Jersey boy Matthew Beckerman is no world traveller.
And when he set out to start a movie investment fund, he didn’t really plan to go much further than his cousins.
The 33-year-old former music promoter raised about $1 million from friends and family to get Natural Selection started in 2008. And he succeeded in securing $20 million in further commitments to launch a proper film production fund later that year.
That was in August 2008. By September 2008, as the global financial meltdown shook the world, “every person I had backed out,” he recalled. “It was a bloodbath.”
“I finally went to my grandfather. When he said ‘I can’t help you, I’ve just bailed out your cousins,’ I knew it was over,” he said.
But Beckerman was too far down the road in spending capital to give up. He flew to where money was – the United Arab Emirates – and met, he said, every “fake sheikh and scam artist” in the region.
In the process of meeting one big talker after another, someone offered to introduce him to Saadi Gadhafi. Beckerman was in Beirut waiting for a visa to go to Syria to meet more potential investors when his cellphone rang.
“Can you meet Saadi Gadhafi in Mauritius?” asked the caller.
“I said ‘yes,’ then hung up and had to Google Mauritius,” Beckerman recalled.
He flew to the spit of land off the eastern coast of Africa, and, dressed in a business suit, met Gadhafi, who was in flip-flops and a t-shirt.
“He started asking very specific questions about my business plan,” said Beckerman. “He had read it, understood it, asked about foreign sales.”
They talked for three hours. And Beckerman spent the next three months following Gadhafi around various Middle Eastern and African capitals, getting each of them more comfortable with the idea of a business partnership.
Beckerman is not particularly bothered by preconceived notions of Gadhafi family. He grew up as the only Jewish kid in an Irish-Italian part of New Jersey, teased because of his religion.
“I don’t judge people based on their background, religion, or skin color,” said Beckerman. “I’ve always been that way.”
And yes, Gadhafi knows that his partner is Jewish. On the day they met, he took Beckerman out to the beach for a private chat and asked him if he was. Beckerman confirmed.
“Great,” Gadhafi responded, Beckerman recalled. “The fact that you and will do business together will change perceptions.”