“Let me tell you a story one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had as an entrepreneur,” begins Robert Hariri, M.D., Ph.D., cofounder and CEO of Celularity, a 2018 spinout of Celgene. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Hariri was building LifeBankUSA, a cord-blood storage bank and placenta research business (foundational to Celularity), he would sometimes host cocktail nights at the facility. “I'd invite people to learn about the company, and we’d give them a presentation and lab tour,” he continues. Hariri recalls one such gathering that was attended by a very popular community obstetrician who was listening intently during the presentation. Later, the OB introduced himself to Hariri, explaining, “I came tonight because my friends told me this is a really cool company. Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to meet with a wealth management firm to invest a half million bucks my wife and I have been saving for 10 years. However, I’d like to invest $100,000 in your company, on the condition you promise you’re never going to send a statement to my house, and you’re never going to tell my wife I made the investment. If you lose the money, so be it, but I don't want anyone to know I am doing this because my wife will kill me.”
Hariri didn’t see the guy for a number of years, during which LifeBankUSA became Anthrogenesis, and in Nov. 2002, was acquired by Celgene. “Our stock became Celgene stock, which went up a hundredfold in a 10-year period,” Hariri states. “About five years ago, this guy calls, asks if I remember him, and if he can come see me.” (Hariri gets a little choked up telling the story). The obstetrician comes in and says, “After I invested in your company, you sent me a share certificate, which I put it in my drawer and never looked at. Then, when you got acquired by Celgene, this transfer company sent me Celgene shares that I never looked at, and I hid them in my drawer so my wife wouldn’t see. About a month ago, we went to see about getting a mortgage, as we were interested in possibly getting a summer home and wanted to see how much we could borrow. The banker said, “What the hell do you need to borrow money for? You've got $10 million worth of Celgene stock.” The OB nearly fainted at the news. “He gave me credit for changing their lives,” the CEO states. “But he changed mine as well.”
Be sure to read the feature article on Hariri and Celularity in our August issue.