fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Since 1879, they’ve left an indelible mark on the world of finance, advising royal families, celebrities, the high net worth, large institutions, even the Roman Catholic Church.
His grandfather was a partner of Brown Brothers Harriman in the 1940s before joining and then succeeding Robert Brunner at the helm of his venerable investment firm that would be renamed John M Bruderman and Co. His father would go on to expand the business by an order of magnitude.
When asked about whether there was pressure to go into the family business, Bruderman recalls sitting on the floor in his grandfather’s office with his siblings playing “guess the ticker symbol.”
“Sure, there was pressure growing up, but it was more about understanding that with our family name came responsibility. My name is my father’s name, but it also belongs to my children. Protecting that reputation is where the weight of responsibility lies.”
To meet Bruderman is to meet an everyman, despite his wealth and success. He’s relatable and approachable. “My parents had the good sense to know that if they just gave us everything, we’d be entitled, detached and less successful. They prepared us to be our own people,” he says. “I had to have a paper route and take the trash out to get my allowance.”
“When I was in college, I parked cars and washed dishes with people who were twice my age, who came to this country and worked to feed a family. I learned early on just how hard people have to work to make it.”
“I think to some degree the time I spent as a busboy, a waiter, and a caddy taught me more than any school I attended,” he says.
He says, more than any financial resources, he was given a set of principles to live by: be honest, work hard, don’t be afraid to fail, treat people with respect, build a strong family, relationships matter, and having money doesn’t make you any better than the next guy.
“I had to earn what I have here,” he says as he walks the pea gravel driveway between the lush property’s residences. He can name the species of every tree and flower.
“My kids have part time jobs. They’re great students. They are self-conscious about wealth and that’s a good thing. My wife and I have tried intentionally, as my parents did, to make sure they understand the responsibility that comes with carrying a family name and having resources.”
Bruderman’s humility also helps provide him with the freedom to constantly explore new ventures. “You can’t be afraid to fail. I tell my kids, don’t be afraid of not being good at something. One of the great enjoyments of life is working to get better at something.”
“I never thought I’d be involved in a media company or a hit show like “Selling the Hamptons” but trying new things and continually expanding my horizons is the best way to keep growing as a person. If you want to feel the excitement of scoring, you have to move the ball down the field,” says Bruderman.
“Selling the Hamptons” is currently shooting its second season for Discovery+. In 2018 he co-founded Allyance Media Group with former MTV president and prolific producer Tony DiSanto.
“When I was looking to start a new multimedia content company, I needed someone who could approach the business side of things with the same out of the box thinking and philosophy that I wanted to bring to the creative side. Matt is a brilliant businessman with great creative instincts. That’s his secret weapon and it gives our team the competitive advantage we need in the ever-evolving media landscape,” said DiSanto.
Allyance is producing a range of content for all platforms and networks across scripted, unscripted, documentary and feature films, including the upcoming thriller Give Me Your Eyes starring Mauricio Ochman, Hunter King and Elyfee Torres.
As an investor and entrepreneur, Bruderman has been the majority shareholder in more than 80 companies. He goes from board shorts and boat shoes to business suit and boardroom effortlessly, driven to make the most of every day.
Commerce Bank Founder Vernon Hill recalls, “When I first met Matt, it was obvious right away that one of the reasons he was so successful was because he understood how to create wealth by creating customer value. He has that unique talent that very few have where he can start with an objective, have a vision for how to meet it and be willing to do what it takes to make it a reality. People know they can trust him.”
Warm and funny, Bruderman says he’s living “his best life,” a saying he attributes to his wife. He works hard and plays hard. On any given day he’ll participate in several hours of outdoor activity before a full day of work. He takes friends and clients on hunting and fishing trips blending getting business done with a dose of fun.
Even still there’s more left to do. “Maybe it’s turning 50,” he says. “I’ve been so blessed and when you realize how blessed you really are, you should want others to feel that level of positivity and confidence in their lives.” While the Bruderman family has a long history of philanthropic activity, Bruderman seems poised to shift his focus to that work more vigorously, including public service.
He’s bothered by the injustice and inequities he sees, as well as a lack of initiative on the part of some to solve major societal problems using their own wealth, time and ingenuity. “People need to get off their butts and help. Don’t expect other people to pay for it and government to just make the problem go away. That’s a cop out and it doesn’t work. Enough with the virtue signaling. Let’s demonstrate some actual virtue.”
Bruderman recently made his first foray into public service, accepting an appointment to chair the Board of Directors of Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC). The safety net hospital is Long Island’s largest and only trauma center. Bruderman was tapped to bring his financial and business acumen to the hospital that has had longstanding fiscal challenges.
“It’s the only hospital on the island that serves everyone, regardless of their ability to pay,” he says. “For years that patient population has deserved a topflight public hospital. But it became a political football and it suffered. It’s a good case study for why government has such a hard time fulfilling its promises to people.”
Bruderman says that often the media and politicians play to the extremes or benefit from driving fear and uncertainty. “I like to see a problem and solve it. I don’t care about politics, and I’m not worried about pleasing reporters.”
CEO of Nassau University Medical Center Dr. Anthony Boutin didn’t quite know what to expect when Bruderman was named chairman in April, but the two have established a close working relationship. “Matt’s energy is only matched by his genuine concern for the community. He didn’t ask to do this. He doesn’t need it. He wants to ensure this hospital runs better and every patient is treated with the dignity they deserve.”
“If something doesn’t make sense or it doesn’t help advance the mission, don’t do it,” says Bruderman. “That’s how you turn a profit in business and that’s how we can begin to restore faith in our institutions. It’s not left. It’s not right. It’s common sense.” He cites millions spent several years ago at the hospital to build new executive offices while patient clinics that served largely minority communities were left unrenovated for years.
Among a range of other reforms, Bruderman is launching a naming rights program to involve individuals and companies on Long Island and beyond to increase charitable giving to the hospital to help with renovations.
When asked how he intends to help do his part beyond his work at NUMC, he smiles. His eyes light up as though his vision is already taking shape. “Soon,” he says. “I know people are struggling, either financially or in their confidence in the country right now, but I’ve never been so optimistic. If we can reintroduce Americans to their history, to what made this country the envy of the world – freedom, personal achievement, hard work, charity, and capitalism – we can lift everyone up.”
He says it’s unfortunate that might be viewed as controversial by some. “Go to a socialist country and see how people are treated, particularly racial minorities and the less fortunate. Today, our fringes are taking control and our young people don’t have an appreciation for our history and what made this nation great.”
Bruderman also dipped his toe into politics for the first time this year, though he’s direct about never running for office himself. He’s concerned the country is developing a top-down mentality. “I think it’s clear that we need to get back to basics. Take care of your family, your neighbor, your town, your church, mosque or synagogue. Empower people not big systems. When the power of people is unleashed, the results can be truly magnificent.”
He says he’s started openly supporting fiscally conservative candidates because, “If your house isn’t in order, you can’t really help anyone else.” Bruderman says his family legacy gives him a unique understanding about how this country was built.
“I feel like people don’t understand the value and dignity that comes from work these days. Entitlement and dependency are destructive to the soul. They’re poison.”
Earlier this year he hosted former Vice President Mike Pence at his home for a fundraiser supporting NY Gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin. “People should be able to experience the promise of this great country, whoever they are and wherever they started from,” Bruderman offers.
When asked about some of his recent political activities he says it’s about choosing people and solutions. “Too often we’re too busy choosing sides and the ideas, the innovation that we can bring to the challenges of our time, fall by the wayside.”
“There are folks who like to label, and judge people. I don’t believe in that. It was core to my upbringing that we are no different than anyone else. We’re all people. We’re all neighbors. If we start thinking of ourselves like that and focus on helping each other, we can unite as a nation again and help people live better lives.”
As he walks his private dock out to his Boston Whaler for some time on the water, the humble hot shot clearly knows who he is, where he’s been and is happily anticipating the waves that lay beyond the horizon.
Matt is a young, dynamic and smart gentleman, whom I admire and respect. A risk taker and consummate entrepreneur. Confidence oozing from every pore — with good reason, because he is that good.
JAMES C. METZGER
Founder and CEO of the Whitmore Agency
Executive Producer & Creative Director
Gen Nischino D.P. of Med Spa Videographers
Assistant to Christine Montanti
A special thanks to Debee May agent for Gen Nishino.
A very special thanks to James C. Metzger for coordinating this cover shoot and to the Bruderman family for their hospitality and our beautiful location in Centre Island!