As of Thursday, June 9, 2016
A sold-out crowd of 500 people packed Herscher Hall at the Skirball Cultural Center for the annual Black and White Ball, a fund-raising event for National Jewish Health that is hosted by the Los Angeles Professional Services. This year the honorees were Michael Savoy and Don Nunnari.
Savoy, a partner at accounting firm Gumbiner Savett Inc., and Nunnari, executive vice president and West Coast regional manager of Merchant Factors Corp., have known each other for years and have always had a competitive edge to their friendship, which was on display in their effort to raise money for the Denver-based hospital, which specializes in research and treatment of respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders.
Savoy, an accountant who is well versed in numbers, was constantly on the phone reminding Nunnari about how much money he had raised that day.
“He would say, ‘Don, I have a lot of clients with foundations.’ I had no idea what he meant,” Nunnari said. “My clients don’t have foundations. But I just kept plugging away, $27 at a time. I just ground him down because I knew how competitive he is.”
Nunnari likened the competitive fund-raising to the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
The speeches and banter for the June 4 cocktail and dinner event were light and bright as many people poked fun at both Savoy and Nunnari and the honorees poked fun at themselves.
Savoy, who moved from the East Coast decades ago to work for accounting firm Stonefield Josephson, told the audience about his first meeting in 1976 with Joel Stonefield, whom he met through a mutual friend.
Savoy was supposed to meet Stonefield on a Saturday morning for a breakfast get-together. “Like any 25-year-old who works a full week, there was quite a bit of partying that Friday night. I don’t believe I set the alarm,” Savoy said.
He recalled waking up late on Saturday, grabbing his clothes lying on the floor, washing his face and quickly driving to the hotel. “Joel opened the door to his hotel room and looked at me, top to bottom,” Savoy recalled. “He said, ‘I have never had anyone come to a job interview looking like you do. You must have the most unbelievable confidence in yourself.’”
Regardless of his attire, Savoy was hired.
Nunnari, who grew up in New Jersey, moved to California with a degree in finance from St. Bonaventure University, but he knew nothing about the factoring business. “Mark White, a headhunter in West LA, said, ‘Don, you have a finance degree. Go to 747 S. Hill St. to see United Factors, which has an opening.’ It was the biggest factor around. I had to pull out my finance book to look up factoring. There was one line on factors,” Nunnari remembered.
Nunnari got the job at United Factors and went on to work for Chemical Bank, Republic Factors and HSBC Business Credit before arriving at Merchant Factors.
Both Nunnari and Savoy and their wives toured National Jewish Health to see the work the hospital does for those suffering from various respiratory ailments.
Founded in 1899 by Frances Wisebart Jacobs as an institution for the needy, the health institution did not send a bill to anyone until 1970 because fund-sraising and charitable contributions covered its expenses. Today, National Jewish Health raises about $31 million a year through dinners and other fund-raising events.