From bankrupt alcoholic to millionaire in three years

Bob Fox is had led two lives. In his first life he started off with everything and ended up with nothing. His second life went the other way. Born in Michigan to senior executives at GM, he had a privileged childhood, being educated at a top 25 prep school and then at MIT and Berkeley, he had no shortage of top job offers with global companies. Instead of going down the career route his parents had taken, Bob decided to set up his own company with a couple of guys from Berkeley. They would design and manufacture high end furniture for the domestic and export markets.

Their products proved popular and the company began to expand. Bob moved from a creative design role with a big hand in overseeing production, to more of a leadership role for the company, flying around the world, overseeing the setting up regional operations and shaking lots of hands. By this time, he was married, but spending a lot of time away from home, especially in China. China’s business culture places a particular importance on sharing drinks together. Bob loved this. He loved to do deals over the dinner table and then treat everyone to drinks, karaoke, more drinks, more karaoke and more drinks. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it so much that people started to worry about him.

His partners decided to hold a meeting with him to find out what was going on. Bob convinced them he had it all under control, and he ended up keeping his position. After all, he was the man with the contacts.

Bob figured he was just enjoying himself, but found himself under pressure as the Chinese operation grew. His general manager took on some of Bob’s responsibilities and Bob started to spend long weekends at the casinos in Macau. Still without children, and seeing her husband less and less, his wife filed for divorce. Bob gave her the house in Los Altos Hills and set himself up in a penthouse in Hong Kong.

By this point, everyone knew there was a big problem with Bob. He seemed to be losing control of the operation in China. Several senior people had left the company and joined a local startup. Staff weren’t doing their jobs properly and the number of rejects began to soar. Bob didn’t seem to notice all this as he continued to live the big time lifestyle in Hong Kong and Macau. His partners noticed and tried to perform an intervention with Bob. By this point he didn’t care and ended up agreeing to sell his share of the business but refusing to seek help.

It was two more years before Bob started to get his comeuppance. By now, he was drinking all day every day. He had exhausted all lines of credit and owed money everywhere. There were underworld figures keeping their eyes open for him and Bob decided to take whatever he could and fly back to the US.

He was given a room by his sister, who then convinced him to go into rehab. Bob was now sober and in shock. To him, his marriage, career and downfall all now seemed like a blurry bad dream.

He began to pay his sister rent by working in his brother-in-law’s workshop. He made a list of tools he needed from a site like Drills and Drivers, and started to save for them. Once he had what he needed he made some pieces as thank you gifts for his sister’s family. These pieces caught the attention of their friends, who had Bob design and make custom pieces for them, too.

Fast forward nine months and Bob’s bankruptcy had been discharged, he now had a website and was ready to start producing custom luxury furniture pieces from his brother-in-law’s workshop, with his brother-in-law as a partner. The business saw explosive growth and they soon had to look for new premises to accommodate all the workers and machines they were dealing with. Bob remains involved in the production side of the business and hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol or gambled since returning to the US. He has rebuilt his fortune and is planning on setting up an organization to help executives recognize and deal with addictions.