M*A*S*H's 'Trapper John' makes his mark as an investor
In addition to his chairmanship of Kleinfeld Bridal, a world-renowned bridal store, he is CEO of a chain of convenience stores, principal owner of a Mississippi barge line, and is on the board of directors of Vishay Intertechnology (VSH), which was on Forbes' 2007 list of the top 100 mid-cap stocks. His next venture, he tells the San Francisco Chronicle, will be to focus his investments on depressed real estate and failed banks.
Rogers' investment career began because of his friendship with another member of 1970's-era television royalty: Columbo's Peter Falk. The two roomed together in New York, where they struggled to break into acting. A few years later, they were both in southern California, working in television. When Falk lost a quarter of a million dollars to a dishonest business manager, Rogers saw it as a wake-up call. He realized that Hollywood's massive paychecks were no guarantee against poverty. After doing a little research, he uncovered the stories of John Wayne, Jackie Coogan and Bud Abbott, all of whom had lost massive amounts of money to poor management.
Realizing that the greatest pitfall facing many actors was an all-too heavy reliance on other people to manage their money, Rogers decided to take the reins of his investments. He started doing his own research and deciding on his own investments.
While working on M*A*S*H, he befriended Lewis (Lew) Wolff, a real estate developer and investor who ran Twentieth Century Fox's realty and investment division. Wolff had an office near the M*A*S*H set, and would regularly meet with Rogers during his downtime. These meetings became longer and longer as Rogers' role as Trapper John was eventually eclipsed by Alda's Hawkeye Pierce.
By 1975, Rogers and Wolff had both decided to leave Twentieth Century Fox, yet they maintained their relationship. The two later became involved in several business deals together and, when Wolff later became managing partner of the Oakland A's baseball team, Rogers was part of the investing group that made the deal possible. Even before that, however, the two worked together to found the Plaza Bank of Commerce in San Jose, which they eventually sold to Comerica.
By the late 1970's, he had developed his own management enterprise business that was involved in real estate, investing and corporate finance. His earliest clients included fellow actors Falk, James Caan and Dragnet star Jack Webb.
Even though he continues to take the occasional dramatic role, most of Rogers's current appearances on TV are as himself: he's often a guest on business news programs, offering stock analysis and investment advice. Ironically, most of his work is for his old employer, Fox, where he is often a guest panelist on the Fox Business News network's Cashin' In show.