In February, when Marc Adler began to seriously consider selling Macquarium, his successful Atlanta web services company, the first thoughts that came to mind were not about consulting mergers and acquisition specialists, or of hiring a prestigious Wall Street banking firm to advise him. Rather, his first thoughts were of his young son, not yet a year old.
Adler, who started his family late in life, is now almost 50. The fear of missing his son’s first birthday as a busy corporate entrepreneur was a decisive factor in putting Macquarium up for sale.
“I said, I need to do this for myself, I need to do it for my son and to enjoy it as a father. I need to shift gears into another mode,” he told the AJT.
Adler had launched Macquarium while still an undergraduate at Emory in the early 1990s as a way to build websites for corporations that didn’t realize he was still in school. One of his first clients was the Atlanta-based The Weather Channel, which came to him with what seemed like a simple but nearly impossible task.
The company wanted Adler to build web pages that would allow anyone, anywhere, to look up the latest weather forecast. The site Adler and his young crew of web developers quickly came up with, was, for the next decade, among the most popular in the world.
Today, nearly 30 years later, the firm counts blue-chip companies like the Southern Company, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Home Depot, Equifax, UPS, Wells Fargo and Delta among their clients. It has also provided a strong revenue stream that has allowed Adler to build an investment portfolio well primed for the millions he is expected to net from the Macquarium sale.
Freed from corporate management responsibilities, Adler feels that he can not only be a better father, but a better son. In that sense, he is following a family tradition. His maternal grandfather, Aaron Farfel, came to America in 1910 as a poor, four-year-old immigrant from Lithuania. Forty years later, after building a successful accounting business in Houston, Farfel gave it all up to spend more time with his family as a full-time investor.
He was instrumental in developing and building the Houston Astrodome and helped to bring Major League Baseball to the city. He capped off a career of public service and philanthropy by serving as the chairman and member of the University of Houston Board of Regents for 16 years. It’s a record that still stands 50 years later.
Adler, who was only a teenager when his grandfather died, wants to spend as much time as possible in Houston, where he was born. His 82-year-old mother and 87-year-old father still run the family foundation there and are active supporters of the arts and local Jewish community.
“We have a very small family. My dad is an only child, I’m an old child and my son’s an only child. I want to take more time for everything that a family has to offer and be able to relish those moments, because those are moments you can’t get back,” he said.
In fact, Adler credits the many relationships he has established, both within and outside his family, for the steady success he has enjoyed. He claims distinguished Emory business professor Benn Konsynski as an early mentor and attributes many important accomplishments to “all these incredibly brilliant people who were willing to work with me.”
So, when he was ready to finalize the sale of his company earlier this year, Adler chose an offer based less on the bottom line than on the potential for a good fit with the buyer, global business and technology consulting firm Synoptek. The company’s CEO had long-standing personal ties to Atlanta and shared similar personal values.
The new firm will remain in the large office building that Adler owns on Peachtree Street near The Temple, he said. So, even though he has sold the company, he’ll stay on as Synoptik’s landlord. Macquarium will serve as a company-wide resource for its new owners and help them to expand their reach in the Southeast.
The deal closed, last month, just in time for Adler to celebrate Father’s Day with his family in what he sees as a new life that is just starting at 50.
“I remember reading in the High Holy Days prayer something about birth being a beginning and life a journey,” he recalled. “We see the victory, the passage said, not in some high point along the way, but in having made the journey, step by step. This year I’ll be looking forward to walking another path and taking steps as a new father.”