Auditorium in Legacy Hall made possible through generosity of the Lashers

Apr 25, 2016

LasherTo say Stuart Lasher is enthusiastic about the future of the College of Business is an understatement. The 1981 Florida State University graduate is equally passionate about giving back to the college, which he says put him on the right path to his own success as an entrepreneur.

To demonstrate how much his time at FSU meant to him, the finance and accounting graduate and his wife, Karessa, recently made a $400,000 gift that will help build a 100-seat, state-of-the-art auditorium in Legacy Hall, the college’s new home. The first-floor auditorium will be named in their honor.

“The education that I received at FSU was exceptional, but as importantly, I had so many positive personal experiences through my fraternities (Beta Alpha Psi, an honor organization focused on accounting, and Lambda Chi Alpha, a social fraternity) and professors,” said Lasher, founder, chairman and CEO of the private investment firm Quantum Capital Partners Inc., based in Tampa, Fla. “I am very honored to be connected with the college because I see the education and tools they are giving students to prepare them for their future as business leaders. I am also very impressed with the commitment and excited about the future under Dean Michael Hartline and the faculty at the College of Business.”

Lasher added that he timed his gift to be one of Hartline’s first to receive as newly appointed dean. Hartline (pictured), who served as interim dean beginning in July, officially took over his new position on April 1. “I saw Dean Hartline’s energy and excitement about the college and his passion for students and wanted this to be his very first gift,” Lasher said.

“The Lashers’ gift moves us closer to making Legacy Hall a reality, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am, for not only this investment in our future, but also for Stuart’s involvement with our students,” Hartline said. “To have someone of Stuart’s caliber interact with our students ensures that they, like him, receive outstanding personal experiences that enhance their education.”

Lasher, who has spoken at the college a number of times, says he enjoys coming back to campus and seeing motivated, energetic and enthusiastic students. “We need to encourage young people to come up with new ideas and to take risks, but they have to have the skills to be successful,” said Lasher, whose stepson John Pennachio is a sophomore majoring in entrepreneurship at FSU. “The FSU College of Business offers courses from finance to accounting to marketing and management — FSU offers courses in all of the disciplines you need to run a business.”

Lasher began his career at KPMG Peat Marwick, and from 1981 to 1986, he participated in the audits for major companies, such as Publix Supermarkets; General Mills Restaurant Group (now Darden Restaurants), which includes Red Lobster and Olive Garden; and Bright Star Holdings, a hotel and restaurant conglomerate.

From 1986 to 1989, he was senior vice president and CFO and served on the Board of Directors of Silk Greenhouse, a national retailer. While there, the company went public and grew from six stores to 90 and from $6 million to $200 million in annual revenue.

In 1990, Lasher co-founded and served as chairman and CEO of National Business Solutions Inc. (NBS), a professional employer organization based in St. Petersburg, Fla. NBS grew to one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country, with approximately $300 million in annual revenue before it was acquired by Paychex Inc in August 1996.

Lasher and NBS received numerous awards, including being recognized as Inc. magazine’s 57th Fastest Growing Company in 1995. The company also was a finalist for the 1995 Ernst and Young (EY) Florida Entrepreneur of the Year; and winner of the 1996 St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.

In 1998, Lasher founded Quantum Capital Partners, a family office and private firm that invests in restaurants, retail, business services and real estate. In 1999, Quantum invested in Lifestyle Family Fitness, which, at the time, had six locations and $6 million in annual revenues. From 1999 to 2011, Quantum assisted Lifestyle Family Fitness in developing a strategic plan and developing its infrastructure to support the company’s growth to 56 locations and more than $100 million in annual revenue.

Quantum negotiated the sale of the northern clubs of Lifestyle Family Fitness to Life Time Fitness and the sale of the Florida clubs to LA Fitness in July 2012. Lasher served as board chairman of Lifestyle from 2008 through the sale.

Quantum’s current portfolio of investments include PDQ Southern Texas, Fitlife Foods and Positive Lifestyle International (a Tony Little brand). Lasher also serves on the board of directors of Life Time Fitness, a Healthy Way of Life Company based in Minneapolis, Minn. with annual revenues in excess of $1.5 billion. Life Time Fitness was acquired by TPG and Leonard Green in June 2015 for $4 billion.

Lasher also is president of the Lasher Family Foundation and a member of the board of directors of numerous charities, and Quantum Capital Partners is a co-sponsor of the Derrick Brooks Charities’ annual charity golf event.

-- By Barbara Ash

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