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Rich lives

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  • | 10:00 a.m. April 3, 2015
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Catering to high-net-worth people is a fast-growing industry in Naples, home to some of the country's wealthiest families.

So it's no surprise entrepreneurs who focus on that demographic should establish themselves in town. Consider John and Billie Resnick, a husband-and-wife team who built a successful business in Harrisburg, Pa., selling life insurance to wealthy people for estate-planning purposes.

Business is so good the Resnicks, who increasingly found themselves traveling to Naples to visit with clients, recently expanded: They formed The Lutgert Resnick Group with developer and entrepreneur Scott Lutgert, a name synonymous with luxury condos and shops in Naples. Also among the co-founders and principals are Bud Hornbeck, president and CEO of Lutgert Insurance, and Howard Gutman, president of The Lutgert Companies.

The Resnicks decline to reveal customer names for privacy reasons or divulge the amount of premiums they write for their commission-based business. But John Resnick says he has worked with members of four families on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Wealthy people like that usually buy life insurance to help their heirs pay for any estate taxes after they die. All but the richest Americans don't pay estate taxes because the exemption is more than $5 million per person.

It makes sense that a market like that is rarefied. “We may work on 12 to 15 cases a year, maybe 20 if we're super busy,” says John Resnick, who has a half dozen support staff in Naples. Customers typically have assets between $25 million and $300 million.

Billie Resnick, a lawyer, works closely with estate-planning attorneys and accountants because she understands the complexities of wealth-protection strategies. She doesn't provide estate-planning legal advice, so she's not a competitor to law firms.

Despite the growth and success, the Resnicks don't show up on any list of top producers or rankings of firms in the niche of life insurance for high-net-worth estate-planning purposes.
“We don't accept trophies, plaques and trips from insurance companies,” says John Resnick, who sells policies from about 20 different financially strong companies. “We're as private as a family office.”

But that doesn't mean the Resnicks stay out of the limelight. In 2009, the couple started a radio show called “Legends of Success” to highlight the accomplishments of entrepreneurs and executives. The show cost $100,000 a year to create. “We went three-and-a-half years before we made a profit,” says John Resnick, the host of the show.

Resnick landed guests such as retired General Electric CEO Jack Welch and Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot. Before long, the show gained a following and now it's syndicated on more than 60 stations around the country.

John Resnick keeps the two businesses separate: He doesn't tout the radio show as a way to sell life insurance and his firm doesn't advertise on the show. “Life insurance to affluent families should never be sold,” Resnick says. “They want you to care and they want you to educate them.”

Of course, Resnick says the show has provided him with access to people who eventually become clients of his life-insurance firm. And it's opened doors to hosting events, such as a recent entrepreneur conference at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School with Steve Forbes. “We never had a PR firm,” John Resnick smiles.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss


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