SAYING GOODBYE TO A TRUE INDUSTRY LEADER
Come September 30, Mike Roman is going to retire. There’s a good chance that as recently as the spring of this year, when he made the announcement, most people who know Mike just couldn’t imagine him retiring. He seems such a permanent part of the jewelry industry.
But retire he will and his departure will leave a great gap, for Michael D. Roman – at least since he took the job as chairman and chief executive of Jewelers of America – has been a dominating force in the jewelry world. Until the sale of the JA shows to Blenheim in 1991, much of Mike’s business strength came from JA’s ownership and management of the shows. Interestingly enough, his prime interest since the sale – improving and professionalizing education for the jeweler – ultimately will have a far greater influence on the industry than the shows ever had.
Mike Roman’s role as a leader has less to do with the shows or with education programs than with personality. He’s the sort of person who, when he walks into a meeting or a roomful of people, changes the chemistry of the meeting or the conversation. Part of the strength of personality comes from firmly-held convictions; part of the aura belongs to the old-time pol who knows how to work a crowd or turn an issue to his advantage.
“Mike’s tough,” one of his acquaintances recalled a few years ago. “Remember, he did time schlepping a watch line around Chicago when he was a young man. He learned to be a good street fighter. He had to.”
That’s the side of Mike Roman that’s most familiar to people in the jewelry business. The tough, no-nonsense executive who likes to get things done, and preferably to get them done his way. In that role, Mike had many admirers, but he had detractors, too, those who resented his at times authoritarian view of the industry and his tendency to shrug off as irrelevant those who didn’t agree with him.
But there’s another side that’s less familiar. It was one pictured by JCK’s editors a few years ago when they did a cover story on Mike the family man. What emerged in that portrait was a caring husband and father who, after an at times harsh and demanding childhood, grew into a determined, self-made man. The obvious deep affection that binds the Roman family together is very genuine.
Over the years, I’ve disagreed with Mike from time to time, but rarely for long. I’ve also had the real pleasure of sharing some very pleasant times with him. He is an outstanding jewelry citizen and his active participation in jewelry affairs will be missed. We wish him well in retirement.