Sampson A. Brown, 1958-2013
Former Knight & Carver CEO Sam Brown dies
When Sam Brown set out to do something big, he didn’t stop just because the odds were against him. That only motivated him more.
Whatever the challenge, whether it was making sure his yacht-repair and wind-blade companies could successfully compete or simply trying to make payroll when things weren’t going so well, he liked to shake things up.
He was a fighter, a scrapper, an agitator. With his razor-sharp legal mind and powers of persuasion, he never settled for the easy way out.
“He was absolutely relentless and passionate in the pursuit of his goals,” said Mike O’Leary, who served alongside Mr. Brown as a top executive with Knight & Carver Maritime. “He was one of the smartest, shrewdest people I’ve ever known.”
Sampson A. Brown died Nov. 21 at the age of 55 at UCSD Thornton Hospital in San Diego. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer and related complications.
Born and raised near Boston, Mr. Brown earned his undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Miami. He then moved to San Diego where he earned his law degree from California Western University School of Law.
“The man could be infuriating, but you’d end up laughing with him afterward,” said Kate Pearson, who worked with Mr. Brown as Knight & Carver Maritime’s marketing director. “He was like a force of nature.”
Though both National City-based firms were sold, Mr. Brown and his team built Knight & Carver Maritime and Knight & Carver Wind Group into viable concerns that employed hundreds of workers and made an impact far beyond San Diego.
Perhaps Mr. Brown’s crowning achievement came with construction of the M80 Stiletto, the world’s largest all-carbon-fiber vessel, 88-foot Navy stealth craft that resembled the Batmobile, with a cruising speed of 65 knots and virtually no wake.
Concurrent with the yacht firm, Mr. Brown also led the company’s emerging wind-blade division, which he spun off as a separate enterprise in 2007. Within a year, Knight & Carver Wind Group grew to be an $18-million firm with more than 250 employees.
Mr. Brown later served as a legal consultant for BAE Systems in San Diego. In that role, he led the effort to resolve mitigation issues for a coalition of local shipyards.
“He was always a strong voice for what he believed in,” said Sharon Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, which Mr. Brown helped create in the 1980s. “Once you got to know him, he had a big heart. You couldn’t help but admire him.”
Just months before being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Mr. Brown re-joined former law partner Michael J. McDonnell to form Novare Law, a boutique firm on Harbor Island.
Amid the lifestyle of the yacht company’s jet-set clients, Mr. Brown kept a keen sense of the absurd, said John Freeman, formerly of Knight & Carver, recalling a overseas sales trip to Monte Carlo, Monaco.
“We decided to go into the Hotel d’Paris bar to look around,” he said. “Just for laughs, we ordered martinis. When we got the bill, it was 30 euros for each one. We got a big laugh out of that for long time, even a few days before he left us.”
A resident of Del Mar, Mr. Brown is survived by his wife Maureen; son Joseph, a student at the University of Arizona; and daughter Britney, a student at Torrey Pines High School. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Sampson A. Brown Memorial Fund for the Monarch School.
— Obituary provided, written by John Freeman