A cricket buff and and a collector

Gary R. Bennett, MD & CEO,Max New York Life Insurance, has lost 54 kg in two years, loves the good things of life and also believes in karma, for good measure.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: June 15, 2008

Gary R. Bennett, MD & CEO, Max New York Life Insurance, has turned into a new man—well, almost. He is now leaner (he has lost, believe it or not, 54 kg over the last two years), fitter and sounds philosophical about the change in him. “I’m in the life insurance business and I deal with loss on a daily basis. The life that I live should be healthier than before,” he declares.

 Gary’s day out

Despite his busy schedule, Bennett makes it a point to find time for himself.

5 a.m. An hour of aerobics or an hour of yoga with instructor or wife Jill plus 30 laps in the pool

7 a.m. Breakfast with the “girls”— wife Jill and daughter Lauren. Catch the news

9 a.m. Walks into office

9 a.m.-8 p.m. The usual management meetings, telephone calls. Occasional calls with shareholders

8 p.m. Leaves for home

9 p.m. Dinner with the “girls”

10-11 p.m. Squeezes in a conference call or two. Reads a few pages from his favourite books (he reads several books simultaneously). Sleep

If variety is the spice of life, there can’t be a more spicy life than Bennett’s. Apart from running Max New York Life Insurance, the joint venture between New York Life, a Fortune 100 company and Max India, he is an avid collector of art, wine, real estate, stocks, watches, ties, cufflinks, shoes, et al. For the last two years, though, something else has taken precedence over everything in his life—fitness.

His home is a splendid farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi. The first sight that greets you is his collection of paintings. Bennett settles on a sofa with a vibrant Sanjay Verma work as the backdrop, and a few compliments on his fitness later, contentedly reveals: “I was a borderline diabetic. My diabetes is gone. My blood pressure is like that of a 25-year-old. I have so much more energy and stamina to do things.” If you are wondering how that happened, he has a simple answer: “When India sleeps, Gary gets healthy.” His two-hour regimen every morning includes an hour of aerobics and 30 laps in the pool. For variety, he does about 4 km on the treadmill or an hour of yoga with instructor Jagdeesh or his wife Jill. “Since coming to India, I have found my niche— karma; it’s a great gift.”

His tryst with fitness has given him even more energy to pursue his zeal for the good things of life—Australian Shiraz wine, Italian shoes, Rolex, Cartier and Franck Muller watches (he is wearing an Aigner limited edition to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China) and ties (Satya Paul is one of his favourites).

For a family that swears by tandoori lamb, dal makhani and stuffed paranthas, the Bennetts have a delectable surprise in store for their guest on a recent Saturday morning—this writer.

It is a vegetarian Italian home concoction, courtesy wife Jill. Lunch brings us to another of Gary’s passions— cricket. “IPL is the most exciting thing to happen to cricket in the last 20 years. It has changed cricket and turned it into prime-time high-energy entertainment,” he says. He hasn’t been to a match yet, but the family is planning to do that soon. Most Sundays, though, are spent relaxing by the pool.

On top of his agenda from here on are opening a wine boutique, watch a cricket match at the Eden Gardens (in Kolkata) “with a hundred thousand screaming fans”, and go to the opening morning of a Test at the Lords. Cricket is a passion. “It teaches you to do the right things. It means walking out when the umpire says you’re out.”


 Inside track

Born: In Sydney, December 7, 1954

Family: Wife Jill and 11-year-old daughter Lauren

Educated: Liverpool Boys High School, Sydney, Australia; “Went to the University of Life and still learning”. Also completed Certificate of Financial Planning, Diploma in Sales Mgmt and Real Estate Office Management, at Kuringai College, Sydney

First job: Clerk with an “export-import firm” in Sydney

First salary: A$12.50 per week (A$5.00 rent, A$2.50 weekly train ticket )

Music: Bollywood, Indian music, Also Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand. Lucky to have seen Sinatra live, but not Streisand (yet)

Favourite films: Something’s Gotta Give and Sleepless in Seattle

Hobbies: Collecting wines, houses, art, watches, ties, shoes, cufflinks and more FOOD: Spicy tandoori lamb, dal makhani and roomali roti plus a bottle of Australian Shiraz

Drink: Pink French champagne... and a Kingfisher beer with a dash of Sprite

Personal mantra: Nice guys do not come last

Best advice: No experience is ever wasted if you learn from it

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