Having a Pension for Life Clark/Bardes Leader Takes Risks Himself, but Lowers Them for Clients

By Comerford, Mike | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 26, 1997 | Go to article overview

Having a Pension for Life Clark/Bardes Leader Takes Risks Himself, but Lowers Them for Clients


Comerford, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Business profile

Name: Tom Wamberg

Position: Chairman and largest shareholder in Clark/Bardes Inc.

Age: 44

Residence: Barrington Hills

Business: Based in North Barrington and Dallas, Clark/Bardes designs life insurance packages to support executive and other retirement packages. It also provides operational support.

Revenue: $70 million

Employees: 100

Personal interests: Republican fund-raising, off-road racing, flying jets, hunting, golf, travel

At 44 years old, Barrington Hills resident Tom Wamberg is the head of a $70 million-a-year company that recently announced a major merger and is planning to go public as early as next year.

In turns, he is also a jet pilot, hunter, golfer, national Republican fund-raiser, art collector, father of seven and top-notch off-road race car driver who completed in the Baja 1,000 earlier this month.

He is so energetic and individual he defies easy description, except to say he knows his business.

As the chairman and top shareholder of Clark/Bardes Inc., with headquarters in North Barrington, Wamberg has been presiding over the booming growth of a niche industry.

Using life insurance mechanisms to fund and secure retirement packages is an industry that is growing as companies move to adjust to tax laws and reduce their long-term exposure to retirement costs.

Clark/Bardes got into the industry early.

"I was about 26 years old (when I started) and there were about six people in the firm," Wamberg said in his North Barrington office, which is busy with pictures of him meeting with Presidents Reagan and Bush, artwork from his travels, a model of the 8-seat jet he flies out of the Lake in the Hills Airport and, of course, off-road racing memorabilia.

The firm now has about 190 employees.

"It was an idea in its infancy at the time," he remembers. "Bob Clark (one of the two founders) sat across from me smoking cigars and I was smoking cigarettes at the time. ... We began to think of how to use life insurance products to fund executive benefit programs at large companies."

It was an idea ready for takeoff.

Companies were looking for ways to pay top executives retirement compensation without exposing both the company and the executives to risks. Traditional guaranteed pension plans carry salary government-mandated caps, which means additional money set aside would not be protected from cutbacks or bankruptcy of the firm. But life insurance plans offer more alternatives. …

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