“Ludwig Wittgenstein,” Reddam replied, and quoted the arcane Austrian thinker: “After all the philosophical problems have been solved, nothing of importance will have been accomplished.”
“So,” he told the stunned Costas, “we got into horse racing.”
That was a summary of Reddam’s life, from academia to Churchill Downs and to Pimlico for Saturday’s Preakness, though in the middle there was another key phase — a business innovation that allowed him to go from being an underpaid teacher to an owner of high-end racehorses.
A native of Ontario, Reddam studied at the University of Toronto, got his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California — and was teaching at Cal State in the 1980s. He loved philosophy, particularly logic and epistemology — the study of knowledge — but he didn’t relish the academic world. He said, “It’s really competitive, absolutely cutthroat, and it doesn’t pay anything. I asked myself: ‘Why am I doing this?’ ”
He thought, briefly, that he might be able to support himself as a bettor. Reddam had been a harness-racing fan since his youth in Canada, and he bought his first standardbred when he was in college. But when he moved to California, beheld the majestic setting of Santa Anita and watched great horses such as Spectacular Bid and John Henry, he fell in love with thoroughbred racing and became a student of the game. However, as he tried to support himself by gambling, he learned a familiar lesson: “When you have to do it for a living, it’s really hard.”
In order to make a respectable living, Reddam went into the mortgage business. His father was a mortgage banker, and Reddam practiced the business in a conventional fashion until he had the “Eureka!” moment that changed his life.
Driving on a Los Angeles freeway, he passed a billboard that showed the current temperature in LED lights. An idea shot through his mind: Why not put today’s interest rate for a home loan on a sign like that? In the mid-1980s, anybody who bought a house used some type of middleman to obtain a mortgage. Why not, Reddam thought, sell those mortgages directly to the buyer? After one false start, he founded Ditech Funding. Its interest rates went up on billboards, and its ubiquitous commercials — with a fat mortgage broker grumbling, “I lost another loan to Ditech!” — made the company’s name famous. Reddam sold the business to General Motors Acceptance Corp. in 1999 but subsequently got further involved into subprime finance by founding CashCall, a company that makes unsecured loans to high-risk borrowers.
His business success gave him the resources to start buying good thoroughbreds. He made some successful purchases of horses who had established some form for other owners — including Swept Overboard, who won the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont, and Wilko, who captured the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He subsequently ventured into auction markets, and he acquired I’ll Have Another out of a sale of 2-year-olds for the modest price of $37,000.