Sam Katz is a lifelong Philadelphian who has experienced a diverse and unique career in public and project finance, venture capital, civic affairs, development, politics and now documentary filmmaking.
Early Career. Sam started his career in Philadelphia in 1974 as an analyst for the Philadelphia Partnership, anon-profit civic organization. There he monitored and assessed major infrastructure projects and Philadelphia city finances. He interacted with many of the city's political and business leaders and became active in local politics.
Public Finance. In 1976 he joined Public Financial Management, Inc., a municipal financial advisory firm. For the next 20 years, as Partner, President, CEO and Co-CEO, Sam built a significant public finance practice in multiple disciplines and led the firm’s growth from two to 200 employees and from one Philadelphia office to sixteen offices throughout the nation. While at PFM, he structured and arranged financing for major infrastructure projects including the Orlando International Airport, major transit systems in LA, Atlanta and Washington, and major league stadiums and arenas in Miami, Baltimore, Portland, Denver, Phoenix, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Both his leadership in transportation and sports facility finance earned him a national reputation for creativity in structuring transactions and for his effectiveness in negotiating complex multi-party deals. During Sam’s tenure and since his departure, PFM became and has continued to be the leading and largest public finance and investment firm in the nation and a major corporate citizen in Philadelphia.
Politics. During his twenties, Sam worked in as a staff member of the campaigns of Lou Hill for Mayor (1975, Democratic Primary), Bill Gray for Congress (1976 Democratic primary) and Bill Green for the U.S. Senate (1976 General Election). His role primarily focused on policy, research and press relations. He was the campaign manager for Bill Gray’s first race for Congress.
During the Philadelphia’s major fiscal crisis in 1991, Sam was a candidate for Mayor in the Republican primary. In that campaign he aggressively articulated the means by which the city might exit its then current dilemma proposing privatizing certain municipal services, restructuring labor agreements, implementing a state oversight/control agency, bonding to fund the deficit and establishing managerial reforms in city government.
Sam sought the Republican nomination for Governor in 1994 performing well in Southeastern PA but losing to former Congressman Tom Ridge who went on to become Governor.
In 1999, again seeking the Philadelphia Mayor’s seat, Sam lost the closest election in the city’s modern history to then City Council President John F. Street. His campaign was endorsed by all of the City’s major newspapers and media outlets and despite the overwhelming registration advantage enjoyed by the Democratic Party, matched his opponent in fundraising. In an election with nearly 450,000 votes cast, the spread between the two candidates was less than 1.5%.
In 2003, he again ran for Mayor against Mayor Street in a campaign that will long be remembered for the FBI's "bug", installed in the Mayor's office, a development that swamped the campaign. Until that event, polls showed a dead heat race in which the Katz campaign was able to raise more than $12.5 million in what became an election that garnered national attention. The race was one of the most memorable in Philadelphia political history and represented a pivot point for a culture of “pay to play” that had long characterized Philadelphia politics. The story of the campaign was the subject of a documentary film, “The Shame of the City”. Sam was soundly defeated in the election when his opponents successfully linked the installation with the bug with Republican dirty tricks and Watergate.
Civic Leadership. In 2000, Sam was appointed as the CEO of Greater Philadelphia First a business civic group focused on regional economic issues. During his tenure at GPF, Sam led an initiative to transform the region’s economic focus to a knowledge based economy, proposed and generated the support from the business community to create a program for multi-year regional location marketing (the survives today at the Chamber of Commerce as Select Greater Philadelphia), expanded the organization’s membership from 25 to 65 companies and established a robust public policy advocacy. Recognizing the dilution of resources and credibility that having both a Chamber of Commerce and GPF meant to the business community, Sam proposed and helped engineer a merger of the two organizations in 2003.
Entrepreneurship. In addition to his public finance and political life, Sam created a venture capital business, Wynnefield Private Equity Partners, to invest in Philadelphia area technology companies. The partnership has experienced superior returns for its limited partners. He helped form BioAdvance, the region's leading investor in biotech start-ups, has served on its board since its founding and currently is serving his second term as Chairman. Together with a group of partners and investors, Sam developed a Native American gaming facility in San Pablo, California, which has been one of the most successful facilities of its kind. Investors in that project, while experiencing a complex route to conclusion, were rewarded with superior returns on their investment.
PICA. In 2011, Sam was appointed to the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), the watchdog and fiscal oversight board for the finances of Philadelphia. He was elected Chair and served in that capacity until February 2014 when he resigned. He has long been actively engaged in and outspoken leader on city financial issues.
Documentary Film Making: Philly History. Over the past five years, Sam has turned to history and film making, producing an epic series on the history of Philadelphia called, “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment”. Nine of the fourteen episodes have been produced and have been or will be aired on 6abc/WPVI-TV. History Making Productions, Sam’s film production house, has received seven EMMY’s awarded by the Mid Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences including for Best Documentary in 2013 and 2014. Sam and his team are also in the early stages of several new film projects on the history of Philadelphia’s women, Urban Trinity: The Story of Catholic Philadelphia, and a series on Philly Innovations starting with motion picture making.
Personal. Sam was born in West Philadelphia, attended the city’s public schools, graduated in 1967 from Central High School and received degrees from Johns Hopkins University (BA 1971) and the New School for Social Research (MA-Urban Policy Analysis, 1974). He and his wife Connie have been married for 42 years. Their four children, Lauren (34), an attorney, Philip (32), a filmmaker, Elizabeth (29), a nurse and Benjamin (26) a U.S. Air Force Lieutenant are successful and independent. Grandsons James Katz and Asa Smith, also Philadelphians, were born in 2014.