In the 1960s, Bill Perocchi grew up in the worst housing development in Lawrence, a crumbling old mill city, one of the worst in Massachusetts.
Additionally, Perocchi's mother died in a car crash when he was 9. His father, a World War II veteran, was disabled when a tree branch landed on his head.
I loved Bill's quote: The only thing in abundance was... room for improvement. :)
Perocchi, turned to the Boys & Girls Club, where he showed up every day after school with dreams of something better. Fortunately, a group of adults cared about him and mentored him.
His became a story of Rags to Riches, and remembering the people who helped him.
PEBBLE BEACH CEO
GIVES THANKS WITH $1 M GIFT TO BOYS & GIRLS CLUB
By Douglas Belkin
July 29, 2004
Back in the 1960s when Bill Perocchi was growing up, Lawrence was a crumbling old mill city, one of the worst in Massachusetts, and the Lawrence Stadium housing development was one of the worst places to live in the city.
In the development, the six members of the Perocchi family shared a cramped apartment with three bedrooms and one bathroom. One thing the apartment did offer in abundance, Perocchi said last week with a smile, was room for improvement.
Back then, the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club was Perrocchi's home away from home, a place where caring adults set him on the right path and kept him there.
Fast-forward nearly 40 years. Perocchi is sitting in his home office in the 9,000-square-foot oceanside mansion he's just built in Seabrook, N.H. He and his wife and two teenage children live there a month out of the year. On one side of his desk is a picture window overlooking the blue Atlantic curling toward the sun-baked sand. On the opposite wall hangs a 5-foot-wide photograph of Tiger Woods gracefully sinking a putt at Pebble Beach, the iconic California golf course. Perocchi is CEO and a partner of Pebble Beach Co., which owns the golf course.
Despite acquiring a fortune before he turned 40 and living among some of the wealthiest people in the world, Perocchi has managed to keep his feet firmly planted in two very different worlds.
''I know I've come a long way," Perocchi said in an accent that -- no matter how fine he orders the greens at Pebble Beach cut -- screams Lawrence. ''And I know there's a lot of other kids who could use the same breaks I got."
Perocchi was so thankful that last year he handed a check for $1 million to the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club to give the next generation of poor children those same breaks.
''To me it was an obligation," Perocchi said. ''Like paying the electric bill, it was something I had to do."
His story helps explain why. Perocchi's mother died in a car crash when he was 9. His father, a World War II veteran, was disabled when a tree branch landed on his head. With little financial stability, Perocchi was just another child from the projects who turned up at the Boys & Girls Club every day after school with dreams of something better.
At that club, he said, he found an outlet and, more importantly, a group of adults who cared about him and mentored him.
In ninth grade, he also got a break. His uncle, a football coach at the elite Brooks School in North Andover, helped him land a full scholarship and the young Perocchi seized the opportunity. With mentors at the Boys & Girls Club helping him along the way, he studied hard, played hard, and eventually earned admission to the University of New Hampshire.
There, in his freshman year, the 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound Perocchi broke his wrist two months into the football season and left his dreams of playing professional sports forever behind. Instead, he focused on his girlfriend, Nanci, who would later become his wife, and his classes.
Perocchi graduated with honors and earned a spot in a highly competitive management training program at General Electric. The next several years of his life comprised 80-, 90- and 100-hour work weeks in various cities around the world where GE had businesses. He would fly into a city, study the way a division was run, ask a lot of questions of everybody from the line workers to the CEO, and then make a series of suggestions.
''I remember working till 2:30 in the morning and bringing work home with me," Perocchi said. ''I slept on the office floors more than once."
The diligence paid off. Perocchi was rewarded with running a division of GE, which he later parlayed into an opportunity to head up a GE hotel chain. In that capacity, Perocchi met some of the country's most influential capitalists -- people like Peter Ueberroth, former commissioner of baseball -- and with his steel-backed work ethic, the doors of opportunity kept swinging open before him.
At 41, the father of two children, and already a multimillionaire, Perocchi retired to coach sports and spend more time with his family. The plan lasted about two months.
Ueberroth and some of the men he worked with while running the hotel chain asked Perocchi to put together a deal to buy Pebble Beach Co. He did his job so well he became part owner and CEO and he now lives in a community where the low-end houses sell for $5 million and the average visitor coming to the course to play a round earns about $450,000 a year.
Perocchi is 46 now and has all the trappings of success. Hung on the walls of the game room in his Seabrook home are photographs of him on the golf course with the likes of New England Patriot coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, Clint Eastwood, and a slew of other celebrities.
In his media room, he presses a button on a remote control and the shades automatically descend in front of the ocean view, the lights dim, and the 110-inch high-definition television lights up.
Despite all of his wealth, Perocchi said he is still not entirely comfortable around the wealthy. At heart, he is still a kid from the wrong side of the tracks in Lawrence who worked really hard and got a couple of lucky breaks. His home, he said, is still in the Merrimack Valley.
When he retires, he said, he plans to move back to New Hampshire for about six months a year. ''I love it here; you walk down the street and see 20 people from Lawrence," Perocchi said with a grin. ''To me, that's priceless."
Beyond the million-dollar gift and another half-million in scholarships he and Nanci have donated over the years, Perocchi is lending his financial acumen to try to get the club to look ahead so that one day it can replace its 40-year-old facility. Club officials said they plan to use the $1 million gift as a starting point to either refurbish the old building or build a new one.
Every year the club has to raise about $1.6 million -- the amount of its operating costs -- just to keep the doors open. Perocchi's gift will help them take a deep breath and start planning ahead.
Said Radhames Nova, the 28-year-old fund-raising director of the club and another alum: ''The money is really an inspiration. He's challenged us to reach higher."
Perocchi shrugged. It's obvious he's not looking for accolades with his gift, just results.
''There's still plenty of kids out there who can use a hand getting a start," Perocchi said. ''The money is just a way of giving back, the way people gave to me."
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