Dick Pickup passed after spending a typical morning doing what he loved

By GARY SHERWIN

Last Wednesday (April 24), as was his custom, Dick Pickup rose early and made his way to his office in Newport Center shortly before the stock market opened at 6:30 a.m. to check his holdings, contemplate some trades as well as investigate a new deal. It’s a constitutional rhythm that he has followed since the 1960s.

Around lunchtime, he headed over to his beloved Newport Beach Country Club, just several hundred feet away from his office. There, he met an editor from the Orange County Business Journal at his usual table to discuss his considerable philanthropy work when he suffered a fatal stroke.

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Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach

Gary Sherwin

There are few exceptions when a 90-year-old passes, and people call it “unexpected,” but Dick was one of those, given his active and engaged lifestyle. Despite his age and success, retirement was never in the cards for him and his influence in our city will be felt for generations to come.

For many people outside the Newport Beach business community, they may not have heard of Dick and his considerable achievements. But there is no doubt that he was a transformational force in the city.

In many respects, he is the epitome of Newport Beach. He was a man who worked hard, made astute business decisions, and then realized what was most important after all was his family and community.

I will go as far as to say that our city’s modern tourism economy would not exist without Dick Pickup. The greatest example of this was when he and his family came in at the last moment to buy the iconic Balboa Bay Resort and Club and the Newport Beach Country Club in 2012.

A Chinese businessman with some questionable financials had come close to buying the legendary property. When that deal collapsed, Dick and his family crafted a deal to buy the assets as a long-term family investment. Dick and his family already owned hotels in Napa, Santa Barbara and La Jolla, but to protect a historic property for the benefit of Newport Beach was too much to pass up – it was their civic duty.

The deal also included the Newport Beach Country Club, which at the time was a decrepit building that hadn’t been renovated in more than 40 years. Dick loved the course and knew he could inject some life into it. And in addition to purchasing it, he and his family invested another $40 million to rebuild it completely.

He and his family did the same with the Balboa Bay Club and the resort, investing well over $50 million to return the property to its glory days.

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Submitted photo

Richard “Dick” Pickup

January 11, 1934 – April 25, 2024

But unlike many investors and their swashbuckling ways, Dick was the total opposite. According to Eagle Four Partner Kory Kramer, Dick was a modern-day detective like TV’s Columbo, where he would take detailed notes and ask lots of politely probing questions to get to the heart of a matter. He prized listening, a trait all too rare these days.

John Wortmann, chairman of the Board of Governors for the Balboa Bay Club, remembers first meeting with Dick during the purchase. At the time, there was tension between club members and the resort, and several meetings were held with Dick and his family to hear numerous concerns about the reinvestment needed to restore the club back to its prestigious days. According to Wortmann, Dick assured the members that he would do what was necessary and “in retrospect, he way, way over delivered” to what was promised.

Both the club and the resort are now vibrant and modern, with continual improvements being made to dining venues and meeting rooms.

Dick grew up in Whitter, graduated from Whitter College, later served in the Army and became a stockbroker working in downtown Los Angeles. But he soon realized that the life he wanted for his family, including his children Todd and Devon, was down the road in Newport Beach, and he moved here more than 50 years ago.

He became financially successful and then started managing his own assets and then diversifying into more tangible investments such as in hospitality. He mentored his son Todd, along with his son-in-law Kevin Martin, who would later form Eagle Four to pursue such opportunities. Working alongside his family, where they all shared the same office, was a point of great pride for him.

All of this laid the groundwork for Eagle Four to come in during the pandemic to buy the Marriott Newport Beach and the Fashion Island Hotel, which were both transformed into VEA Newport Beach and the Pendry Newport Beach, respectively, during a period of tremendous unrest in the tourism industry due to COVID shutdowns. Up next are the Ritz Carlton Residences which will be built adjacent to VEA with construction underway within the year.

Few knew that he was a competitive softball player in his early days. But many were familiar with his lifelong passion for golf and that he belonged to several golf clubs in the area, including the Vintage Club in Indian Wells.

Kevin and Todd referred to Dick as “Big Daddy” and said that he attended nearly all of his grandkids’ extracurricular events and never talked politics. But he loved all kinds of sports and the world of business. “His great lesson to all of us was to stay humble and fly under the radar. You don’t do good things for the publicity; you do it for the deed,” Kevin said.

In the last few years, he turned his interests to charitable endeavors, recently giving $50 million to create the Richard H. Pickup Center for Brain Health after already giving $15 million to start the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute that bears his name with a large sign on Coast Highway.

He says he was inspired by his pastor Dr. John Huffman at St. Andrews Church who told him, “Don’t give until it hurts. Give until it feels good.”

Dick later said, “It has taken me some time to really get with this program. But now in the last two decades, I have learned the reality of what it means to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. Let me assure you that this feels good to me. What we are now doing for others is the highest form of investment I have ever made and some of the best money I have ever spent. And I know that this will continue to bear rich dividends for others long after I am no longer here.”

But perhaps what is most notable about Dick is that he had the option of putting his considerable wealth anyplace. He could have funded a splashy museum wing in New York or a university building.

Instead, he invested in Newport Beach by putting his money into important assets that are key to our economic and civic vitality and with Hoag that helps protect all our health.

In his quiet and unassuming way, Dick helped make us who we are. He loved his family and his city. And those are qualities we can all embrace. It’s a wonderful legacy to which we can all aspire.

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Visit Newport Beach and Newport Beach & Company.


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