The Amazing Life of Dick Stevens

Today is July 4, 2023. My greatest mentor on the business deal-maker side of my life and one of my favorite teachers on how to enjoy life, while continuing to ensure liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and the world around us, has been gone for almost 13 years. He would have turned 93 today.

Richard S. Stevens, or more famously Dick Stevens, was a well known figure throughout, California, domestic US and international business circles, in a wide variety of industries including but not limited to premier hotels such as the Disneyland Hotel, resorts like the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, The Jockey Club in Miami Florida, as well as Fisher Island in Miami, marina acquisitions & developments as founder of The BellPort Group with Peter Ueberroth and his son Joe Ueberroth and restaurants including The Chart House chain and others. 

Dick was the money guy for Bob Morris' Gladstones 4 Fish restaurant in Malibu and other Bob Morris projects. 

Dick and Joan bought, held, leased out and eventually sold a massive ranching & water rights deal with their now former 47,000 acre Cabin Bar Ranch in Olancha, California. They first leased some Cabin Bar Ranch water rights to Anheuser-Busch and subsequently, Cabin Bar Ranch sold to Crystal Geyser. 

Dick was also involved in sports teams like the LA Express football franchise, and a cricket franchise. 

But one of the most stellar things Dick was involved in was not for personal or business enrichment, it was a top civic performance of the 20th century, when Dick played a leading role in orchestrating the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, organized by Peter Ueberroth. I had privilege of living next door to the Ueberroth family from 1982 through 1985. Living next door to the Ueberroth's and doing a lot of driving for them and also booking bands for Olympic related events, while also spending a lot of time with Dick while he was organizing the Pentathlon put me smack dab in the middle of a most interesting times of my life, that really enriched the Los Angeles community and the stature of the United States as a whole. There are still inner city sports programs in LA that are being funded by left over corporate sponsorship fees that were designed to fund inner city sports programs in perpetuity. The team that organized the Olympics with Ueberroth, Stevens and the like, did so in a way that did not leave the city of Los Angeles in debt. All other Olympic events in countries around the world up to 1984, were subsidized by taxpayers and left many cities in debt that was difficult to repay. After the 1984 Olympics, however, the LA84 Foundation became a shining example of a new way to help under served communities.

Each 4th of July, Dick would pull out his patriotic clothing each Independence Day and simultaneously celebrate his birthday with friends and family.

Richard S. Stevens on his July 4 birthday. #DickStevens #RichardSStevens #IndependenceDay #4thOfJuly #4thofJulyBirthday

I had the great fortune to have been referred to Dick when I was Jr. Class President at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California, when I was organizing the Jr./Sr. Prom. My student council cohorts and I decided to hold our event in the Grand Ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel, which was just one of several premier resort properties under Dick's management, while he served as president of The Wrather Corporation and it's numerous subsidiaries.

The Wrather Corporation was founded by Jack Wrather, a oil wildcatter, who gained Hollywood level fame mostly for developing the TV shows, Lassie, as well as the Lone Ranger, and subsequently went on to acquire and grow over 100 subsidiary companies as diverse as Muzak (the elevator music company), dog food companies, restaurants chains, hotels & resorts and more, operated under the Wrather Corporation parent.

Dick also was brought in, for many years, to turn around and operate Marina City Club in Marina Del Rey, for it's owners, the the Hughes Aircraft Executive Retirement Fund.

Dick had a long run as the highest paid executive in California, and one of the highest paid in the United States. But he was much more than just a hired gun for Tycoons like Jack Wrather or Peter Ueberroth. Dick orchestrated so many deals of his own, he was the ultimate entrepreneur.

About a year after that first fateful first meeting with Dick, while still in High School, I was reintroduced to Dick again through Ann Colin, a mother of one of my friends, Charlie Colin, who I had formed a band with. She was trying to help me network with amazing mentors and she worked hard to help me find opportunities related to what I was interested in, which I am forever grateful for.

Being reintroduced to Dick, again, quickly led to doing a few odd jobs for he and his wife Joan, such as helping them move their amazing residences around Newport Beach, and then up to the Bel Air community in Los Angeles, while simultaneously picking up Dick as a client of my fine auto & yacht maintenance that I had started while still in High School. 

For many years, Dick rolled in a chauffeur driven Cadillac limousine with a full time driver on call. Dick is quoted as saying something to the effect that he closed more deals in the back of his limo than anywhere else. The license plate of his limo read HH1. People often wrongly guessed that it was Hugh Hefner's Limo, but the initials referred to a inside joke regarding "Harry Horseshit". His daughter Sandy told me Dick had a tattoo on his butt cheek and a Harry Horseshit branding iron. I had once heard that the name came from a restaurant deal that didn't go quite so well and it was like stepping in horse manure.

Spending quality time around Dick was a combination of fun while dreaming up new ideas for deals to work on. He was always exercising my brain. My fondest memories with Dick were a few trips we made driving together, from Newport Beach to Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Marina Del Rey or as far as Olancha where he taught me about the value of water rights on his ranch. He and Joan were into bottled water off their own ranch before bottled water became the thing! High quality water means a lot to me these days and my awareness of why it matters on a big scale, I owe to Dick.

For a few years before I sold my auto & yacht maintenance business, I maintained Dick and Joan's custom Chris Craft, that was a high speed Cigarette style racing boat. I also maintained Joan's electric Duffy named Queen Joan, which was a play on words following Dick's orchestrated acquisition of The Queen Mary in Long Beach, where he had the brilliant idea of acquiring  Howard Hughes' plane, The Spruce Goose, and putting it next to The Queen Mary under the largest geodesic dome in the world over the plane, to showcase the two, side by side, as leading Southern California tourist attraction. That was just one of many of Dick's great deals. It might not have been the most profitable venture he ever orchestrated (being a little bit ahead of it's time for Long Beach), but this deal was one his favorite that he was most proud of.

Dick taught me a lot about how to take an idea, visualize a deal and turn that idea into something by putting the right people together. 

The most important thing he instilled in me was was "Never Give Up!", which happens to be the title of a book he and Joan wrote together about his multiple experiences in and out of hospitals, for what was decades full of heart issues and bypass surgeries that eventually led to a full on heart transplant. The book is full of ideas on how to survive and not be killed by your doctors or the hospital. Order the book here

Being around Dick and his lovely wife, Joan, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. There is not a week that goes by where I do not think about Dick and often wonder, what would Dick do?, as I attempt to push my own always evolving deals forward.

Dick was one of the most creative and energetic people I have ever known. He was more of a father figure than both of my own fathers on many levels, not that they were bad, but they had hangups when it came to pursuing life the way Dick did.

Dick taught me the value of not chasing money, but chasing things that I loved. He instilled a idea that if I went after deals involving things that I loved and that enough elements of fun, and were exciting and interesting, that if were structured properly, I would not only have lots of fun, but I would find more success and earning potential that way, and if I didn't make a lot of money on some deals right away, at least I'd have fun. He once gave me advice that was something very close to: "There may often be what appear to be temporary setbacks, but if you are doing deals that mean something fun and are exciting to you, the temporary setbacks won't be devastating and can always be creatively turned around or merged into something that works".

Dick happened to be one of the greatest Merger Acquisition guys ever, and probably even a better turn around artist, where he could massage flailing companies back to life and merge them or go on roll-up/acquisition sprees to eventually merge them into another major group and run that.

I am forever grateful to Dick and his wife Joan, and his daughter Sandy and step daughter Lisa on multiple levels. The experiences and lessons I learned being amongst the Stevens family permanently altered the way I view the world, in that anything one sets their mind to is possible and to think big! 

It is long overdue to create a public timeline of Dick's amazing life and long list of businesses that he created, co-created, operated and/or turned around for he & his wife and for many of the most successful corporations and tycoons in the world.

For anyone who wishes to contribute to this timeline in the making, please e-mail personal stories & photographs to:

Thank you!

Gregory J. Chamberlain


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