Cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer, Countrywide Financial Corporation
Born: 1939, in New York, New York.
Education: Fordham University, BS, 1960.
Family: Married Phyllis (maiden name unknown); children: five.
Career: United Mortgagee Servicing Corporation, 1953–1968; Countrywide Financial Corporation (formerly Countrywide Credit Industries), 1969–, cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer.
Awards: Named to the Hall of Fame, National Association of Home Builders, 1995; Ellis Island Medal of Honor, 1999, National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations; National Housing Person of the Year, 2004, National Housing Conference; Horatio Alger Award, 2004, Horatio Alger Association; James E. West Fellowship Award, Boy Scouts of America; Albert Schweitzer Award, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; Special Achievement Award for Humanitarian Service, National Italian American Foundation; Pepperdine University, honorary LLD.
Address: Countrywide Financial, 4500 Park Granada, Calabasas, California 91302-1613; http://www.countrywide.com.
■ Angelo Mozilo cofounded Countrywide Financial Corporation, a diversified financial-services company, in 1969. Under the leadership of Mozilo and his colleague David Loeb, Countrywide was transformed from a two-man office into a mortgage-banking powerhouse with approximately five hundred U.S. branches and over $400 billion in new loans in 2003. With over 50 years of experience in the mortgage business, Mozilo was described as a hands-on manager who was not afraid to take risks and who had high expectations for his employees and a fierce determination to be the best.
Mozilo's parents were first-generation Italian Americans who had little formal schooling, and they impressed on him early the importance of hard work and a good education. He began working in his father's butcher shop at the age of 12 and as a messenger for a Manhattan mortgage lender at 14. While attending Fordham University, Mozilo continued to work for the mortgage company. After graduating in 1960 with a degree in marketing and philosophy, he decided against the family business and began working full-time for the firm.
Soon after, the company merged with a competitor, Lomas Realty Securities, founded by industry pioneer David Loeb. The 21-year-old Mozilo became Loeb's protégé, and when their company was bought out in the late 1960s, the two decided to start their own mortgage bank. They named it Countrywide Credit Industries, although at the time the company consisted of a single office for the two entrepreneurs, with Mozilo as the sole salesperson.
For five years Mozilo and Loeb ran the company like the traditional mortgage lender, offering limited types of loans and relying on salespeople to sell them. Then, in 1974, Mozilo and Loeb took a novel approach: they created a branch office and relied on advertisements, not salespeople, to generate business, with the idea that the money no longer being used for sales commissions could be directed at taking the company nationwide. The single California branch office led to the opening of five more offices in the state by the late 1970s, and a total of 40 offices in nine states by 1980. Mozilo's vision of a "countrywide" mortgage lender was becoming a reality.
Despite volatile interest rates in the 1980s, Mozilo led the continued rapid growth of Countrywide by expanding the types of loans it offered, utilizing innovative technologies to streamline business, taking the company public in 1985, and diversifying the company's financial services to include wholesale-loan origination, correspondent lending, and servicing departments. When interest rates began to fall in 1991 and homeowners rushed to refinance, Countrywide emerged as a mortgage-lending powerhouse; its diversification plan helped to offset the ups and downs of interest rates in the 1990s. The company changed its name to Countrywide Financial Corporation in 2002 to reflect its diversified services.
Mozilo remained true to his vision of organic growth, bucking the growing industry trend of consolidation. By doing so, Countrywide was able to capture market share and gain new sales talent during the merger upheaval. During the 1990s, Mozilo also began to recognize that affordable and available housing was a national concern. Through an initiative called We House America, Countrywide committed to offering affordable lending to minorities and lower-income borrowers. In a 2003 lecture at the National Housing Center in Washington, DC, Mozilo stated that "the American dream of homeownership is always our steadfast mission and we must never allow it to become a cliché" ( Mortgage Banking , February 2003). In 2004 Mozilo was honored with the National Housing Conference's Housing Person of the Year award for his commitment to reducing the barriers to homeownership. He also served as the president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America in 1991-1992.
Mozilo's leadership style was key to Countrywide's successes. By his own admission, he had a reputation for being demanding—"I'm perceived as a tough guy, a son of a bitch" ( Forbes , November 27, 2000)—and he expected the same kind of dedication from his employees. "For me it's corporate culture. They must be quick to adapt. If not, they're jettisoned" ( Mortgage Wire , November 5, 2003). Despite his high expectations, he instilled in his workers great pride in the company; as of 2004 his top 15 employees had averaged 21 years with Countrywide. His intrepid and competitive nature extended to his personal life, where he relished adventurous vacations such as helicopter skiing and fishing in Central America.
In 2001 Mozilo signed a 10-year contract with Countrywide that called for him to continue as CEO for five years, and then serve as a consultant for another five. Harley W. Snyder, a member of Countrywide's board of directors, said of the deal: "Angelo Mozilo is one of the most important and influential figures in the history of mortgage banking. This agreement ensures that Countrywide will have the opportunity to benefit from his vision, leadership and unmatched expertise over the next decade" ( American Banker , June 5, 2001).
See also entry on Countrywide Credit Industries, Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories .
Condon, Bernard, "Last Man Standing," Forbes , November 27, 2000, p. 108.
"Countrywide Aims for #1," Mortgage Wire , November 5, 2003, p. 1.
Mozilo, Angelo R. "Barriers and Obstacles: Closing the Homeownership Gap," Mortgage Banking , February 2003, p. 15.
"Mozilo Signs 10-Year Pact with Countrywide," American Banker , June 5, 2001, p. 19.
"Straight Shooter," Mortgage Banking , October 1991, pp. 46–52.
—Stephanie Dionne Sherk