Downtime with John Helmick

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital

 Tuesday, May 26, 2015

OB Downtime

My favorite movie of the last year was Big Hero 6 because of a family connection. My daughter is a materials science and mechanical engineering major at MIT and took a semester off to work at Disney’s materials science lab. At Disney they have just about every piece of equipment that a materials science major would want, and she really enjoyed it. During her semester there, her main job was the production of the costume for Baymax, the snowman main character of the movie.

Family hour

We only have one child left at home, and I really enjoy weightlifting with him. When the children come back to Eugene for the holidays, we repeat a family tradition that we started when they were young; at every meal, we would go around the table and everyone would have to say one “good news” and one “bad news” item. We started this family ritual after hearing “oh nothing” when we would ask what they did that day. It is amazing how this one thing changed our dinner and evening conversations.

School days

My favorite memory at Yale Law School is the first date with the woman who would become my wife of 27 years: April 15, 1986.

What I’m reading

In the last 2 weeks I have read four books on tax liens. Currently, I am reading The Underground Economist Strikes Back by Tim Harford. I really enjoyed his first book, The Underground Economist, a common-sense description of current microeconomic reality. His latest book follows the same common sense approach to provide a macroeconomic view and explanation of the world economy.


Right now Gorilla is building a really fantastic software system that will be launched in July. It is my favorite gadget because it is going to be awesome!

When I’m not working.

I’m running, weightlifting and ballroom dancing.

Favorite tune

Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie.

Last meal

Salmon cooked on the grill.

Are we entering another housing bubble?

Not yet. But you will know when we are. When you go to a cocktail party and everyone is talking about how much their home has gone up in value — then we are in another housing bubble.

How the foreclosure market has changed since the economic recovery

At the peak of foreclosures in 2010, most homes that were foreclosed on were occupied. Now, over 85% of the homes we purchase in Oregon are vacant and abandoned; they are zombie homes. We need to have a public policy discussion about getting a fast-track process for these vacant, abandoned homes.

Where would you like to see your company in five years?

Gorilla Capital has made a profit every year for 10 years. Five years from now, I would like Gorilla Capital to be able to state that it has made a profit every year for 15 years. I also believe that in five years, Gorilla will have sales revenues of $1 billion.

Advice for young people entering the industry

First, work hard: There is no substitute for work ethic. Second, if you do not have a passion for buying distressed homes and turning them into amazing homes, then find something else that lights you up. Third, if you do have a passion for finding and revitalizing distressed homes, go to our website and click on “Join Our Team.”

What motivates you to come to work every day?

The other 26 employees that work at Gorilla Capital. I love what we do and I really enjoy the intellectual challenges of this industry.

Click here to read the story on Oregon Business.