Marcos Breton

Connecting the dots on issues, people and news in the Sacramento region

Marcos Breton: Wealthy Kings suitor a billboard for immigration reform

03/24/2013 12:00 AM

10/08/2014 10:41 AM

Vivek Ranadive, the man who would be the Kings' new majority owner, is an innovator, a job creator and a walking billboard for immigration reform.

It's anybody's guess whether a group of billionaires now led by the India-born Ranadive will prevail in a bidding war for the Kings, but his life makes clear what can happen when immigrant skills and desire meet American opportunity.

At 55, he has amassed enough wealth to bid on an NBA team after coming to America with $50 in his pocket. Educated at MIT and Harvard, he used those smarts for technological advances that transformed Wall Street and made America safer.

He has been the focal point of glowing profiles in the New Yorker, Esquire, the Economist, CNN and Fox Business News.

Ranadive is already a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors and, if he were successful in landing the Kings, he would be a pioneer – the first Indian/South Asian majority owner of a franchise in a major American sport.

It's all possible because Ranadive was never forced to return to India due to restrictive immigration laws that now push potential entrepreneurs back to their home countries instead of allowing them to remain in America to create wealth.

The current generation of Ranadives is out of luck once their temporary visas expire because of the huge backlog and yearslong wait for permanent visas.

Ranadive didn't face such restrictions because when he landed in Boston in the mid-1970s, India and China had not yet exploded as the economic powers that now export more talented people than America's antiquated immigration quotas can deal with.

Currently, no one country can hold more than 7 percent of green cards in the United States.

"It doesn't matter if it's China and India – which have half the world's population – or Djibouti and Luxembourg," said Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics at UC Davis. "Some people from China, India and the Philippines have to wait 20 years."

Hope of abolishing this wasteful practice is tied up in a congressional immigration reform effort bogged down by controversy over border security and low-skilled, undocumented immigrants.

The need is clear. A recent Georgetown University study concluded that there is a growing gap between technology jobs available and the number of graduates with advanced degrees who can fill those jobs.

Ranadive has become an outspoken advocate for immigration reform by using himself as an example.

"My story isn't that uncommon," Ranadive told Fox News recently. "It makes no sense spending hundreds of thousands to educate kids and then send them home."

Ranadive's transformative idea has been to shape information systems so that companies can respond to customers in real time.

In the 1980s, Ranadive created software to stream market information to Wall Street traders in real time – as opposed to old systems that amassed market trends and information at the end of each day, month or quarter.

"Ranadive used this theory to help transform Wall Street trading floors. His software powers most trading floors today," wrote Esquire magazine in a Ranadive profile titled "The Man who Knows Everything."

Ranadive's company is called Tibco. The first three letters stand for The Information Bus.

The Esquire piece explained how transformative his thinking has been. He has "applied (his ideas) to retail clients (2 billion transactions a day for FedEx, every transaction on amazon.com), manufacturing firms, the financial sector (Tibco processes every dollar for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which comes to $1.2 quadrillion annually), tech companies (every time someone activates an iPhone with AT&T, that's Tibco, as is every click on eBay – 2 million messages per second), the military, airlines (ever use an e-ticket?), casinos – he has thousands of clients."

One of Ranadive's major clients is the Department of Homeland Security Cyber Security Division. Can you imagine it? The U.S. government using technology innovated by an immigrant to make America's homeland security systems more nimble.

If that is not an endorsement for immigration reform, nothing is.

Ranadive is lying low right now, as are Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle, the other two tycoons involved in a secretive process to bid on the Kings as an alternative to their potential move to Seattle.

But Ranadive's story resonates beyond the NBA or Sacramento's interest in keeping its only major sports franchise.

Imagine if Ranadive had been sent home to India, despite his burning desire to remain in the United States and apply his ideas to the American economy.

In the lifetime of this immigrant, bidding on an NBA team is not the most noteworthy or impressive thing he has ever done. It makes you wonder about the immigrants we have sent home because our immigration laws are broken.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/breton. Follow him on Twitter @marcosbreton.

About This Blog

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton, and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a native of Northern California and the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Contact Marcos Breton at mbreton@sacbee.com or 916-321-1096.
Twitter: @MarcosBreton
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