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Richard Wackenhut's father was rarely home for dinner.
After former FBI agent George Wackenhut started his small investigative company in Miami, there always was a meeting to attend, a client to be wooed or a problem to be solved.
But one day, when Richard was about 12, his dad surprised the family at the dinner table.
And with a big smile on his face, George Wackenhut pulled six crisp $100 bills from his pocket and placed them on the table. "Look," he told his son in a rare excited voice. "the company is really starting to produce for us."
The son was awestruck.
"Gosh, Dad! Are we going to be able to keep all of that?"
George Wackenhut took $200 and set it aside. "We can keep this," he said. "The rest has to go back into the company."
The younger Wackenhut recalls vividly that evening nearly 37 years ago, when his father gave him his first business lesson: You have to reinvest profits to make a company grow.
It's a fundamental lesson in finance that Richard Wackenhut still believes, mostly because it has proven so true.
George Wackenhut, chairman, CEO and primary shareholder of Wackenhut Corp., spent years building his company before assigning day-to-day operations to his only son in 1986.
Not resting on his father's laurels, Richard Wackenhut has grown the family business into a diversified personnel services organization that last year had record revenue of $906 million, compared to $328 million in 1986. Still a powerhouse in security, Wackenhut operations in 54 countries provide services ranging from correctional facilities to food service to personnel management.
As president and chief operating officer, Richard is the heir apparent.
It's a position he has learned to love. Something he wanted, not because it was his legacy, but because it became his passion.
"For years, I had questions and moments of doubt of whether this was what I wanted to do," he said. "But as I got more involved, I saw the real excitement of the business.
"There was an evolutionary process where eventually I decided, 'Yes, this is what I want for the rest of my life.'"
At the bottom
While Wackenhut Corp. was growing in the 1960s, Richard was a student at Palmetto High School in Miami, where he did well academically and spent …