How David Grutman, Miami's Nightlife Kingpin, Turned LIV Into America's Biggest Club

This isn't good. The S.S. Groot — David Grutman's $1.7 million VanDutch yacht, a black beast that looks less like a boat and more like a spaceship one would take to travel to a planet reserved for very important aliens — is broken.

Normally, this would be just an inconvenience, but today it's a monumental pain in the ass.

To start, Grutman is supposed to take EDM hotshot Marshmello out for a spin in six hours. It's also Fourth of July weekend and three days before Grutman's 42nd birthday. Oh, and Justin Bieber is coming to town. Bieber loves the S.S. Groot.

So despite the fact that he's just spent a full hour at the gym, Grutman is at about seven out of ten on the rage scale, his raspy voice tumbling throughout his waterfront home and bouncing into a tiny diorama carved into his wall in which two little Lego people are enjoying doggy-style sex in a little Lego bathroom stall.

"You don't know how fucking mad I am right now," Grutman says in the middle of his kitchen. He's a stout man, thick with chipmunk cheeks and a permanent 5-o'clock shadow. There's a boyish quality to the way he moves, like the jumpiness of a kid who just walked into Toys "R" Us.

But VanDutch must have some idea of how fucking mad he is because the new parts for the boat are being overnighted and a temporary loaner is already on the way. So Grutman retracts to about a three out of ten and goes in for a closer look at the protein ice cream a random company just mailed him.

Then the phone rings. Grutman picks up. It's a cold call. The person on the other end informs Grutman he's in business with a Miami developer and wants to know, in Grutman's professional opinion, whether his new Wynwood nightclub should be open until 5 a.m. versus 3 a.m. Grutman's brown eyes catch fire. He's speechless, but only for a second, which is about the ceiling on his ability to be speechless.

"Let me ask you something," he counters. "You're a smart guy, right?" The mystery man concedes, warily, that he is indeed. "Then why would you ever waste my time with such a stupid question?"

Now Grutman is back up around an eight, eight and a half. It's one of the busiest weekends of his summer, and instead of doing something useful — like eating random protein ice cream — he's fielding a question so astronomically moronic it would make his cat Winker roll an eye. (Winker has only one eye, by the way.)

The ice cream is starting to go soupy. It's not even noon yet.

But no matter the time of day, David Grutman is David Grutman, which is to say a Quesalupa of overwhelming qualities: He can be, admittedly, an asshole. He has the attention span of a bubble and the energy of a toddler who's been marinated in Mountain Dew. He will always tell you if you have a visible booger. Hulk Hogan says he's one of the greatest men he's ever met, and Kim Kardashian calls him "fascinating." He's also at the peak of an impossibly successful run at the top of Miami nightlife, an industry he has helped shape.

LIV, Grutman's nightclub nestled beneath the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, has been the highest-grossing club in Miami for the past five years and one of the most successful in America. Last year alone, the club brought in nearly $50 million in revenue. He runs another South Beach disco called Story and a swank new 275-seat restaurant in Brickell called Komodo. His team is working on opening an old-school roller rink. There's a Miami Beach hotel in his future too, he hopes.

Miraculously, Grutman seems to have found the one career on this planet that rewards the same qualities that make him such a difficult human. In 20 years, people will talk about his clubs the same way we talk about Studio 54 today. The go-to cliché when discussing Grutman is to call him "the king of Miami nightlife." But he's after more than success — much more.

"I just love dominating," Grutman says as he sits in his backyard, while his dog Charlie, a goofy English setter, paddles laps in the nearby pool. "People are like, 'What's your hobby?' I'm like, 'Dominating. That's my fucking hobby.' "

Grutman wasn't exactly popular growing up, but he always commanded attention. Right: LIV's booming success has moved the 42-year-old to the top of Miami's nightlife scene.EXPAND
Grutman wasn't exactly popular growing up, but he always commanded attention. Right: LIV's booming success has moved the 42-year-old to the top of Miami's nightlife scene.
Prom photo courtesy of David Grutman / Portrait by

The intern is still missing in action.

Last night, Grutman loaned the 20-year-old Duke student to a gentleman named Kirill Bichutsky, a photographer-turned-social-media-presence who goes by "slutwhisperer" on Instagram and earns a living pouring champagne on women while documenting it all on his phone.

The last Grutman saw of his intern was on Bichutsky's Snapchat, in LIV's VIP section, his eyes closed and head resting peacefully on a single pillowy breast. Grutman will show this photo to everyone he meets over the next 24 hours, finding it funnier and funnier with each repetition. But when the intern finally shuffles into the backyard about two hours late, Grutman's sense of humor fades.

"Real quickly, man. It's OK to go out and have fun and do all that," he says. A giggle is sparking within the intern, but Grutman snuffs it out. "No, it's not a joke. I have promoters that will get fucked up and do stupid shit, and then they ask if they could be off. There's no off, man."

The intern's exact role in Grutman's life is unclear. A lean blond who has dutifully accepted his place at the butt of all jokes, the kid is part employee, part source of entertainment. Grutman made him an Instagram account (@internluke) and forces a random assortment of A-list celebrities to pose on it.

Grutman's management technique relies heavily on what he calls the "emotional bank account." He withdraws in the form of chastisement and, hopefully before overdrafting, deposits some niceties. "I build people up so when it comes time for me to crush them..." Grutman tapers off and shrugs like, Well, you've seen for yourself, buddy.

But before Grutman can shift back into telling his life story to the reporter beside him, something catches his eye. "Did you cut yourself? Let me see."

He motions for the intern to lift his head, revealing a chicken-nugget-size gash on the bottom of his chin. "It was a rough night, man," the intern says.

He's sent inside to clean up, where Grutman's wife of three months, 24-year-old fashion model Isabela Rangel, decides he needs stitches. "Stitches!" Grutman wheezes. She tilts her head at her husband and fires off one of those looks couples invent to quickly and silently convey, Cut the shit. "Baby, don't make fun of him," she says through a Brazilian accent.

Isabela is very good at the seemingly impossible task of reeling in her new husband. When Hulk Hogan — one of Grutman's best friends — met her, he told his buddy: "This one's gold." Patient, warm, and engaging, she acts as a sort of Spackle to his emotional gaps. The one thing the two do share, though, is a low tolerance for bullshit.

So Grutman pulls out his cell phone, and in a few seconds he has Dr. David A. Farcy, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center on the line. "I'm home. If he needs a stitch, I can do it," Farcy says in the tone of a friend who just agreed to let you use his Netflix password.

But as the intern departs to get his chin mended, something happens to Grutman. His anger begins to melt into sympathy, for he too was young and dumb once.

He entered the world in the antithesis of South Beach glitz: Naples, Florida, a wealthy city that moves at a manatee's pace. His parents (both fraternal twins) met at Long Island University. His father, Charles, taught his mom Hettie's corporate finance class. Hettie hated the course but liked the professor.

They raised David, a curious only child, in Naples. His mom was a real-estate agent, and his dad sold title insurance for SunTrust. When David was 6, they divorced, and he spent his early years with his mom (and their cat Poopsy). She would often take him to clients' dinner parties, where he had no trouble conversing with adults. One time, Hettie remembers, a "high-level representative from Israel" came up to her at a party and informed her: "David and I were having a conversation about Israel, and he knows as much as I do."

As a teen, he lived mostly with his father, who was also based in Naples. For high school, Grutman's parents decided to send their son to Darlington, an elite coed boarding school in Rome, Georgia, that looks a lot like what might happen if you converted Mitt Romney into an estate. Established in 1905, the 400-acre campus an hour outside of Atlanta looks like a stock photo of affluence, its red-brick buildings hugging an eggplant-shaped lake.

"On your birthday, he was the first one to get a load of guys to throw you into the lake," Frank Sparti remembers. Sparti spent three years living four doors down from Grutman in the dorm. On birthdays, the tradition went, students were tossed into the lake like squirming trout. And no one loved this tradition more than Grutman.

He and Sparti weren't friends. Sparti was, as he recalls, a pretty big dork who flew under the radar. Grutman, though, was on everyone's radar. You knew him because you had no choice.

His bag of high jinks ran deep. He flushed toilets while other students were in the shower, sending scalding-hot water pouring over naked teens. He was an avid slap-boxer and once even challenged the crotchety old teacher Mr. Burch to a match, only to learn — after a few bruises — that Mr. Burch was a Golden Gloves Army vet.

Grutman wasn't quite the popular kid of Darlington, but he did have a way about him, as one who spends his days inflicting tiny acts of torture on his classmates must have in order not to be pummeled on a daily basis. "Now charming, I'll give him," Sparti admits. "He reminded me of Bart Simpson... David could talk — like, really well."

But Grutman's impulsiveness could also flex itself in more noble ways. Sparti remembers a couple of friends who, in an act of teenage rebellion, "decided to shave their heads and strap on some Doc Martins." The whole skinhead routine was mostly just to piss off their parents. Still, Grutman wasn't having it. "[Dave] was the first to, unabashedly and unafraid, just go up and give them just as much asshole as they deserved," Sparti recalls.

He could be fun too. One time, at one of those awkward dances where everyone stares at the floor like it's made of spiders, Grutman somehow got the entire room doing the choreography to "Ice Ice Baby."

But the fun ended eventually. The last day of his junior year, Grutman and a couple of pals tossed a cherry bomb into a toilet, and — kaboom — he had to finish his last year back home in Naples at Barron G. Collier High School.

Sparti doesn't remember what Grutman calls "the fireworks incident," but that sure does sound like something he would have done. "He wasn't trying to blend in," Sparti says. "He wanted to start something — good or bad."

Grutman met Hulk Hogan after LIV opened, and the two have been close friends since.
Grutman met Hulk Hogan after LIV opened, and the two have been close friends since.
Seth Browarnik/

Kim Kardashian picks up on the first ring. "Why on Earth would you do a story on Dave Grutman?" she asks in that voice that's been seared into your subconscious via years' worth of reality television.

She's joking, of course. "He probably is one of the funniest, most fascinating people I know," she says. Kardashian has known Grutman for nearly a decade, or, as he puts it, since she was just "Paris' hot friend," which somehow sounds less offensive coming out of his mouth than it is. Whenever the Kardashian clan would come to town, he would graciously host them at his house.

Is it safe to say LIV is her favorite club in Miami? "Absolutely," she says, and if there is such a thing as a PR orgasm, it is currently erupting all over Grutman's kitchen, where two PR reps, his wife, and the intern have all gathered to listen. Grutman, meanwhile, scurried out of the room after handing over the phone.

But isn't it tricky, as a celebrity, to walk the line between friendship and business? After all, every time Grutman brings a Kardashian to any of his establishments, it's invaluable press. "Oh, I don't think it's ever been like that, though," Kim says. "It's always just been, if you want to hang out, let's all just hang out."

Grutman, who has now snuck back into the room, claps after this statement, pointing two fingers in the air like he just blocked a layup. If there were a bucket of Gatorade nearby, he'd be dumping it on himself.

There are two pretty obvious pills that need to be swallowed along with Kim's praise. First, she's doing Grutman a favor by taking time to speak to a newspaper she's never heard of, so, naturally, she's going to say favorable things. Also, there's no way Grutman would feed a journalist one of the most powerful celebrities on Earth unless he were 99 percent sure it would make him look good. "He has the biggest heart. He loves his friends so much, and he just is such a good person," Kim gushes. See?

Still, there's also good reason to be impressed. Kim surely has a stadium full of better things to be doing with her time. So Grutman must be a genuine friend, right?

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"Totally genuine — like, it's not even a question. I wouldn't be doing this interview," she laughs, as if even she can't believe she's doing this, "if I felt that it was anything but that."

She hangs out with Grutman not because he has Kourtney hogtied to a railroad track somewhere, but because she wants to. "And he's always been involved in, like, the hottest thing going on in Miami, so why wouldn't we want to?"

Well, not always, Kim. After he graduated from the University of Florida with a finance degree in 1997, Grutman wanted to head down to Miami and tend bar for a bit, live out his own version of the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, which to him looked like a guaranteed blueprint for happiness.

Sadly, no place in South Beach would hire a self-described "chubby Jew." So he had to settle for a bartending gig at Aventura Mall, a place that resembles Cocktail about as much as it does The Last Samurai. Still, Grutman was excited to go to work.

"I was a great bartender," he remembers. He could multitask and schmooze with the best of them. He genuinely liked people (a fascination that's since faded, he notes).

His love of hospitality led him to his first nightlife gig as the general manager of Fort Lauderdale's Velvet Lounge. But Grutman never stopped nourishing the connections he made at Aventura Mall, from the chefs up to the CEOs. "People fuck people over for a hundred bucks," Grutman says — but not him. "I don't do shit that's not in the ethical realm."

Not anymore, at least. When a competitor offered Grutman the chance to be an owner at a new venue in town called Stereo, he jumped ship from Velvet. "I didn't do it the right way," he admits. He did his best to leave Velvet a mess on his way out. "I stole contact lists... I did whatever I could." And it still wasn't enough. "I failed miserably."

How David Grutman, Miami's Nightlife Kingpin, Turned LIV Into America's Biggest Club
Photo by

With a wake of enemies and mishaps trailing him, a cozy office in Naples was looking more and more appealing. But then the 26-year-old got a call from Tantra, a restaurant and lounge in Miami Beach that was looking to boost its nightlife.

He was there for five years, throwing events and learning his most valuable lesson: the power of celebrity. One time, Janet Jackson came in, and Grutman watched patrons look up in utter disbelief, tuna tartare dripping from their open mouths, as if God herself had just interrupted dinner. He never forgot that. Later he earned the attention of Miami's Opium Group — the city's biggest nightlife company at the time — when he threw a celeb-stuffed New Year's Eve party. Before the confetti could be swept up, Opium poached him in 2004.

"I came in and fucking crushed it," he says. Grutman developed a technique for netting celebrities: He would go straight for the publicists — who, it turns out, like feeling like celebrities themselves — and fly them down for the weekend, all expenses paid. Once he had their clients, he learned how to monetize them. "I would... put in the press release, 'So-and-so was drinking Belvedere,' or whatever it was — and it looked organic, and I saw how sponsors loved that so much," he says.

Grutman's system was effective and new to Miami nightlife. He built himself a foundation, both professionally and personally, at Opium for five years. When he turned 30, he got married to a girl named Jennifer Sybers. Everything was starting to come together. And the next step, he thought, was to become a partner at Opium.

But Opium Group execs didn't feel the same way. Grutman was angry but accepted their decision — until another opportunity arose. In 2007, a new Washington Avenue club called Cameo was opening. The people behind it wanted to make Grutman an owner.

When he told the folks at Opium, they backpedaled, finally offering him what he had wanted: to become a partner. But it was too late. Grutman was pissed it had taken them this long, so he left to join Cameo and started his own side project called Miami Marketing Group. "I went right after them," he says.

If Opium's big nights were Friday and Saturday, then they'd be Cameo's big nights too. Grutman booked the best DJs he could find. He filled his VIP section with famous faces, threw Christina Aguilera a birthday party, and did everything he could to drive Opium out of business.

"And I failed. I failed because every day I woke up and I was like, 'OK, how can I hurt them?' " he says. Grutman didn't care about Cameo. "I just wanted to prove to them that I could do it on my own."

But he couldn't. The venture cost him about $250,000 of his own money, and he had to get out. Eventually, two years after Cameo opened, guess who bought the flailing club? Opium Group.

"I went back with my tail between my legs, and I apologized to those guys a lot," Grutman says. For the second time in his short career, he had done his best as an owner and came up short.

But six months after he bailed on Cameo, his phone rang. It was Jeff Soffer, whose family — which owned Aventura Mall, where Grutman got his start — had just launched a $1 billion renovation of the Fontainebleau, a historic but outdated hotel where Frank Sinatra used to hang. But Sinatra was dead, and Soffer told Grutman they wanted him to take the lead on the hotel's new club. "OK," Grutman said, "but I don't want any partners. If I do it, it's going to be my show from start to finish."

Maybe Grutman was expecting a negotiation, but he didn't get one.

"No problem," Soffer said, and handed him the metaphorical keys to his future.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were two A-list celebs at Grutman's Wynwood wedding.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were two A-list celebs at Grutman's Wynwood wedding.
Seth Browarnik/

Nick Jonas almost sounds afraid over speakerphone, his vocal cords wrapped in the shaky hesitation that comes when a friend busts you for not inviting him along. He's trying to explain to Grutman that — shit, Dave, sorry, but they're already in the car.

When not tending to bloody employees, Grutman has spent a good part of his day running through a mental grocery list of celebrities in town he might be able to persuade to come to LIV: There was Emeril Lagasse — he'd had dinner with him the previous night. Bieber's flight probably won't land in time, but, oh, Jonas and Demi Lovato are in for a concert. So Grutman gave Jonas a ring to invite him to his year-old Brickell restaurant, Komodo.

But he's too late. Jonas and Lovato are already en route to another place, in Little Havana.

Grutman won't accept this. No, no, no, he tells Jonas, Komodo first — then, later, sure, whatever. But what the hell? He's not going to come by to eat? Really, Nick? Seriously?

Nick will talk to Demi and see what he can do. Three minutes later, he calls back. They'll be there soon.

Grutman still hasn't taken his own mother to Komodo (he's surprised when he realizes this, but maintains that he prefers a home-cooked meal when she's around), yet he's just netted two A-listers in less time than it takes others to make a Toaster Strudel.

Calling Grutman persuasive is like calling a bullet fast. It's true, yes, but the only way to get an honest appreciation for just how fast is to stand behind a marksman and bear witness. He gets what he wants, and in the rare cases when he doesn't, he finds something better than whatever it was he originally wanted and he gets that instead.

It's a talent he's put to good use.

For the Fontainebleau's grand reopening in November 2008, he persuaded Ed Razek of Victoria's Secret to move the company's annual fashion show to the Fontainebleau. The afterparty, naturally, was at LIV. Supermodels celebrated a job well done under the club's ceiling, which seems to extend all the way up to the Fontainebleau penthouse. The dance floor, bordered by no shortage of lucrative VIP tables — which often double as tiny dance floors themselves — buzzed with the same famous faces Grutman had spent years luring into his Rolodex.

In 2011, the infamous South Beach club Amnesia made its return to Miami nightlife, opening five miles south of LIV. "I was scared shitless," Grutman admits. He lost a few promoters. But Grutman held on. He urged his DJs to stick with him, and a little more than a year later, Amnesia folded. Grutman bought the club and turned it into Story. It's now one of the biggest venues in Miami Beach, second only to LIV.

"Not one club has been able to open successfully against Dave," Noah Tepperberg, Grutman's best friend and fellow nightlife guru, notes. "Not one. There was one that had a chance — closed — and then Dave bought it. It's pretty unheard-of. It's pretty remarkable."

But during LIV's rise, Grutman's private life was suffering. With the success came girls and alcohol, which led to more girls and more alcohol — "outside noise," as Grutman puts it. In March 2012, his first marriage crumbled. He and Sybers divorced. "Maybe I just wasn't ready at that time," he reflects today.

The challenges kept coming at LIV too. In December 2013, a club called Adore opened on Collins Avenue. Its owners poured millions into into the Vegas-style palace of opulence. They even stole one of Grutman's general managers. "The guys from Adore, they came into the market the wrong way," Grutman says, a hint of animosity lingering in his voice. So he made it his mission to wipe them out. "I did whatever I could to crush them. They spent $14 million in three months." And then they closed, beaten and broke.

As competitors were slain, LIV grew into a juggernaut. In 2010, according to Nightclub & Bar magazine, the club earned around $25 million. Then the EDM explosion happened, and Grutman rode the wave all the way to the $40 million he raked in last year. Ask him who is favorite DJ is today, and he'll tell you: "The DJ that makes me the most fucking money."

And make fucking money he has. In 2013, he bought a $5.1 million waterfront mansion in Sunset Islands. His personal network of A-list celebs began to swell, and he even turned his childhood idol, Hulk Hogan, into one of his best friends. He met Hulk after pulling a few strings to help his daughter, Brooke Hogan, with her music career. A few years later, he and the pro wrestler were bro'ing out at LIV's Halloween party. Grutman, naturally, was dressed like Hulk.

Early last year, he met Isabela Rangel at a party in New York City. In October, he proposed with a mural in Wynwood. "Will you marry me?" the yellow wall asked. She spray-painted a big "X" in a box next to the word "yes." Two months later, they married in a ceremony at Wynwood Walls. Kanye West — who famously name-dropped Grutman in his song "On Sight" — grabbed the mike from Niche Media founder Jason Binn and shouted, "Jason, I'ma let you finish. But David Grutman had one of the best weddings of all time!"

Most of the guests — who ranged from Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine to Ryan Seacrest — agreed. Grutman is still in his honeymoon phase. Every once in a while, he'll stop whatever he's doing and stare at Isabela like a hungry bear. "I fucking love you so fucking much, baby," he'll say out of the blue. She knows, too. On their way out of Komodo after dinner one night, a furry little blur catches Isabela's eye. A kitten dashes across the busy street and into some shrubbery outside Grutman's restaurant. "Baby, it's a kitten," Isabela says with a pout. And that's all she has to say.

Within five minutes, Grutman has orchestrated a perimeter of well-dressed kitten wranglers. Lee, Grutman's personal security guard, peeks through sago palms like Rambo. Marshmello and several models squat like third basemen on the sidewalk in case the fur ball bolts.

Grutman is off to the side, sending emails and looking up every few minutes to shout, "Lee, got the cat?" Lee, who is surprisingly cool with the fact that he is now a professional security guard/kitten buckaroo, informs his boss each time that he does not.

So the search continues for another half-hour. The intern is sent inside to get some food to lure the kitten out of hiding. He returns with a bowl of chicken and lettuce and is promptly sent back inside because "cats don't eat fucking lettuce," which is possibly something he knew pre-head-trauma and ten stitches ago.

At one point, one of the models grabs the cat by the scruff, but it scratches its way free. Marshmello eventually nudges his manager, and the two stealthily slip into an Uber. The search is called off. But before he leaves, Grutman tells the valet guys there's $200 in it for whoever can get ahold of the cat.

The two valets shrug at each other and high-step into the bushes as Grutman pulls away in a black SUV. Isabela is disappointed, but Grutman is optimistic. He's well acquainted with money's motivational abilities.

Two weeks later, they have a new cat. Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato have bellies full of sushi.

Grutman gets what he wants.

Grutman met Isabela Rangel eight months before he proposed.
Grutman met Isabela Rangel eight months before he proposed.
Photo by

Standing on the ledge of LIV's DJ booth, Grutman scans his club. Look at them all, drunk and beautiful, ready to make poor decisions.

There was a time he might have joined them, but not anymore. He decided to go sober the summer before he met Isabela — no more drinking or cigarettes. "I wouldn't be able to be with her unless I was sober," he says. He's watched too many friends struggle with substance abuse; he knew one who flatlined in a VIP section not too different from his own. These days, he looks at people who drink heavily — AKA, his customers — and doesn't get it.

"I wonder what fucked-up shit they're medicating," he says. "For me, it was always about intimacy."

Isabela has given him something in this past year that he has never had before: stability. She calms him, and he loves her the only way he knows how: in short bursts of focused intensity. With his new wife by his side, he's eagerly charging into maturity. "I feel more rounded," he claims. He wants to have two kids within the year — boys, he hopes — and says he does not fear the responsibilities that come with parenthood. "I'm going to be the best dad ever, man... That bar mitzvah is going to be sick."

Still, it's difficult to tell if Grutman is actually enjoying any of this. Is he having fun or working? It's possible he's doing both. It's possible he's doing neither. It's possible they aren't mutually exclusive and one simply cannot exist without the other. Or perhaps his threshold for fun is so high that what to us plebeians looks like otherworldly amounts of joy is simply a default setting?

For Grutman, most visible signs of excitement come rapidly and then blow away easily. His wheel of emotions spins at a speed where colors blend into one, and no matter how vibrant, it all just looks like the same shade of gray after a while. He has no hobbies or passions outside of his career.

One time, after a full day of practicing wrestling moves and hanging out, Hulk Hogan walked downstairs around 3 a.m. to find Grutman in the kitchen, poring over details for the Komodo opening. He hadn't slept a wink, and, not for the first time, Hulk was worried about his friend working himself to death. "If I'm not successful, I'm kind of immobilized," Grutman admits.

This past July, he celebrated his 42nd birthday at Story. His good friend Cedric Gervais manned the DJ booth. Isabela hobnobbed with Kourtney Kardashian, and Michael Bay, looking slightly bewildered, wasn't quite sure what to do with his hands.

Grutman's empire, loud and ablaze, was laid out before him, it's very existence predicated on his satisfaction. But was it doing the job anymore?

Inside Story, Grutman stood above it all, his email app open on his iPhone. With each new opening and project he dreams up, that bar marked "satisfaction" is blasted forward. The more he works, the farther away it gets. Can he ever catch it?

When he was about 10 years old, his mom asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"Rich," he told her.

"But David," she tried to explain, "you have to like what you do too."

He shrugged. "Mom, I just want to have money."

Hettie thinks growing up around rich kids in Naples sculpted this philosophy. He saw what they had, and he wanted it too.

A few years ago, the Florida Gators traveled south to play the Miami Hurricanes. Grutman hosted some old Naples and UF pals at the mini-LIV inside Sun Life Stadium — a club he opened at the football field in 2010. They all drank Bud Light, talked about the good old days. They reported to Grutman on life back on Florida's west coast, naming all the same bars and streets they knew in high school. He didn't feel nostalgic.

"My friends all went home after college, and they worked for their parents, meaning they're a plumber, but they're a millionaire plumber," he says. "The poor college guys are fucking fat and miserable and hate their lives." The thought of it makes him literally shiver.

There was a time he wanted what they had. But looking at them, overweight and bored, he feels no envy, no longing for simpler times.

He understands now what 10-year-old David Grutman did not. Don't be the rich person. Find out who the rich person wants to be. Then aim for that.

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