William Gorelick oral history interview, 2017 May 3
William ("Bill") Gorelick, a prominent Charlotte, North Carolina, business executive and philanthropist, discusses his life, his family, the family businesses, philanthropy, and the history and future of the city of Charlotte. He begins with the story of his parents, Israel and Annie (nee Greenberg) Gorelick, who grew up in a Jewish community in Russia and emigrated to the Americas during the 1920s. In this portion of the interview, he describes Annie's migration from Russia to New York around 1920, Israel's work as a peddler in Mexico and Guatemala during the 1920s, the marriage of Israel and Annie in Guatemala in 1928, and their movements from Guatemala to New York to Gaffney, South Carolina, and finally to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they settled in 1933. Mr. Gorelick describes his childhood, during which he experienced World War II rationing, as well as anti-Semitic taunts from other children. He recalls his college years at UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated from the Wharton School in 1956. In the middle section of the interview, he discusses his family's consumer finance business, which his brother Shelton helped to establish, along with a cousin, before Mr. Gorelick returned from college. It began as an enterprise offering small loans, in amounts as low as $10, to working-class customers in the region. This business, which eventually became a public company (i.e., one that raised capital by issuing stock to the public) called CMC Finance Group., grew during the 1950s and 1960s, eventually comprising several dozen consumer finance companies in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Mr. Gorelick discusses the business model of this company, which in its early years was limited by state law to charging no more than six percent interest on its loans but managed to make profits by charging various fees to customers. Mr. Gorelick describes the diversification of the company into the market for home mortgages and second mortgages and the financing of automobile insurance, as well as the company's difficulties competing with credit cards, as those became ubiquitous in the late twentieth-century economy. In the later part of the interview Mr. Gorelick describes the merger of CMC Finance Group and the Georgia Railroad Bank and Trust Co. (which occurred in 1973-74), the first in a series of bank mergers acquisitions that would eventually leave the last remnants of the original Gorelick-led businesses in the hands of giant banks, such as Wells Fargo. Mr. Gorelick also describes the real estate investments he and his brother made in the Charlotte area, as part of an enterprise led by their cousin, Abraham Luski. In the final part of the interview, Mr. Gorelick discusses Gorelick Brothers Capital, the investment business now led by his sons, Todd and Rael, his views on philanthropy, and some memories of his wife Patricia. He ends by reflecting on the past, present, and future of the city of Charlotte.
William “Bill” Gorelick was an 82-year-old man at the time of interview, which took place at his office in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was born in Charlotte in 1934. He was educated at Elizabeth Grammar School, Alexander Graham Junior High, and Central High School in Charlotte, at UNC Chapel Hill, and at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and was employed as a consumer financier and investor in Charlotte.