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The Quiet Dynamism of the Brothers Rales

The notoriously reclusive brothers who built Danaher, Steven M., left, and Mitchell P. Rales are shown in 1990 photo.
The notoriously reclusive brothers who built Danaher, Steven M., left, and Mitchell P. Rales are shown in 1990 photo. (Photo Courtesy Of Danaher)

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By Thomas Heath
Monday, July 7, 2008

Staff writer Thomas Heath's Value Added column appears Tuesdays on the WashBiz blog. Most weeks, it profiles local entrepreneurs, discussing how they make money and what they do with it.

So which two local business legends braved an economic downturn and an all-but-dead IPO market and took public a boring pump company based in Richmond?

And now, with the firm valued around $1.1 billion, own $220 million each in company stock?

And can't even count it as their biggest home run?

The Rales brothers -- two of the richest guys in Washington -- are still printing money.

Mitchell P. and Steven M. Rales, who went to Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, are already worth billions from their flagship industrial firm, Danaher, based in the District and named for their favorite trout-fishing stream in Montana.

Forbes recently placed Mitchell as the 412th-wealthiest person on earth, at $2.8 billion. Steve ranked 446th, at $2.6 billion.

But they made a significant leap in net worth in May with the initial public offering of their latest home run, Colfax, which friends say is the name of an elementary school the brothers attended.

Colfax is a lot like Danaher, which makes unglamorous stuff like measuring tools, dental-office instruments, water-treatment equipment and microscopes. Ever hear of Craftsman hand tools? That's Danaher.

Now comes Colfax, founded as a private company in 1995 and "a global leader in critical fluid-handling solutions," according to an SEC document.

Colfax makes industrial pumps.


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