Owner Biography

Edward Gilbert

Edward Gilbert
Edward Gilbert
Born Eddie Ginsberg in New York City, Gilbert came from entrepreneurial roots. His grandfather established a successful millwork business that his father would run, but it was Eddie Gilbert who would make Empire Millwork and its acquisitions front-page news during the 1950s and 1960s.

Gilbert dropped out of Cornell to enter World War II, earning a bronze star and purple heart for his bravery in Greece, but his biggest battles were looming on Wall Street.

A Gatsbyesque lifestyle that included a Rolls Royce limo and his Villa Zamir hilltop mansion overlooking Monte Carlo were the trappings of the success he achieved in the fiberboard business with his acquisitions that included E.L Bruce.

He produced Broadway plays, collected art and had a coterie of famous people around him. Before there was Donald Trump, Sam Zell, Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, there was Eddie Gilbert.

But his life, like the stock market, plunged in the spring of 1962. Gilbert was juggling the divorce from his first wife and the takeover of Celotex when the stock market took its worst dive since 1929. Margin calls threatened the Celotex deal and to stay in the deal Gilbert took nearly a $2 million loan from Bruce. He had taken loans from the company's treasury in the past and made no secret he had borrowed the money, but when Bruce's board turned on him, Gilbert knew he was in big trouble.

Looking back on it today, Gilbert acknowledges the episode was a "tragic mistake," but insists he was innocent because he did not steal the money for his personal gain.

Following the Bruce board's no-confidence vote, Gilbert got on the next flight to Rio de Janeiro. Brazil didn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S. and he was on the lam for six months, but came back, on his lawyer's advice, to plead guilty. At Sing Sing, Gilbert shared a cell with a convicted murderer. Gilbert later appealed his case and was exonerated by a U.S. Court of Appeals.

He spent the 1970s as an arbitrageur rebuilding his fortune but got in trouble for allegedly manipulating the stock of Conrac Corp. The government's case was tied to one witness who, Gilbert says, had a motive to turn on him, and a jury found Gilbert guilty on 34 counts of stock manipulation.

Marrying Gale "Peaches" Gore might have been one of the best business decisions in Gilbert's career. He met her in New York after emerging from prison in the 1980s and she made sure Gilbert surrounded himself with trusted partners. Today Gilbert's entourage includes Kolber and his long time attorney, Gene Wolkoff.

When Gilbert was interviewed by the New Mexico Business Weekly, all were at his side. It was Peaches who convinced Gilbert to move to Santa Fe and together they adopted three Russian children, now aged 16 to 18. Gilbert has seven children (five adopted), but doesn't expect to spend his senior years going to his grandchildren's future soccer games or piano recitals. He is too caught up in building his company.

Kolber calls Gilbert a "type AA" workaholic and says retirement is not in his vocabulary. Gilbert says he wants to buy more buildings in places like Albuquerque which is "just starting" to emerge. At 84, Gilbert is starting to emerge as a major player in U.S. real estate business.

The above is quoted directly from a June 10, 2007 article at bizjournals.com

Mr. Gilbert formed several important collections of stamps, including United States (the "Laila" Collection), British Empire, France and Colonies and several others.

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