The following is an excerpt from the City Biz interview of Allan Levine, President and Chief Operating Officer, and Mark Caplan, Chairman, Madison Capital.
Q: What is the history of Madison Capital?
MARK CAPLAN: The history of Madison actually goes all the way back to 1983. Originally, we started as Harbor Equipment Leasing, which was a business started by my father and I. When I came back to Baltimore from business school in New York, I needed to make some money and he needed tax benefits. At that point in time, the ITC was present in the tax code, and on that basis, we started doing some equipment leasing, lending to smaller, moderate-sized businesses. In those days, we did copiers, cell phones, small computers—because that was the technology that really drove some of the early days of business. Also, it was a time of very high interest rates.
We grew the business through the 1980s. My father died in 1986. My mother, Connie, became involved with the business and is still a partner. In the latter ‘80s, we did a couple of things: We acquired a small competitor, LJ Leasing. We bought some portfolios, which is actually one of the things that started us in the line of business we’re still in today: we started providing financing for malls through the Becker Group, which is a local company that does mall displays all across the country. We still provide financing for malls, with many different owners.
We also got into health care financing when Blue Cross Blue Shield started to lend money to doctors and dentists for their practices, and then decided to get out of that line of business. It was also a time of expansion for home health care business expanding. That became two lines of business—both home health care financing, as well as lending to doctors and dentists. That example demonstrates how our business is a niche lender, and technology sometimes drives our opportunities on the financing side. Allan will talk more about the nature of the deals we do, but I’m sort of giving an overview.
As we moved through the ‘90s, one of the things that I thought about—at least on the equipment leasing side—was that here we worked very hard to get into the door of businesses, and we have one product, and that it would be nice to have two. Most of the businesses that we went to for the equipment side of things had vehicles, so it seemed like a good idea, not only at that time but subsequently too, to look at the vehicle leasing business. I found that it is very specialized and you need a lot of experience and knowledge to be in that business. The time was pretty opportune because Allan and I knew each other in the market, and sometimes I’d send him a vehicle deal and he might send me an equipment deal. He had partners and a business, then known as Fox Valley Vehicle Leasing. We did a merger in 1997. So we find ourselves now, in 2016, having been partners for almost 20 years. It’s been a wonderful partnership.
Q: Allan, can you speak to the your origins with Fox Valley Leasing and Madison?
ALLAN LEVINE: Going back to the early 1970s, I did marketing work for an international company. They gave me this scenario where I’d be moving around the world, but that didn’t appeal to me too much. I was more interested in playing either racquetball or lacrosse at that time. So, I went to the library and looked up businesses that people thought would be big through the year 2000. Automobile leasing, at that point, was one percent.
I took that concept to the largest automobile dealer in town, which was Fox Chevrolet. I offered them a wonderful opportunity to put me in business and loan me money at the same time, which ironically, they agreed to do. That was the start.
In those days, the business was leasing one, two, and three vehicles to small companies or individuals. That went on for a period of time, and then the company just grew. Leasing grew. It was a pretty good run. We did that for 25 years. Then I, like Mark, felt it was time to merge, grow and have some diversity. Equipment was a natural companion to vehicles. Everyone who has equipment for a business has a car, and everybody who has a car usually has a business. So we formed that merger in 1997, and it’s been a wonderful transition from that point in time to now, when we have just grown and changed our marketing concepts. We grew with the economy, we grew with efficiencies, we grew in scale, and we’ve changed to become a kind of state-of-the-art operation. We can find an opportunity, we can get an application, and we can process it, fund it, do all the things we have to do in 24 hours. That efficiency is what drives our business today.
– See the video of the interview here.