When you sit down and talk with Tim Busch, two things are readily apparent: he’s a Catholic and an entrepreneur, in that order. In a professional career spanning over 30 years, he has launched or been a part of many profitable businesses. This success has given him the resources and opportunity to share and promote his Catholic faith.
“The focus of my life is getting myself to heaven and to help others get there, too,” Busch explained. “And, that should be the focus of everyone else’s life as well.”
Busch grew up in the small, rural community of Clinton, Michigan, the second of six children. The family went to St. Dominic’s Parish, and he attended Mass daily from the third grade on.
His father, Joe, was an entrepreneur, founding and operating Busch’s Market Place, a chain of 15 upscale supermarkets in Michigan. Through his father, Tim was first introduced to owning one’s own business. “Working for someone else was never even a consideration,” he remarked.
Busch earned a BBA degree from Western Michigan University, and then went on to earn a JD from Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. In search of a warmer climate and better business opportunities, he re-located to Southern California in 1982. He founded the Busch Firm, which specializes in high net-worth estate planning, real estate and business transactions, and tax. He is also a CPA and a licensed real estate broker.
Other businesses Busch has founded include Pacific Hospitality Group, LLC, a hotel development and management company that manages five hotels; he also has holdings in real estate as well as public and private operating companies.
In 1985, Tim married Steph, a public elementary school teacher. She disliked dealing with the teacher’s union, so she opted to leave teaching and become a stockbroker. A disconnect? Not so, she says: “I was working with two things high on peoples’ list of priorities, their children and their money.”
She eventually went to work for the Busch Firm. But her background in education would prove important. When the couple’s first child, Garrett, was a pre-schooler, the couple began looking for elementary schools. They were living in south Orange County, an hour or more drive from downtown Los Angeles, and there was a limited infrastructure in place. The Catholic parishes in their immediate area did not have schools, and the parochial schools a bit farther away were overcrowded. So, Steph recalled, Tim came up with a solution: “He came home one evening and said we’d start our own school.”
ESTABLISHING ST.ANNE AND JSERRA
In 1992, St. Anne School in Laguna Niguel, California opened its doors. The school struggled in its early days, and since Steph had a background in education, she left her duties at the Busch Firm and took over management of the school as a volunteer for the next 14 years. She still serves on its Board of Directors.
While St. Anne’s initial challenges were in finding land and building enrollment, the greatest challenge, recalled Busch, was in establishing and maintaining the school’s Catholic identity. “Some of our parents wanted a non-denominational school, some wanted a secular school,” he said. “It took us some time to get its Catholic identity firmly established.”
Today, St. Anne School serves 800 students and is a private Roman Catholic school in the Diocese of Orange.
Busch undertook an even greater challenge in the decade following the opening of St. Anne, the founding of JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano. South Orange County had limited options for parents who wanted to send their students to a Catholic high school, so Busch and a few other like-minded parents began the search for an appropriate site. Busch recalled, “We needed land, and we needed a lot of it.”
After looking at various sites, the founders settled on a location on Junipero Serra Road and the I-5 freeway, about a mile north of historic Mission San Juan Capistrano. However, purchasing the land and establishing the school proved a monumental task. The City of San Juan Capistrano was cool to the idea of a non-profit, non-tax revenue producing organization being established on such a large plot of land. Neighbors missed the open space and were concerned about traffic. Building the school required the approval of many regulatory agencies. And, most frustrating of all, some members of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Achjachemen Nation, protested construction on what they declared a historic and sacred site.
The Juanenos were the band of Indians who were the sole occupants of the region when Father Junipero Serra founded the Capistrano mission in 1776. Many converted to Catholicism and provided the labor to construct the mission buildings, till its lands, and care for its livestock. Today, there are no longer any full-blooded Juanenos, but partial descendents (some claiming as much as an eighth Juaneno blood) who are still active in several tribes. Some claimed the high school was built on an ancient burial ground and therefore not an appropriate site for construction. Building JSerra required constant battles with the Juanenos, recalled Steph: “Essentially, they wanted Tim to stop building the school and turn the land over to them.”
Two Juanenos were employed fulltime during construction, lest some sacred remains be disturbed, and a concessionary statue honoring the Juanenos sits among the school’s sports facilities. Still, in the school’s opening days, dozens of Juaneno protesters marched at the school’s entrance. Although many parents were active in the establishing of JSerra, Busch was a particular focus of the protesters.
Steph remembered, “We’d go to the city council meetings, and Tim would get bludgeoned. I’d take my daughter Mackenzie to school, and she’d see her father’s name on protest signs. They’d accuse him of building the school to make money, which was ridiculous.”
She recalled Busch enduring many sleepless nights, wondering how he’d meet the challenges of his opponents, but never wavering on his decision to found the school: “That’s Tim. When he makes up his mind that something is right, he sees it through to the end. With his faith and determination, he’s unstoppable.”
Six times lawsuits were filed to stop construction, but JSerra prevailed each time. One hundred fifty-five students started school on September 3, 2003.
Six years later, the school serves more than 1,000 students, on its way to a capacity enrollment of 1,450. The protests have ended, and many in the community have come to accept and even embrace the school. JSerra has strong academic credentials, as well as competitive sports programs. And, most importantly, JSerra is solidly Roman Catholic. Its staff includes several Norbertine priests from St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, known for its orthodoxy.
The Catholic identity of St. Anne and JSerra is of paramount importance to Busch. He explained, “If your kids finish school and don’t have the faith, they leave with nothing. The faith is the most important thing they can have to guide them through their lives.”
In addition to Catholic education, one of Busch’s chief apostolates is Legatus, an organization for Catholic CEOs and their spouses. Legatus has many local chapters nationwide, and brings together Catholic CEOs to pray, learn about their faith, socialize and network, and support one another as they attempt to live their faith in their business lives.
Busch’s close friend Rob Neal, a managing partner of the real estate investment firm Hager Pacific Properties, is a fellow Legatus member. “Legatus is an extraordinary fellowship of business leaders who are devout in their faith yet competitive in the marketplace,” Neal said. “They’re people who go to Mass on Sunday, and then go to work on Monday and try to apply the principles they’ve learned.”
He noted that Busch has played an instrumental role in the establishment of at least 10 Legatus chapters, and currently is working to establish a chapter in Hollywood for media and entertainment industry executives. Busch explained, “There is no place more important to make a positive impact on culture than in the media. We want to reach out to executives to give them the courage to support faith-based messages.”
Neal added that Busch was frequently reaching out to his fellow Catholic CEOs to get involved in Legatus and other Catholic apostolates. He sees Busch as a man truly dedicated to living his Catholic faith. “I’ve never met a man who has done more good and said less about it,” Neal said. “He does so much that you’d never know about, you just have to discover.”
He recalled talking to an employee of Busch’s who was preparing for a major surgery. He confided to Neal that his boss was footing the bill. “I’ve met a dozen people like him that Tim has helped,” Neal said. “Tim is generous and charitable to a fault. If I sound like a fan of his, I am. I’m proud to call him my friend.”
Busch is effective in his Legatus apostolate, believes wife Steph, because he is an appealing role model. She told the story of a fellow CEO and Legatus member who confided to the couple that he wouldn’t be married any longer, had it not been for Busch and Legatus. He was wealthy and successful in business, and observed many of his peers living secular lives, which included infidelity to their marriages.
Steph related, “Then he saw Tim… content with his life, pursuing the right things, being faithful, choosing the right way. It was appealing to him and he chose to be faithful to his marriage and faith. Because Tim is strong and committed to his beliefs, many men can relate to him.”
Along with faith, marriage and family is of paramount importance to Busch. He refuses to support any candidate for public office, for example, who is not 100 percent pro-life. He is also troubled by efforts to legalize “gay marriage” in California: “So many people, including those of faith, miss the point that [homosexual relations] are against the natural law and categorically wrong. Throughout history, any civilization that has embraced open homosexuality has failed. Ours will fail, too, if we continue in this direction.”
John Ford, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Insight Investments Corporation, is also a fellow Legatus member. Ford believes Legatus has offered him many benefits, including the opportunity to meet and befriend many excellent priests. These include Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, a well-known author, retreat master, psychologist, and EWTN television personality; Father George Rutler, a convert from Anglicanism who is also a prominent preacher and author; and Father Robert Spitzer, outgoing president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Ford has served on the board of one of Busch’s other apostolates, the Magis Institute. Magis began in 2002 by offering silent Ignatian retreats and spiritual conferences for business and student leaders with the purpose of “healing the culture through spirituality,” Busch explained. Its mission has expanded to include regional Catholic prayer breakfasts, a Hollywood initiative to develop and assist a network of committed Catholics in the entertainment industry, spiritual pilgrimages, and a Family Wealth and Legacy Forum, which promotes stewardship.
Father Spitzer is leaving Gonzaga to head up Magis, which will be headquartered at offices in the Busch Firm. Ford, a self-described “retreat junky,” has gone on many Magis-organized silent retreats with Busch, and has found them a powerful aid to his spiritual life and a great way to grow in fellowship with other Catholic men. He explained, “When you’re doing daily adoration together, attending conferences together, and doing devotions together, you get closer to the others on retreat, even though you’re not talking.” Ford is particularly excited to be working with Father Spitzer on some upcoming apologetics initiatives.
Ford is grateful to Busch for launching Magis. “Magis is just another example of how Tim not only receives a benefit from the Catholic Church, but attempts to cooperate with its mission and make it better,” he observed. “He’s the most dedicated layman in this way I’ve ever seen.”
Not only do Busch’s apostolates promote the faith, but some of his for-profit ventures do as well. Long a connoisseur of wine, he and Steph founded Trinitas Cellars in Napa Valley in 2000. Trinitas features faith-based wines that target Catholic and Christian groups. Featured wines include a 2007 Psalms Napa Valley, a 2007 Rose’ary Mendocino, and a 2006 ratZINger Zinfandel Lodi. The labels of each bottle include a prayer or blessing, which has led some distributors to refuse to carry the wine.
Busch noted, “It’s been our challenge to maintain our message yet get the distribution we need.”
Trinitas, Busch went on to explain, is the Latin word for the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and it also symbolizes sun, soil, and humanity, the three essential ingredients of the perfect wine. While wines traditionally are paired with foods and can help with digestion, Busch’s goal is to create a wine that can be enjoyed on its own without food.
Busch recently had the opportunity to present a bottle of ratZINger Zinfandel to the Holy Father in Rome.
These, and numerous other of Busch’s ventures ultimately have one goal: to bring God back into the marketplace. He wants his fellow executives, as well as all Catholics, to live their Catholic faith openly and unabashedly regardless of the direction of the culture. Although some object to his open practice of Catholicism, more often people compliment him for his public stand for the faith, and are emboldened to do so in their lives as well.
“Tim’s an amazing man, I’ve never met anyone like him,” concluded Steph. “He has his faith, he has vision, and he has determination.”
“And the best part about it all,” added Rob Neal, “is that he’s a self-made man, doing it all for the greater glory of God.”