ZT Corporate’s founder doesn’t shy away from new endeavors from health care clinic to auto dealerships, and hosting one of Houston’s most posh galas, Taseer Badar’s interests are wide-ranging. He’s passionate about baseball, so he supports over 40 youth baseball teams. He also cares about accessible health care, so he raises money to offer free medical services to Houston families.
Badar is chairman and CEO of Houston-based private equity firm ZT Corporate, which owns subsidiaries Altus Healthcare System, Neighbors Health, ZT Motors, ZT Wealth Advisory and more. ZT’s operations have grown a lot recently – in late 2018, ZT acquired six Neighbors Health emergency clinics out of bankruptcy. ZT Motors acquired Steve Rayman Chevrolet in Atlanta in September 2019.
In December, Badar raised $1.5 million through the Altus Foundation’s annual Houston gala, which featured notable artists, including Flo Rida and 50 cent.
What is ZT Corporate all about?
I’ve been in Houston for a long time. We’ve always wanted to make Houston a letterhead-type city. I went to Texas A&M, went up to New York, came back to Houston and started ZT in 1997. At one point, we had upwards of 3,000 employees and we’re here now 23 years later. It’s pretty humbling.
We’ve learned how to grow companies, and we’ve learned how to exit companies recently. The last four months of 2019, I feel like we really started hitting our stride.
To give you some background, ZT was all me. Then, I brought on [Kraig Killough]. Now, we’re kind of decentralized and we have presidents of divisions. We have a president of Neighbors, a president of Altus ERs, president of the hospitals, president of the outer division.
Our two major platforms are auto dealerships and health care. We’re very narrow and deep into auto and health care. Those are the two with the most capital. The other entities that we have, most of those are privately funded by my family office or partnerships- they’re using the ZT name.
What have been some major initiatives for ZT Corporate recently?
In 2018, we made a major acquisition in buying Neighbors Healthcare in a consortium bid out of bankruptcy. Health care is really in our wheelhouse, bridging that into our Altus system. In 2019, we exited our hospice company, Altus Hospice.
And then we bought Raymond Chevrolet, which is an iconic dealership in Atlanta. It’s as iconic as any GM dealership throughout the country, and I’m a minority dealer principal – it’s rare and it’s important to manufacturers. Being in Houston, I want to bring that level of our Houstonian minorities up.
One thing I’ve learned recently – when we’ve had failures, it’s because we were not narrow and deep in something. We get the shiny star out there and say, ‘Let’s join that.’ But with health care – I literally scheduled patients myself.
Why is that minority dealer status so important to you?
Every manufacturer has a minority association. Toyota has one and I’m a member of their committee. I want to be a member of GM’s. There’s a lot of former athletes that have XYZ athlete’s Chevrolet, XYZ athlete’s Cadillac – but they go down and you don’t hear about them anymore.
A lot of them are minorities and they really don’t know how to run a business. Some athletes are few and far between – not everyone’s Alex Rodriguez or Magic Johnson.
I know the manufacturers consider it a problem. You have hardly any minority owners, whether it’s women or people of color. So we’re pushing to be one of the larger ones already.
What are your plans for ZT’s health care facilities?
So we’ve bought Neighbors, and now we want to scale that. We’ve never taken on institutional money before, though we’ve sold to institutions. But now, we want to exit our retail investors and get them a nice multiple. Then we’ll be able to take our retail clients and get them into something else if they want to. If not, they had a great run for us. But we want to have that institutional exit for our investors so they get a nice multiple.
We’re consolidating our health care group. There was a Baytown location, a Freeport location, an Austin location – but they were all separate LPs. No institutional investor wants to buy or help you grow a disjointed business. They want to see consolidation.
We’re rolling up into a General Motors model – I tend to use cars as examples. Cadillac runs a separate [profit and loss], Chevy runs a separate P&L, but they all roll up. Right now, we’re all disjointed – so we’re rolling up.
What expansions are on the horizon for ZT Motors?
We’re around $15 million in earnings [with ZT Motors]. I want to get to $30 million in earning and then I want to reevaluate – should we go public? Should we do a management buyout, where the management buys out the investors and does a tender offer in three years? I love the business, but these exits have shown me that it’s good to give it back to investors.
I’d like to get $30 million, so if that takes quadrupling ourselves from five dealerships or whether it’s just another five dealerships – I’m not sure. But the algebra equation is great or equal to $30 million.
I’d like to have some sort of exit for my clients in three years – that’s my goal.
This year’s Altus Foundation Houston Gala featured the likes of Flo Rida and 50 Cent. What’s it like to throw such a huge party?
The gala is a huge thing for Altus. We started to say, “We have all of these facilities, we have so many doctors, nurses, and administrators. Why can’t we just leverage those assets?” We raised approximately 50 cents on the dollar, and we have pledges for $1.5 million from the gala that we’re collecting.
We don’t ever want to construe that Altus is profiting from this. This is absolutely free [for the patients], we’re not making any money from it. An example is of a radiation oncology patient that had a $200,000 bill. But that would not cost us $20,000 at our own facility. The doctor will give his time, we own the machine, so it’s one tenth the cost.
We’ve had so many great stories. I’ve seen these stories about how many people that out team has really helped. You have tears in your eyes because of how appreciative they are.
Also, we wanted to bring the city up to a Met Gala status. That’s what we’re trying to do. We could probably do it on the cheap, but I don’t think Houston’s cheap. Houston should be recognized.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Taseer Badar, Chairman and CEO of ZT Corporate
Hometown: Humble, Texas
Favorite Houston restaurants: Uptown Sushi, The Oak Room at the Post Oak Hotel
Family in Houston: Both parents, sister, wife, and son
ZT headquarters: 1535 W. Loop S.