Steve Strunk, president and CEO of newly formed PRS Holdings LLC., grew up in Schenectady, N.Y., and has decades of experience in the banking industry, including an appointment as Colorado state bank commissioner in 2010.
After living in Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M., Dallas and Houston, in 2006 Strunk researched various cities, choosing to move to Colorado Springs because it’s the “best city in the western United States.”
Recently, he rediscovered the joys of hiking in Arizona and Colorado, joining the Cheyenne Mountain Newcomers Club in search of new adventures. Last year, he ran the Bolder Boulder and this year plans to compete in a half-marathon. He and his wife Cathy are also avid art collectors and enjoy traveling.
Strunk graduated from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1973, and the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University in 1987.
What made you decide to leave the banking industry after 40 years?
Last month, the state of Colorado awarded the city of Colorado Springs $120 million to pursue its City for Champions dream. And last week, it was announced that downtown Colorado Springs will earn the Certified Creative District designation this year. Perry Sanders has led the charge in first-class downtown redevelopment with the renovation and completion of the Mining Exchange and Springs Orleans restaurant. Both Mr. Sanders and I moved to Colorado Springs in 2006, believing that the city would soon be nationally recognized as the high-altitude artistic hub of the United States. … As a banker, you’re a facilitator of people’s dreams — but an entrepreneur is an active player in the revitalization of downtown Colorado Springs on a first-hand basis.
What were the most intriguing things you learned as banking commissioner?
By the second day of my employment there, I had read the most recent bank examinations (about 50 pages each) for all 83 Colorado-chartered banks. It was like going to Disney World. Banking is my passion — and I got to know the Colorado banking industry in-depth. The same week I was appointed as Colorado bank commissioner, I was also appointed to the national board of directors of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. As a result, I spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C., that year, including the entire week that the Dodd-Frank Act was passed. And now I know about 90 percent of the current state bank commissioners and the top federal banking regulators at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve Bank.
How has your career prepared you for your current role?
Well, with my career in banking and Perry’s strengths as a lawyer and creative thinker, we are like a match made in heaven. Mr. Sanders is what I describe as the ultimate street fighter — for instance, the big risk he took in renovating this historic building and turning it into a four-star hotel during the worst downturn since 1929. He’s had many business interests, but in his career, he’s not had anyone work for him with my financial background and expertise. He certainly doesn’t need my help managing on a day-to-day basis, but what I bring to the table includes a national clientele of high-end, serial entrepreneurs and clients with net worth of more than $1 billion.
I’ve financed restaurants and high-end hospitality properties — hotels and casino operations in Las Vegas. For instance, I financed the expansion of the Palms Casino Resort for George Maloof. And I worked 363 days straight to finance the acquisition of the Four Queens Hotel and Casino for Terry Caudill in 2003, which led to the redevelopment of old downtown Las Vegas.
What are your plans for expansion with PRS Holdings LLC?
Perry and I are intent on making Colorado Springs the high-altitude artistic hub of the United States. We will be developing some first-class residential units — similar to Denver’s LoDo District — to help attract and retain young and creative professionals. We’ve already spent money on development and architectural plans, and we’ve had preliminary lender discussions.
We plan to open the Gold Room, a 351-seat intimate venue, similar to the House of Blues/Foundation Room in New York City, in March. Then in June, we plan to open a Springs Orleans in Castle Rock and the Springs Orleans Gift Shop & Market, next door here [on Pikes Peak Avenue] also in June.
What do you see as the city’s future?
I’m so excited to have the opportunity to work with one of the leading current-generation visionaries for downtown Colorado Springs. I worked in Las Vegas banking for six years, from 2000 to 2006, and the banking community believed in visionaries — people who say “Build it and they will come” — and the bankers provided the financing to make it happen. Perry built a four-star hotel, they came, and they keep on coming.
In Colorado Springs, we have other visionaries: Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli, Susan Edmondson, Phil Anschutz, Steve Bartolin, Chuck Murphy, Bill Hybl, Steve Bach, Doug Price and Pam Shockley-Zalabak. Along with Perry Sanders, I think it is fair to say these people will transform Colorado Springs into the high-altitude artistic hub and the City for Champions.