Adam Interviews Tom Golisano

The Paychex founder talks about business, politics and tennis.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WROC-TV) - Adam: You’ve given a lot of your wealth to hospitals, universities, non-profits, there are a lot of wealthy people out in the world and they don’t give like you do so where’s the difference, what motivates you to do this?

Tom: Number one, I have a family member who is developmentally disabled so obviously that brought me closer to that community and I saw their needs and we have some great organizations in Monroe County that deal with people with developmental disabilities, with that kind of leaning, yes, I think we’ve been very helpful, we’ve not only been helpful financially, but I think we’ve also been helpful from a creative perspective, in other words, coming up with concepts that make everybody’s life generally better and that merged with the financial output. We think we’ve done well with it. It’s hard not to feel good about some of the institutions we have in Rochester like the Children’s Hospital, not a week goes by that I don’t get a letter or a phone call or people stop me in the street to tell me how much the hospital meant to their child.

Adam: You put the promise out there to put millions of dollars in a performing arts center in Downtown Rochester, you’ve probably heard about the heated discussion out there right now. What were you thoughts about that?

Tom: When I made that commitment I said to Arnie Rothschild I am not going to get involved in the politics of this thing, here’s my commitment, it’s good for a length of time and if we can pull it off, great, if we don’t we don’t, but I’m just not going to get involved with the politics and it has become somewhat political. I ran into Lovely Warren the other day and said, Lovely, we’ve got to get this going, but that’s about as far as I go.

Adam: Since you’ve run for governor the political world has shifted. Do you think you would do better in today’s environment?

Tom: I don’t think the world, especially New York, is ready for an outside candidate just yet, especially downstate. Those people are zeroing in on the Democratic world and it’s hard for them to move off of that. I think if I would have run as a Republican obviously I would have done a lot better. Some days I’m very happy I didn’t win … It’s a tough job, it’s really a tough job, and as you know I spend quite a bit of time down south in Florida and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I was governor and I’m not exactly partial to cold weather.

Adam: When you built of up Paychex, I think a lot of people always wonder what you had to do. Do you feel like you had to make any sacrifices along the way?

Tom: I think if there were any areas of sacrifice I think my family would say you didn’t spend enough time with us, I’m sure they would say that.

Adam: You’ve been vocal about tax assessment and local election law. When it comes to the argument that you should be able to vote in each place that you own a home, that argument when before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and they rejected it and their argument was that could be abused by political parties to perhaps register a large number of people in one area who have a marginal connection to that particular place so they worry about abuse. In addition, they said New York is already more than fair because you get to pick which place you get to vote from without having to prove primary residence. In other words, you get to pick while taking into account financial and political interests. What’s your take on that?

Tom: Your first argument makes it sound very political and the reason we have this method is because politicians want to protect their territory. I have no sympathy for them in that situation. The other one being able to pick my taxes or any taxes in each locale, why should I have to only pick one?

Adam: When you look at the tax assessment issues, do you worry it tarnishes your image in the community?

Tom: Based on the reaction I’m getting on the street, people saying hello to me and so forth, I think I’m getting a positive reaction because people think this is a real problem.

Adam: On a more personal note has your wife (tennis star Monica Seles) been able to pull you out on the tennis court recently?

Tom: We play tennis together, I’m not afraid of her, you have certain rule changes, you want to hear certain rule changes? I can hit into the entire doubles court. We play singles. I can hit it into the entire doubles court, she can hit into only half the singles court, I only have to cover 12 feet. I have another advantage because as a professional she didn’t have to put up with trash talk, playing her husband she has to put up with a lot of that.

Adam: Do you have difficulty sometimes talking with people outside of your circle because they’re going to have that (donation) ask eventually?

Tom: No, that’s not a problem at all. I probably receive 3 to 5 solicitations a day either by phone or by mail or people stopping me on the street so we’re kind of used to it. We have a process discerning which ones we want to follow up on, which ones we don’t. So it’s not really an issue, in a way it’s rather flattering.


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