Last year, when Fernandez's non-compete agreement expired, he acquired the HMOs Total Health Choice, which operates Simply Health Plus, and Better Health. With 20,000 customers, the HMOs were losing $13 million a year, combined. Now, after investments in systems, technology and management, they have 60,000 customers and are generating a profit, he said.
His goal for the private equity firm is to purchase a company each year, and tuck in two or three other smaller purchases.
Fernandez, a morning person who rises at 4:30 a.m., says he is not as hands-on as he used to be. He has moved from an "operations attitude to an investment attitude," he said.
On the side, he raises Black Angus cattle and has amassed 5,000 acres in North Florida, 5,000 acres in Central Florida and 25,000 acres in Alabama.
In January of this year he had a health scare that caused him to reflect on his life: Prostate cancer.For three weeks, he told no one, not even his wife.
He took his dog on long walks, sat on a coral bench at his eight-acre Coral Gables home, and thought about all the time he has put into work, the two failed marriages he had before his current, happy 11-year marriage; the time he could have spent with his five children. He asked himself if he should have done things differently.
He decided he would not have. "I have done what I was put on this earth to do: to provide for my family, to create jobs, to share with the community that has given me so much," he said
Since then, he has had surgery and is fine.
"We're all wired differently," said Fernandez, recalling the memory of his parents losing everything to come to the United States. "I've always thought of myself as a provider."
Media mogul Laurie Silvers also learned entrepreneurship at a young age, and has created a string of ventures, including the Sci-Fi channel (now Syfy).
Silvers, 59, grew up in Springfield, Ill., with a father who owned radio stations and was a pioneer in cable television.
"I remember when I was little, the excitement when he would get a construction permit to build a new radio station -- a start-up from the ground up, in the days when radio was truly dominant," said Silvers, who now lives in Boca Raton.
She studied psychology at the University of Miami and stayed to get her law degree.
"I thought I was going to be going into the courtroom and right all the wrongs and defend the weak and the weary, and I did," she said.
Then, over time, she began to represent people who were in the broadcasting industry, in radio, TV and cable, and fell in love with the business.
So in the mid-'80s, she and her then-law partner and now-husband Mitchell Rubenstein, bought a small cable system in Indiana, with the vision of growing it by boosting subscribers and adding premium services. It was her entry into the industry, backed by friends, family and some bank financing.
When she and Rubenstein sold it a few years later in 1988, Silvers made her first millions. She was 36.
"We were still practicing law, and we had to decide to continue law or to take the knowledge we had learned and go into cable television and buy a larger cable system operator or do something else," Silvers said. "So we
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