Take 10 is a series of occasional features on prominent local residents and the possessions dear to them.
To become CEO of Plank Industries, Tom Geddes didn’t follow the career track you might expect — studying business and working his way up the corporate ladder.
The Homeland resident took a more “circuitous route,” as he puts it, which he said gave him just the right training for his role managing all of Kevin Plank’s family investments, as well as his businesses and philanthropy efforts outside of Under Armour — a job he clearly relishes, as many of his ten favorite possessions bear out.
His path to becoming the right-hand man to one of America’s top business leaders didn’t even begin in America. Geddes grew up outside London and came to the U.S. in 1996 at age 18, as a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying history and specializing in the early 20th century, the end of the British Empire.
After he graduated, Geddes spent a year teaching at a private school in Seattle, where he met his wife, Amy. The two maintained a long distance relationship for the next year, as he returned to England and graduate school at the University of Cambridge.
Another grad school stint — this one at Johns Hopkins University — brought both of them to Baltimore.
“I thought, at that point, that I might be an academic,” he said. “We had gotten married. We were thinking about a family. You’re making a decision at that point you’re going to go wherever the job is around the country or around the world.”
But one issue complicated that plan: He and Amy had fallen in love again, this time with Baltimore. Moving away was not an option.
“I think academics is almost not too different than the priesthood. It is a calling, and it is a commitment. So, I think maybe I had a lapse of faith,” Geddes said with a wry smile.
Geddes taught high school and college courses for a couple of years, and then transitioned into nonprofit management before going into wealth management.
In 2012, Geddes had been pitching Plank on his firm’s services, when the Under Armour founder turned the tables, pitching him the job opportunity of a lifetime.
“[He said] ‘I have ideas about things I’d like to do, and the impact I’d like to have on Baltimore. But, I can’t divert my attention from Under Armour to do it,’” Geddes said.
At the time, the only “outside project” was Plank’s race horse-breeding facility, Sagamore Farm.
Five years later, it’s quite a different story. Plank Industries now encompasses: Sagamore Development, which — among other things — has South Baltimore’s gigantic Port Covington project in the works; City Garage, a startup incubator; Sagamore Spirit Distillery, which debuted its signature rye last year; and the Sagamore Pendry Hotel, which opened its doors in Fells Point this March.
Not that Geddes has completely left teaching behind. These days, his “class” consists of his daughters, Lauren, 10, and Betsy, 6.
“I feel like I’m uniquely positioned to do an awful lot of good for Baltimore from both an investment and philanthropy perspective. [I hope] that my kids grow up seeing that as an example and understand that when you’re put in a position where you have resources and opportunity at your disposal, that you grab it and do the best with it that you possibly can,” he said.
Tom Geddes’ 10 favorite possessions:
Suit of armor, a gift from Kevin Plank
“It’s a great conversation piece and sometimes it takes people a moment to make the Under Armour connection, so it’s kind of fun. It’s late 19th century, from Germany. In that period, there was a big revival of medievalism; they were very interested in things from that era. It’s not 500 years old, but it is about 130 years old.”
“Kevin was the vision behind it, and I was involved from day one with getting that business established and off the ground. [Four years later,] it’s now running semi-independently. So for me to see the distillery that is so beautiful, so great in scale and size, and see the business that they’re building — to have been involved in it has been very satisfying. Plus, I love the product.”
Two favorite watches
“One was my grandfather’s. I was named for him. He died when I was relatively young, but the stories told about him and who he was as a person had an outsized influence on me growing up because the first thing everybody used to say about him [was] that he was a good man.
“The other watch is one made here in Baltimore by the Towson Watch Company. We have an ownership position in the company. I love this watch in particular because it’s made for the Pride of Baltimore, the Pride II. The face of the watch is in the shape of the bow of the ship. No matter where you are in the world and somebody spots that watch, suddenly you’re talking about Baltimore.”
“It’s a nod to my British roots, even though I became an American citizen in 2008. I keep that on my desk, and when I’m on long phone calls, I have it in my hand. It reminds me of being a kid. It’s the sport that I played and loved the most.”
Cufflinks, a gift from interior designer Patrick Sutton
“They have the three diamonds [logo] that all of our brands have, so I like them for that reason. And [it reminds me of how] Patrick has done amazing work for us — most recently at the hotel, which is an absolute marvel of design and is attracting global attention.”
“The children are older than that now. Why I love that picture is that — even though it was a few years ago and Betsy was so little — it captures their personalities really, really well.”
Note from Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“In 2008, the first African American [Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton] was elected as Episcopal bishop of Maryland. When that happened, Archbishop Tutu offered to come to Baltimore to help celebrate that occasion. I was involved in that visit and spent the day with him. Growing up as apartheid fell apart, that was a very important, informative geopolitical moment for me as a kid. So Tutu has always been an icon for me.”
“Nantucket is where Amy and I and the girls spend time every summer. The clock was a gift to me from my chief of staff here for Christmas.”
City Garage T-shirt
“I’m kind of a blazer guy most of the time. But, this tee tells the story of who I am on the weekend.”
Photo with President Barack Obama
“I became a citizen just in time to vote for him the first time in 2008. In the last year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him a little bit and that’s obviously been very special. He’s somebody whom I respect for who he is as a person and as a leader. I also relate to his fairly intellectual leadership style. It resonates with me.”