By Countess Nathalie von Bismarck Bariman.
When I first met David Simon, I instantly felt the presence of a kind-spirited lion. It was clear that David—a tall, handsome man—carries a strong and rare energy, and I wondered where this energy came from. David is a classic example that anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it and simply believe. He always felt larger than life, and his path in life granted him the capability to be fearless like a lion.
David was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, and lived there with his parents and sister until he was five, when the family moved to Livingston, New Jersey, into the house he’d call home for his entire childhood.
Since his family did not have a lot of extra money when he was growing up, he worked from the time he was 10 years old. He had paper routes, folded the Sunday papers at the local stationery store, and at 13, got a job at the local car wash. When he turned 16, he got a job selling shoes at the local mall. He worked as lifeguard at local swim clubs during the summer months until he turned 20, when he took a bartending job at one of the best restaurants in the area.
When it came time for college, his mother drove him to two that were next to each other and told him to pick one; David chose the one with a better female-to-male ratio. He went on to law school, subsequently graduated at the top of his class, and was hired at a top law firm in New York City. He knew then that he did not want to practice law, but had to use law to leave law. He made connections on Wall Street from whom he got referrals, and turned them into 150 meetings with various people. This led to two offers for Merger Arbitrage positions, which was what he wanted to do.
When asked why he shifted away from law, David softly smiled and explained that when he was in law school he thought he wanted to be an entertainment lawyer. After a summer internship at a top entertainment law firm in LA, he realized he did not respect the profession or the way large firms were set up at that time.
“Big firms want you to work your hardest to become a partner, and when you do become a partner you work even harder, without a significant increase in compensation. In addition your time is never your own. I also disliked what I did as a first and second year attorney, which made it hard to get out of bed to go to work in the morning,” David said.
Today, the self-made David Simon is best known for his achievements as founder of Twin Capital Management LLC, a New York City-based Hedge Fund. But at the same time, he is a true philanthropist. Since 1996, the David Simon Foundation provides funding to charities focused on children and overcoming poverty.
Also in 1996, David co-founded the Starlight Children’s Foundation Westchester Golf Outing with Michael Brown, which he ran for three years, raising about $500,000 for the charity. Additionally, from 1999 to 2014, David co-founded and ran the HELP USA Westchester Golf Outing with Kenneth Cole and Peter Hochfelder, which raised over eight million dollars.
David does this work purely to help others, and he prefers to remain private and discreet.
Rather than discussing his achievements, he likes to talk about his beliefs. For him, life is a voyage, and its milestones are learnings.
“The smartest person in the room can learn from everyone in the room,” he says, “whether it may be a taxi driver, janitor, or investment banker, while the dumbest person in the room thinks he knows it all and will learn from no one.”
A sensitive man, David’s children are the most important thing in his life. The memories of raising his children are his most valuable ones. From holding them at birth and coaching his son in sports to bringing them to Broadway shows, he cherishes them. All this makes David love his life; he is also a spiritual man, sticking strictly to his Jewish religion, which gives him a sense of belonging and stability.
His love for New York City brings him energy, his love for nature brings him peace.
He enjoys walking in Central Park and taking in all of the interesting people, observing and learning from them.
While he is an accomplished man, the striving will never end. He feels that for him it is only the beginning, and intends to continue stretching himself with new ventures, new ideas, and continuous charity and educational endeavors.
He also cherishes his true friendships, and says, “your true friends are the ones you made when you were young, when you became friends from a mutual fondness for each other. I think 90% of my true friends I have known for at least 25 years. It is very special, yet hard to meet a new friend at this stage of my life.”
But his intentions are to leave himself open to new people. He tends to follow his instincts and is very loyal to all his friends. Once I got to know David more, I understood why I felt the presence of a lion when we met, and I have no doubt that anyone who meets David would feel the same way.