Larry G. Swets, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer and Director
Larry G. Swets, Jr. has served as our Chief Executive Officer and Director since July 2020. Mr. Swets has over 25 years of experience within financial services encompassing both non-executive and executive roles. Mr. Swets founded Itasca Financial LLC, an advisory and investment firm, in 2005 and has served as its managing member since inception. Mr. Swets also founded and is the President of Itasca Golf Managers, Inc., a management services and advisory firm focused on the real estate and hospitality industries, in August 2018. Mr. Swets has served as a director and the Chief Executive Officer of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry since June 2016. Mr. Swets has served as Chief Executive Officer of FG Financial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: FGF) (formerly 1347 Property Insurance Holdings, Inc.), which operates as a diversified reinsurance, investment management and real estate holding company, since November 2020, after having served as Interim CEO beginning in June 2020. Previously, he served as the Chief Executive Officer of Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) from July 2010 to September 2018, including as its President from July 2010 to March 2017.
Prior to founding Itasca Financial LLC, Mr. Swets served as an insurance company executive and advisor, including the role of director of investments and fixed income portfolio manager for Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, formerly known as Kemper Insurance Companies. Mr. Swets began his career in insurance as an intern in the Kemper Scholar program in 1994. Mr. Swets has also served as a member of the board of directors of FG Financial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: FGF) since November 2013, Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB), a company which provides building infrastructure services since July 2016, Insurance Income Strategies Ltd. since October 2017, Harbor Custom Development, Inc. (Nasdaq: HCDI) since February 2020, Alexian Brothers Foundation since March 2018, and Unbounded Media Corporation since June 2019. Previously, he served as a member of the board of directors of Kingsway Financial Services Inc. from September 2013 to December 2018, Atlas Financial Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: AFH) from December 2010 to January 2018, FMG Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: FMGQ) from May 2007 to September 2008, United Insurance Holdings Corp. from 2008 to March 2012, and Risk Enterprise Management Ltd. from November 2007 to May 2012. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Mr. Swets earned a Master’s Degree in Finance from DePaul University in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree from Valparaiso University in 1997. He also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
D. Kyle Cerminara
President and Director
D. Kyle Cerminara has served as our President and Director since July 2020. Mr. Cerminara over 20 years’ experience as an institutional investor, asset manager, director, chief executive, founder and operator of multiple financial services and technology businesses. Mr. Cerminara co-founded Fundamental Global in 2012 and serves as its chief executive officer.
Mr. Cerminara is a member of the board of directors of a number of companies focused in the reinsurance, investment management, technology and communication sectors, including Aldel Financial, Inc. (NYSE: ADF.U), a special purpose acquisition company focused on merging with a company that is exiting a restructuring process or that has transient current ownership, since April 2021, FG Financial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: FGF) (formerly known as 1347 Property Insurance Holdings, Inc.), which operates as a diversified reinsurance and investment management holding company, since December 2016, GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry, since June 2016, Ballantyne Strong, Inc. (NYSE American: BTN), a holding company with diverse business activities focused on serving the entertainment and retail markets, since February 2015, and Firefly Systems Inc., a venture- backed digital advertising company, since August 2020.
Mr. Cerminara was appointed chairman of FG Financial Group, Inc. in May 2018 and served as its principal executive officer from March 2020 to June 2020. He was also appointed chairman of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. in June 2018. Mr. Cerminara has served as the chairman of Ballantyne Strong, Inc. since May 2015. He also previously served as its chief executive officer from November 2015 through April 2020. He also served on the board of directors of Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB), a company which provides building infrastructure services, from March 2019 to March 2020; Iteris, Inc. (Nasdaq: ITI), a publicly-traded, applied informatics company, from August 2016 to November 2017; and Magnetek, Inc., a publicly-traded manufacturer, in 2015. He previously served on the board of directors of blueharbor bank, a community bank, from October 2013 to January 2020. He served as a Trustee and President of StrongVest ETF Trust, which was an open-end management investment company, from July 2016 to March 2021. Previously, Mr. Cerminara served as the co-chief investment officer of CWA Asset Management Group, LLC, a position he held from January 2013 to December 2020.
Prior to these roles, Mr. Cerminara was a portfolio manager at Sigma Capital Management, an independent financial adviser, from 2011 to 2012, a director and sector head of the Financials Industry at Highside Capital Management from 2009 to 2011, and a portfolio manager and director at CR Intrinsic Investors from 2007 to 2009. Before joining CR Intrinsic Investors, Mr. Cerminara was a vice president, associate portfolio manager and analyst at T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW) from 2001 to 2007, where he was named amongst Institutional Investor’s Best of the Buy Side Analysts in November 2006, and an analyst at Legg Mason from 2000 to 2001. Mr. Cerminara received an MBA degree from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia and a B.S. in Finance and Accounting from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where he was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, an NCAA Academic All American and Co-Captain of the men’s varsity tennis team. He also completed a China Executive Residency at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, China. Mr. Cerminara holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
Hassan R. Baqar
Chief Financial Officer
Hassan R. Baqar has served as our Chief Financial Officer since July 2020. Mr. Baqar has over 20 years of experience within financial services focused on corporate development, mergers & acquisitions, capital raising, investments and real estate transactions. Mr. Baqar has served as the founder and managing member of Sequoia Financial LLC, a financial services and advisory firm, since January 2019. Mr. Baqar has also served as Chief Financial Officer of Insurance Income Strategies Ltd., a Bermuda based reinsurance company since October 2017, as a director of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. (TSXV: GFP) (formerly Itasca Capital Ltd.), a public company focused on investments in the forest products industry since August 2019 and as Chief Financial Officer of GreenFirst Forest Products Inc. from June 2016 to December 2020, as a director of Fundamental Global Reinsurance Ltd., a Cayman Islands reinsurance company since June 2020, and as a director and Chief Financial Officer of Unbounded Media Corporation since June 2019. Previously, he served as Vice President of Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (NYSE: KFS) (“Kingsway”) from January 2014 to January 2019 and as a Vice President of Kingsway’s subsidiary Kingsway America Inc. from January 2010 to January 2019. Mr. Baqar also served as Chief Financial Officer and director of 1347 Capital Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, from April 2014 to July 2016 when the company completed its initial business combination to form Limbach Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: LMB). Mr. Baqar served as a member of the board of directors of FG Financial Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: FGF) from October 2012 to May 2015. By virtue of a management services agreement between 1347 Advisors LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kingsway, and United Insurance Management, L.C., he also served as the Chief Financial Officer of United Insurance Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: UIHC), a publicly held property and casualty insurance holding company, from August 2011 to April 2012.
His previous experience also includes director of finance at Itasca Financial, LLC from 2008 to 2009 and positions held at Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company (a Kemper Insurance company), a diversified mutual property-casualty insurance provider, from June 2000 to April 2008, where he most recently served as a senior analyst. Mr. Baqar earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Northeastern Illinois University in 2009 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Business Administration from Monmouth College in 2000. He also holds a Certified Public Accountant designation.
Allan Tessler has served as our Senior Advisor since July 2020. Mr. Tessler has been the chief executive officer of International Financial Group, Inc., an international merchant banking firm, since 1987. Mr. Tessler was the chairman of Epoch Holding Corporation, an investment management firm that was sold to Toronto Dominion Bank. With a specialization in the area of turnaround financing, Mr. Tessler combines extensive management experience with proficiency in corporate and securities legal matters. Mr. Tessler served as co-chief executive officer and chairman of Data Broadcasting Corporation, now known as Interactive Data Corporation, and formerly served as chairman of Enhance Financial Services Group, Inc., an insurance holding company he co-founded which was merged into Radian Group (NYSE: RDN). Mr. Tessler was also Chairman and a principal shareholder of Great Dane Holdings, a company that manufactured tractor trailers and automobile stampings, as well as, controlling a property casualty insurer and transportation companies. Mr. Tessler started his career in the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP. In the legal arena he has also served as counsel to Spengler, Carlson, Gubar & Churchill, and was senior managing partner of Shea & Gould. He is admitted to the Federal and State of New York Bar, in retired status. In the investment banking arena, Mr. Tessler has held top management and leadership positions with Ladenburg, Thalman & Co., Devon Securities and Loeb, Rhoades & Co. He was also the president of Slater, Walker of America, a real estate and retail operating company, Ameriscribe, Inc., a back office out sourcing firm and Fifth Ave Coach Lines, an investment company. In addition, Mr. Tessler is a former director of TD Ameritrade (NYSE: AMTD). He formerly sat as the lead director and chairman of the finance committee of L Brands, Inc. (NYSE: LB), sat on the board of directors of Steel Partners Holding GP, Inc. (NYSE: SPLP) where he held a position from 2010-2018. He joined the board of Imperva, Inc. (NYSE: IMPV) in February 2014 and was elected Chairman. In February 2012 he became the chairman and chief executive officer of Teton Financial Services and chairman of Rocky Mountain Bank as a result of the acquisition and recapitalization of that troubled bank located in Jackson, Wyoming. He is chairman emeritus of the Board of the Hudson Institute and the former president and trustee of the Jackson Hole Land Trust. He is a member of the board of governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He is a past president of the Grand Teton Music Festival. He served in the United States Navy, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade.
Mr. Tessler received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and his L.L.B. from Cornell University Law School. He was editor-in-chief of the Cornell Law Quarterly and was elected to Phi Kappa Phi and the Order of the Coif. Mr. Tessler has continued actively to support his alma mater as a member of the Cornell Law School Fund from 1983 to 1985, the co-chairman of the Cornell Law School Capital Campaign, and is a trustee emeritus and presidential counselor of Cornell University.