What the pair, who lunch together at
least twice a month, have in common at the core are their roots
in Washington Heights. When they were coming of age, this
blue-collar enclave of parks and stunning riverside vistas,
populated by Irish and German-Jewish immigrants (many of the
latter refugees from Nazi Germany), was beginning to succumb to
urban decay. By the 1970s, when Dubin and Swieca were in high
school, the Heights was chiefly known for being the birthplace
of graffiti -- popularized by neighborhood figures like "Taki
183," who lived on 183rd Street and whose ubiquitous scrawled
signatures symbolized New York City's blight to many. By the
1980s, long after most of the Irish and the German Jews had
fled, the Heights had become the crack cocaine center of New
In this deteriorating environment, the
two grew up striving, in the New York version of the classic
American dream, for something better -- beyond the confines of
the old neighborhood. Not that they ever left the Heights
completely behind; elements of the old neighborhood remain with
them, indelible as graffiti, in everything from the names of
their funds to their outlook on life. "Growing up in a
working-class family and neighborhood instilled important
values and made me ambitious," says Dubin, who is of Russian
and Austrian Jewish descent.
His U.S.-born father labored for most of
his life as a taxi driver until he went to work with Dubin's
uncle, a dress manufacturer. Dubin's mother, an
émigré from Austria, was a homemaker. Swieca's
parents were Polish Holocaust survivors who emigrated to the
U.S. from France in 1955. His father, an accountant, gave Henry
an appreciation of classical music (and a dislike of
accounting). His parents' wartime experience fostered his
interest in history.
Before they'd even reached their teens
Dubin and Swieca took part-time jobs, the former scaling fish
at Frank's Fish Market in the neighborhood, the latter cleaning
shelves at the bookstore in the Port Authority George
Washington Bridge bus terminal at 178th Street. "We were always
commercially driven," says Dubin. But they had lots of other
interests as well. Dubin, for instance, learned to play the
guitar; Swieca, who used to blast the Rolling Stones from his
room, notes dryly, "I played the harmonica."
Dubin captained the football and
wrestling teams at Kennedy High and later the football squad at
Stony Brook as a running back and outside linebacker. At the
same time, he edited the college newspaper. "Competing in
sports has been a very important part of my life," he says.
"I'm competitive, driven and focused." Tennis opponents like
his good friend Paul Tudor Jones II, the famous founder of
hedge fund Tudor Investment Corp., might well attest to that.
"He's only beaten me once in 20 years," Dubin reports.
Swieca, by contrast, was the nonathlete.
He remembers once refusing to follow Dubin on a physically
demanding and precarious climb up steep ledges at Fort Tryon
Park. "I thought the risk-reward wasn't good," says Swieca,
smiling. "Glenn was more of a risk taker." Besides, he adds,
"my mother would have killed me."
Tragedy struck the Swieca family when
Henry was off at college. In 1976, when he was 19, his mother
died of Lou Gehrig's disease, and six months later his father
died of a heart attack. Dubin's parents welcomed Swieca into
their home, where he often stayed during college breaks. "He
essentially became part of the family," Dubin recalls.
Swieca met his future wife, Estee
Tobaly, through Dubin; she was a friend of a girl that Dubin
was dating. The Swiecas today have four children. It was Estee
who proposed that Dubin and Swieca go into business together.
Dubin eventually married a former Miss Sweden and Ford model,
Eva Andersson, who is a corporate physician. She and Dubin have
Upon graduating from Stony Brook --
Dubin in 1978 with a degree in economics and Swieca in 1979
with a degree in economics and French -- they both became
stockbrokers. Dubin joined E.F. Hutton & Co.; Swieca,
Merrill Lynch & Co. Inspired by his dentist uncle, a stock
market investor, Swieca had been trading the $50,000 he'd
inherited from his parents since his senior year in college. He
later used Dubin as his broker. "He wouldn't pay any
commissions," Dubin says. "He still dislikes paying
Swieca made a tidy profit on South
African gold mine stocks during the inflationary upsurge of the
late 1970s. He used part of the money to send his younger
brother to medical school. "I bought heavily on margin," he
recalls. He quit Merrill after two years to enroll at Columbia