Bob Andelman Articles Archive
Bill McBride and Alex Sink
Profile By Bob Andelman
(Originally published in Florida Business/Tampa
It's Friday, almost 7 p.m., and Bill
McBride is driving his pale blue Jaguar XJ6 -- the one with the
baby seat in back -- to Simon Schwartz, where he'll buy groceries
to make dinner for a client who is coming by at 8 to meet his
wife, Alex. She's due in on the air shuttle from Miami any minute.
That's why he's describing his life as one of Florida's most
influential attorneys while squeezing produce, grabbing six-packs
of Amstel Light and Kirin Dry and directing the butcher to five
juicy N.Y. strip steaks.
"If I'm tired, one of the reasons is our little girl has
been waking up at 3 a.m. and not going back to sleep," explains
the Tampa managing partner of Holland & Knight. "And
I've been staying up with her."
Bill McBride and Adelaide "Alex" Sink are happily married
with two young children, Bert and Lexie. They are a thoroughly
He lives in a comfortable home in Tampa's Palma Ceia neighborhood.
She has a condominium in Coconut Grove, a suburb of Miami, because
that's where her job as a senior vice president with NCNB National
Bank of Florida is. The kids -- ages 20 months and 17 weeks --
live in Tampa with Dad. Mom jets home to see them on the weekends.
"It's a pretty interesting story," says Jim Chandler,
vice president of public affairs at NCNB National Bank of Florida.
"They live lives in different cities and still make time
to make babies."
Commuting gained a whole new definition when Bill and Alex tied
the knot three years ago. Not only do they commute to work, they
commute to married life.
"Every once in a while we question whether Alex is working
in Miami or in Tampa," jokes Tamara Klinger, communications
manager of the United Way of Dade County, where Sink is on the
board of directors. "I think she spends most Fridays on
The shoes of McBride, 44, and Sink, 40, are not ones in which
most of us would comfortably fit. McBride is one of three managing
partners at Florida's largest law firm, Holland & Knight,
where he oversees 250 lawyers. Sink is among the highest ranking
women at NCNB. They see each other primarily on weekends, but
sometimes in one city or another as business needs dictate.
"We have a big office down there, so I have to go down a
lot," says McBride. "And her headquarters is here in
Tampa with NCNB. So we go back and forth. If we didn't have that
relationship, it wouldn't be easy."
"I used to read about these marriages," says Sink,
who married McBride two years ago. It is her second time around,
his first. "When the idea was first being thought about,
you'd read about these high-powered New York/Washington couples
and you'd think, 'How foolish!' And now I'm in the middle of
Gregg Thomas, a partner at Holland & Knight in Tampa, says
the lawyer's co-workers have a great appreciation of McBride's
unusual lifestyle. "I think it's just accepted that she's
on a career path that's as important as his. I think it's neat
he's taking as much care of Bert as he does."
The McBride/Sink courtship lasted two years and was largely based
on airline schedules, a warm-up for married life. When they finally
wed, the pair shared shelter for nine whole months before a promotion
and better money in Miami was too good to refuse.
"Bill was going into the office Saturdays and Sunday mornings,"
remembers Sink. "I would go in on Saturdays and stay late.
I became convinced that when you added up the hours we spent
together, it's about the same. I never thought we would go back
to commuting. I stay late in Miami so when I come (to Tampa)
for the weekend I don't have to think about work. And he does
much the same thing."
Sink oversees NCNB's consumer banking services in Dade, Broward
and Palm Beach counties. That translates into 75 bank branches,
800 employees and $2 billion in deposits.
"Her job in Miami is a good one," says McBride. "My
wife is the highest ranking woman officer in NCNB. She is on
the executive committee of the Chamber of Commerce in Miami,
she's on the United Way Board of Directors. She's a pretty formidable
person in her own right. My judgement is she should continue.
So for now, the babies are staying with me. (I'm) sort of Mr.
"He has much stronger mother's instincts than I do with
our children," says Sink. "He has different sides,
but he's very soft-hearted." Then, believing that might
be misinterpreted, she adds, "I mean, nobody's going to
accuse Bill McBride of being a wimp."
They make an unlikely couple for more reasons than sheer geography.
She is a delicate, pretty, exotic looking woman with Oriental
roots (her great-grandfather was one of the original Siamese
twins) who grew up in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He is a stocky,
gentle man from Leesburg who went to the University of Florida
on a football scholarship (a bad knee subsequently kept him from
playing) and served in Vietnam with the Marines.
McBride was ready to settle down and have a family when he turned
40; Sink wasn't.
"I wasn't looking to get married," she says. "After
the first marriage, I made up my mind to work at my career and
get financially independent. I didn't care about having kids,
so there wasn't that pressure. When Bill came along ... He was
a professional, well established in his career and he was a Democrat.
When he told me on the first date he was getting ready to go
to the Democratic National Convention as a Gary Hart delegate,
I thought, 'This is the right man.' Because I had made up my
mind I wasn't going to marry a Republican.
"It's like religion," says Sink. "My politics
are very important to me. I couldn't see myself living with someone
of a different philosophy or someone who was apolitical."
Politics are an integral part of McBride's life and are becoming
more so by the day. When Hart didn't work out in '84, he signed
on first with Joe Biden and then Michael Dukakis in '88. There's
still a yard sign in the garage. "I've always been a Democrat,"
he says. "I may be the last one." A supporter of Bob
Martinez when he was the Democratic Mayor of Tampa, he has closely
aligned himself to the 1990 gubernatorial hopes of Rep. Bill
Nelson (D.-Melbourne), a friend since they met in Key Club while
McBride was at Leesburg High School and Nelson at Melbourne High.
Nelson and McBride have a long history together. The congressman
is a frequent house guest. While in Tampa, McBride fills his
friend's days and nights with meetings and social engagements
to help Nelson spread his political base across Central Florida.
"When we have time together, we make the most of it,"
according to Nelson. "Bill would fill every available minute
with meetings -- over breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Sink has been drawn to the campaign by her husband's friendship
with Nelson. "When the guy comes and spends the night in
your house about once a month for three years, you can't help
but get involved with him," she says.
The bond between lawyer and politician is their shared goal of
excellence in Florida's future. "I think he's the best.
I give him a lot of money. I'm a fundraiser," says McBride.
"And I'm going to work on issues with him."
"(McBride) has specific ideas about what ought to be done
and the kinds of individuals that ought to do them. I went to
him first, saying that I wanted to be governor," says Nelson.
While McBride lacks an official position with the Nelson campaign,
he doesn't lack for influence. "He's broadened my support
in Hillsborough," says the candidate, "and he's been
a help in fundraising. He has poured everything -- his heart
and soul -- into it."
"Bill -- I call him a man of no moderation," says Sink.
"He does things 110 percent."
But what kind of a business manager is Barrister McBride?
"I've never had trouble walking into his office and bitching
and moaning about something going on," says Holland &
Knight partner Gregg Thomas, a media law specialist in the firm's
Tampa office. "He is the only peer who criticizes me, and
I criticize him regularly. It's a good, constructive relationship."
Bill Nelson says you need only compare McBride's age with his
position to know how talented he is. "Bill has had an extremely
rapid rise at one of the state's most prestigious law firms.
Law firms usually defer to managing partners who are very senior.
And what's Bill, 43, 44? That sort of speaks for itself."
The partners of Holland & Knight must think a lot of McBride;
they elected him in Jan. 1988 to a three-year term as a managing
"I've worked with McBride for the last 10 years," says
Thomas. "I'm always amazed at him. I think he's the reason
we're doing so well in Tampa. Tampa is a changing market. Through
McBride's leadership we realized we needed to reach out and find
new and developing clients. He's getting us motivated about being
lawyers and being involved in our community. Being not only marketing-oriented
but community-oriented has come from McBride."
Atop the book shelves in McBride's office sits a colorful, bearded
wizard in flowing robes who has certainly worked his magicks
upon the holder of the office. From his office on the 21st floor
of new NCNB Building in downtown Tampa, Bill McBride balances
tremendous responsibilities as a managing partner at Holland
& Knight and one of several heirs to the mantle of his personal
mentor and law firm founder Chesterfield Smith. That would be
enough alone for most energetic men. But McBride also finds time
to be a member of Nelson's campaign for governor, a barrage of
regional transportation committees and civic groups.
He is a mega-manager.
"Bill McBride is one of the most dynamic men I have ever
known," says his friend and associate on many transportation
commissions, Joe McFarland, president of McFarland & Fries
Financial Services. "He is really a go-getter, in spades."
And don't lose site of his responsibilities at home; the live-in
nanny cares for the kids all day, but they're McBride's to deal
with after 7 p.m.
"I work a lot," he says. "I don't play golf, but
I'm not a nut. I do a lot of public service stuff, probably more
than most people. And I have a lot of good friends that work
with me. I get a lot of support from my partners. I'll do the
job at hand without too much messing around."
Alex Sink -- and no one seems to ever refer to her as Mrs. McBride
-- has a similar no-nonsense approach to her career. She has
worked hard to rise to prominence within NCNB, starting 15 years
ago as a branch planning analyst in Charlotte. That's when NCNB
only had one name -- North Carolina National Bank, not NCNB of
Florida, Texas, et al. At Wake Forest she studied math and married
soon after graduation. Her first husband work took them to three
African countries where she taught school. But the relationship
soured and, after three years, Sink returned home and joined
the bank at age 25.
"One advantage I had was that I was single," she says
of her advancement. "If I wanted to stay out late, I had
the flexibility. If I saw 'the boys' were going out for pizza
or beer -- and provided they invited me along -- I went. I didn't
have that sense of exclusion that a married young woman might.
Today, I'm one of the old-timers ... Maybe I'm one of 'the boys'
As a senior vice president, she has come full circle in terms
of her job focus. Sink is again responsible for finding new branches
for NCNB, but she also works on increasing consumer lending and
deposits, overseeing employee training and developing new products.
She is on the road a lot.
"Alex has been a star for a lot of years," says Jim
Chandler. "She's gregarious, friendly, very outgoing. She's
loaded with energy. She works probably 80 hours a week, never
Chandler calls Sink "a member of the team," noting
an independent study by the International Leadership Center in
Dallas which identified her as the second most powerful woman
"I'll tell you a little story," says Chandler. "It
goes back to my early days with the company. I was flying to
New York with Thomas Storrs, the retired president of the bank,
and Buddy Kent, who is now chairman of NCNB Texas. Storrs told
Kent, 'I just made some business calls with a lady who was the
best prepared executive I've ever dealt with on your staff. Every
'i' was dotted, every 't' was crossed. Her name was Alex Sink.'
That was part of the secret of Alex's success -- being recognized
as good and thorough."
Community service and involvement is a commitment stressed in
the lives of both McBride and Sink. They give time and money
to causes and projects they believe in. It gives them character;
it is also the tie that binds them together.
"My civic work is very important to me," says Sink.
"Things like the United Way and the Chamber of Commerce
are an important part of our lives."
Ray Goode, CEO of The Babcock Co. in Coral Gables and vice chairman
of public affairs for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce,
says Sink does an "exceptional" job running the chamber's
state affairs committee. The committee is a political lobbying
arm which promotes the chamber's legislative package in Tallahassee.
"She's very knowledgeable about what's going on in greater
Miami and statewide," according to Goode. "She has
gotten to know the 'actors,' she knows where the sources are
and knows how to work with these sources. She is a particularly
relevant model to women who want to work and stay on the career
path and start a family. She has proven that it can be done."
"Alex has chosen to be a leader not only in her company
but in the community," agrees Tamara Klinger of the United
Way of Dade County. "Each year, Alex has taken on a different
role in the campaign and each year she comes through for us."
As for McBride's relentless devotion to community -- he serves
on the board of directors of United Way of Greater Tampa, Tampa
Ballet, Tampa Downtown Partnership, Tampa Marine Institute and
Tiger Bay Club of Tampa; founded the District VII Transportation
Coalition and the Marion Street Transitway Coalition; works as
a member of two state committees, the Gender Bias Study Commission
and the Task Force on the Future of the Florida Family; and he
is also chairman of a partnership conducting a human needs assessment
for Hillsborough -- he says that because lawyers have a legal
monopoly on what they do, they have a greater responsibility
than most professionals to give something back. "I trained
under a lawyer -- Chesterfield Smith -- who said that's how you
should be. (The law) isn't just a way to make money. You should
work to make it better.
"Money has never been a motivating factor for me,"
says the past-president of the Hillsborough Bar Association.
"But I've been very lucky. I do very well -- much better
than I deserve. Maybe I do a lot of the free work to make myself
feel better about leading such a luxurious life."
A lot of lawyers do the same quality work. Who do you choose?
Maybe the guy who gives back to the community. At least that's
the theme McBride follows. He says his motives are not entirely
pure; he still has a law practice to build. But many would argue
he has a hand in many more civic projects than would be necessary
to impress the average citizen or corporate client.
Driving home from the grocery, McBride pulls into a drive-thru
Farm Stores outlet. Being home a lot, McBride says he's getting
fat. "It's a lack of willpower," he says. "I like
ice cream a lot. Don't tell anyone I said so, but the best ice
cream in the world is Farm Stores'. I think they pour as much
sugar as they can in a carton with cream. It's incredibly good.
One of the best they have is chocolate chip."
Ice cream, of all things, reminds the lawyer of his tour of duty
in Vietnam. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in '68 and went into
the jungles as an infantry platoon commander, company commander,
and combined unit commander of Marines and Vietnamese popular
forces. A sword from the Marine Corps hangs proudly over the
"When I was in the Marine Corps," he recalls, "we'd
come back from the woods in Vietnam. The number one thing we
wanted to get was ice cream. One time they said they were going
to get ice cream for dessert and then the freezer broke down.
There was a riot."
At the house, the children's nanny could probably use a cold
beer, not chocolate almond ice cream. She is frazzled from hours
of chasing McBride's son around the house. "Bert's at the
stage where he wants to run all day," says a dad who probably
figures he's got a chip off the old block.
"You know," says Bill McBride, "the complaint
I hear most from guys my age who got married early is they didn't
spend enough time with their kids. The most important thing to
me up until now has been the law firm. Having children at 43
doesn't even remotely resemble having kids at a younger age.
I would not have been as good a father as I hope I'm going to
There are advantages to having a spouse living 300 miles away.
Think of the frequent flyer points. McBride and Sink used theirs
to take a vacation in Australia last summer. While they probably
won't be able to do anything that extravagant again until the
children are out of diapers, they do have a fishing boat in the
Bahamas for summer vacations and long weekends.
Sink calls. Her flight is running late; she'll probably miss
dinner with the client. McBride takes it in stride. He's bragged
of his cooking prowess and will have an opportunity to practice
on a business associate. That's later; right now he's playing
with Bert, who looks like his mother, and Cheryl Alexander --
"Lexie" -- who looks like her mother.
"My wife calls her Lexie. I call her 'Myrtle' because it
rhymes with 'Bertle.' That's what I call Bert -- Bertle the Turtle."
No one in the family, it seems, goes by their given names. McBride
turns to his son, William Albert, who is coloring the daily newspaper
on the coffee table with huge crayons. "Bert," he instructs,
"say, 'E-I -- E-I ... "
"O!!" shouts the little boy to his father's glee.
Gregg Thomas, who brings his kids over to play with McBride's,
believes there are limits to the boss's "Mr. Mom" act.
Like changing diapers. "I said, 'Bill, Bert's got a problem
with his pants. You got a diaper?' He says, 'No, Alex will be
home in 15 minutes.' So there are some things he doesn't like
to deal with."
McBride goes to bed every night at 9:30, right after Bert. He
wants more children; Sink doesn't seem so inclined. "I worry
a lot that I'll be 60 and my kids will just be going to college.
But I kinda accept things as they come," she says. "On
the other hand, "Five years ago, my company wasn't prepared
for women on the career-track to have children. Today we have
a lot of benefits."
The McBride/Sinks will settle on the one family, one city concept
before too long. Both parents acknowledge that it's inevitable.
But where will they live? Whose career will have to give way
to the best interests of the family?
"I sort of think those things take care of themselves,"
says Bill McBride. "It'll work out."
Sidebar: Don't Drive, He Said
Bill McBride has seized transportation as an issue very important
to him. His outspoken views on mass transit solutions, outlined
in the January, 1989 issue of FLORIDA BUSINESS, show him to be
a supporter of innovative solutions to Tampa Bay's stalled traffic
"He has become one of the acknowledged experts on transportation
in Hillsborough County," according to Rep. Bill Nelson.
Joe McFarland has served on many transit committees with McBride,
who succeeded him as chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of
Commerce's Highway & Public Transportation Council in 1987.
"He didn't know the first thing about our transportation
problems the first day took over our transportation council.
But he's a fast study. What he doesn't know, he's quick to tell
you. One of the first things he perceived was that busing was
in trouble. He decided we needed a group from the power structure
who could be vocal."
The result was the formation of the Marion Street Transitway
Coalition, which successfully pushed for construction of a regional
bus mall in downtown Tampa.
McBride is widely credited with founding the District VII Transportation
Coalition, the first regional (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando
and Pasco counties) organization in Florida to support area transportation
needs and legislation. "He perceived we needed an overall
constituency for regional transportation. He was the father of
it. It was his baby," says McFarland.
The credentials don't end there. McBride is chairman of the Citizens
Advisory Council to the Metropolitan Planning Organization; a
member of the Rail Transit Study Management Team; co-chairman
of the Hillsborough County Transportation Financing Alternatives
Committee; organizer of the Advisory Committee on Hillsborough
County Transportation Concepts; member of the Tampa Interstate
Study Advisory Committee; and a member of Tampa's Transportation
Finance Committee (appointed by the mayor). -- Bob Andelman
©2000, All rights
reserved. No portion may be reproduced without the express written
permission of the author.
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