Midway through 2019, Matt Brunderman, chairman and CEO of Brunderman Brothers, was introduced to James Metzger, the founder, chairman and CEO of the Whitemore Agency. A business relationship quickly took form between the two and developed significantly within a few months.
As successful as they have been individually with Bruderman Brothers—an investment banking house providing holistic advisory services, ranging from best-in-class sell-side and buyside M&A advisory services to capital-raising and strategic consulting services—and The Whitmore Agency— a leading Long Island insurance brokerage and financial services firm that focuses on special industries including funeral services, transportation and livery, restaurants and hospitality, construction and bonding, fine art and collectables, and the cannabis industry—the two have also forged a unique relationship working together. Here they reflect on their fortunate, fateful meeting and share an inside look at what, how and why it played out as it did.
BEHIND THE HEDGES: Matt, how did you meet Jim Metzger, and how did the business side of your relationship get started?
MATT BRUDERMAN: Matt Hull, a fellow that works for me in the investment banking business, knows Rob Pannell. Rob and Matt grew up together playing lacrosse on Long Island. Matt played in college at Harvard, and Rob at Cornell. As it turns out, Rob is a professional lacrosse player, and works for his uncle at The Whitmore Agency. My family owns businesses across several industries including finance, healthcare and consumer products and media. Businesses like HMS Apparel, 1879 Advisors, and Alpha 6 Distributions. Jim and his team put a thoughtful plan together for us, we liked it, and bought into it. They analyzed our risk, not one dimensionally but across our entire portfolio. Importantly, they didn’t offer just insurance, they provided true risk management supported by insurance. Uniquely, they made sure there were no gaps between entities and up and down the ownership chain.
BTH: You took your involvement and interest in Matt’s company way beyond insurance. How did that happen?
JIM METZGER: I was very impressed with Matt. Young, smart and charismatic, he immediately engaged with the management team at Whitmore. One of our first meetings was at our office in Garden City. A one-hour meeting turned into two, and then a long productive lunch with several key executives. I like to be involved with entrepreneurs. Matt is a risk taker—dynamic and smart. He is successful, of course, but with an invaluable sense of humility and a keen sense of humor. He naturally puts people at ease, probably because he is at ease with himself. During the fall last year, Matt invited me to a private screening of several shows being produced by Allyance Media Group. Allyance was a company he founded with Tony DiSanto, a former president of programming and executive producer for MTV. After I met the management team, I made it a point to let Matt know I thought he had a real winner on his hands with a show they were calling Million Dollar Beach House. As it turned out, he did have a winner, and the show made the Netflix trending list in its first weeks on air. Before the year was out, I became an investor in Allyance Media.
BTH: What do you think makes Million Dollar Beach House stand out from other real estate reality series? JIM METZGER: The show was a great concept—beautiful homes and young, attractive real estate brokers as the stars. That’s a good start. And then the visuals and cinematography. The shows were striking and fresh— just brilliant.
MATT BRUDERMAN: Thanks Jim, I agree, and here is the secret sauce behind the show—it’s Tony DiSanto. He is a visionary in reality drama TV. Tony’s credits include president of programming at MTV, supervising the development and production of all series, specials and feature films for television. While he was president, the network’s ratings rose 30% with reality hits such as Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant and Jersey Shore, three of the highest-rated shows on cable television at the time [circa 2010].
BTH: You are a Southampton homeowner, Jim. How long have you been coming out here? What do you love about the South Fork, and how do you spend your time here?
JIM METZGER: I’ve been coming to the Hamptons for 50 years. I don’t need to tell you what a special place it is. And yes, I’ve owned a home in Southampton for 20 years. Honestly, the last few years have been so busy with work, I haven’t really spent time there. That is going to change, though, as I’ll be completely rebuilding my place on the Peconic Bay.
BTH: Matt, do you have an ongoing interest in the East End or get to spend time here?
MATT BRUDERMAN: I grew up on Long Island, but for generations my family has gone to New Hampshire for the summers. And when I try to get away with the family, we often go to Nantucket. But I do anticipate being out on the East End more in the coming years. In 2021 we’ll be opening an office in the Hamptons for our Wealth Management Division—1879 Advisors.
BTH: You both do much philanthropic work. Is there a specific effort of which you are most proud?
JIM METZGER: Yes, giving has been and will continue to be a priority in my life. I do what I do in this regard my way, for personal and professional reasons. Frankly, I don’t like using the word philanthropy. Rather, I prefer to refer to my involvement as “community service.” I’ve been fortunate to support educational, charitable, athletic and other organizations where I live, and in communities where my clients and employees work and live in the New York metropolitan area.
These support efforts and donations include my high school and college alma maters, Half Hollow Hills and Hofstra University, and St. Anthony’s High School, near where I was raised. Among the many additional organizations supported are BBBSLI [for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island] Funeral Service Foundation [FSA], American Heart Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, YMCA of Greater New York and the Police Athletic League’s Hempstead PAL Lacrosse Program.
Recently I had the opportunity to help with a six-figure contribution to an effort led by a long-time friend and teammate from Hofstra lacrosse—attorney and retired U.S. Army Colonel E. David Woycik. He chose the charities, including America’s VetDogs, Canine Companions for Independence, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island. I think there’s no greater sacrifice than going to war and defending the country. Going forward I will continue to focus on supporting veterans. We can’t do enough for them.
MATT BRUDERMAN: The Bruderman family has supported worthy causes for generations with individual contributions, a foundation and voluntarism promotion. All our work in this arena is done anonymously. We love to give and will continue to do so. All that said, there is one initiative right now that the children in our family are leading in support of the homeless. Leveraging the skills, technology and capabilities of our apparel companies, they are developing a purpose-built overcoat that turns into a sleeping bag/mattress. I look forward to sharing more about this shortly.
BTH: When can fans expect Million Dollar Beach House to return for a second season? What new directions do you think the show could take?
MATT BRUDERMAN: Ah, very good question. Ever hear the phrase “If I tell you, I’d have to kill you?”
This article appeared in the December 2020 issue of Behind The Hedges.