Focus on the Fix: Sidney Torres IV

Focus on the Fix: Sidney Torres IV

by Leslie Cardé, photo by Candra George

Clad in his trademark black attire, a GQ version of Voldemort of Harry Potter fame, he strode into his new offices along the ever-morphing Tulane Avenue corridor off Carrollton. As he answered questions from this inquiring journalist, over my shoulder he kept a watchful eye on a bank of security cameras detailing every move from around his new building. 

“I really like to see what’s going on everywhere,” explained Sidney Torres IV, with whom I chatted about his past, present and future. That seems to be an ever-prevalent theme in the life of this entrepreneur.

If you live in New Orleans and aren’t familiar with Torres, you probably need to come out from underneath your rock. As part of the Torres dynasty of St. Bernard (his grandmother Lena Torres has been a longtime Clerk of Court, and his father Sidney Torres III is a prominent attorney), the thrust toward upward mobility seems to be genetic. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was easy.

“I think you’re born with the ambition and drive to find something you love,” explained Torres, “and I’ve had the good fortune to learn the real estate business from the ground up, with the help of some good mentors.”

There were some initial bumps in the road getting there, however. After spending two weeks in college and deciding it wasn’t for him, Torres kicked around at a radio station in Baton Rouge before landing a job as a personal assistant to rock star Lenny Kravitz, who was on tour.

“It got me out of my hometown and gave me a chance to see the world, but I was young and naïve, got into the party scene pretty heavily and an ongoing drug problem resurfaced. Off-focus, with no boundaries, two years into my employment, Lenny fired me. And he was justified. I crossed a line.”

But failure can be a learning experience and a kick in the pants to establish a work ethic. The first step was getting into re-hab. Once clean, Torres decided to begin working for a contractor, cleaning up job sites before move-ins. A quick study, he became a foreman within a year.

A former soccer coach, who did real estate on the side, became Sidney’s mentor, however, and with his grandmother co-signing his initial $50,000 loan, his mentor directed him to a specific area of the city to scout properties.

“I bought my first property off Maple Street in 1997,” Torres remembered. “I liked the area because it was close to Tulane and Loyola, and my coach had taught me that no matter what happened to the New Orleans market, the students from those schools would always have New York and L.A. money. You want to be in an area that isn’t dependent just on New Orleanians.”

To say that one deal led to another sounds cliché, but the hard work, which included learning every aspect of the renovation and flipping business, paid off. He went from small cottages, boutique hotels and large commercial properties to his ultimate renovation in Eleuthera in the Bahamas. When I inquired as to why he’d gone to the Caribbean, Torres told me it was partly to prove something.

“I felt that I had to show everyone that I didn’t need to be in New Orleans, where I grew up, to be successful. So, I found this bankrupt, 8-room bed-and-breakfast called The Cove, right at the water’s edge. With permission from the Prime Minister and their Parliament, I turned it into 75 villas, three restaurants and two bars. I put $15 million into the property and finished the build-out in eight months. I sold it at a nice profit to a developer who owns Canyon Ranch and Enchantment Resorts. I undertook this project because it was a challenge.”

The operative word here is challenge, and it’s a persistent theme in Sidney Torres’ career. When former mayor Mitch Landrieu, challenged the real estate mogul, who’d been highly critical of his law enforcement in the French Quarter, to put his money where his mouth was and fix the crime problem himself, Torres responded in a big way.

He founded and funded the French Quarter Task Force, sending off-duty New Orleans Police Department officers to patrol the tourist-laden Quarter in their Smart cars. A smartphone app in which people can report crimes in real time yields an immediate task force response. The private policing app is now being used in other cities like Memphis and recently made its debut on the northshore.

“With today’s technology, it’s become really useful,” said Torres, “because it finds your longitude and latitude coordinates, and allows us to find anyone in a rescue situation. So, if you’re on a farm, or out on the water where there are no cross streets, it still works.”

Like much else in Torres’ life, he turned over the reins of that project to someone else—briefly, the city of New Orleans. But, in time, he took it back, because he had other ideas about what he wanted to do with the app. He now has other information integrated into the software, like how to pay a ticket, or where to find a bail bonding company.

Sidney Torres is probably best known for his trash business, which evolved out of a vacuum when Waste Management’s trucks were flooded in hurricane Katrina and the city had absolutely no trash pick-up. He rented a truck to pick up the trash at his own hotel in the French Quarter, and word spread quickly that there was a trash truck rolling through the streets. Requests poured in, and in short order, he had a fleet of 50 energy-efficient trucks to service the city, replete with lemon-scented aromatics wafting through the Quarter’s corridors. With TV endorsements from friends Lenny Kravitz and Kid Rock, he was quickly dubbed Trashanova, for turning grime into glamour. Six years later, he sold SDT Waste and Debris Services at a healthy profit.

“I got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” remembered Torres. “I sold it to Waste Connections, out of Canada. They are the parent company of Progressive Waste Solutions. At the time, I was in 24 of the state’s 64 parishes. I had established relationships with multiple municipalities. It’s not just about price, believe me. Sure, we got brownie points for cleaning up New Orleans post-Katrina, but we also provided 5-star service to cities across Louisiana.”

Two years ago, Torres made a command decision to re-enter the trash collection business. Under the moniker, IV Waste, he has begun with commercial clients. Parish-wide garbage services come up for bid infrequently, but when renewals do arise, expect Torres to be right in the fray.

“Jefferson Parish is coming up in the not-too-distant future, and I’d like to get St. Bernard Parish back, as that’s where I grew up,” explained Torres. “I didn’t bid on New Orleans the last time it came up for bid, because I thought I was running for mayor in 2016. But with that behind me for the time being, I decided to concentrate on reinstating myself in the waste removal business. Beyond the numbers, there’s way more to this. For instance, recycling. Each parish has to come up with specific guidelines, train its people and most importantly, enforce the laws. In San Francisco, if you put trash in the recycling bin, you’re fined. With that sort of enforcement, you can actually affect the environment. Without it, you’re paying for recycling, but just wasting time and money.”

Wasting money isn’t something Torres ascribes to. Not within his real estate empire, not in his trash business and certainly not in another one of his businesses using the familiar IV suffix from his name—IV Capital, a private investment firm that lends money to small businesses.

“After I sold the garbage company SDT Waste, and paid off all of my debt, I opened IV Capital to do hard-money lending,” recalled Torres. “I always remember when Joe Canizaro started First Bank & Trust, and we were looking down from his tower office, and he pointed to all of the properties which he had financed. I thought back then that one day I wanted to be in a position to help others, because I know what it’s like not to have the track record or collateral where anyone would even remotely consider loaning me a million dollars.”

Those days, clearly, are over. But being a success isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. With any empire comes a fair share of headaches, sometimes requiring a lawyer on speed dial. To be sure, Torres is no stranger to controversy. Most recently, there have been ups and downs in a legal battle concerning a former French Quarter church on Rampart in which detractors argued Torres was in violation of Vieux Carré zoning regulations. After some legal wrangling and a lease with a church, he has now been granted an occupational license to run the property under the “place of worship” designation, which allows him to host various events without the zoning required for an official event hall.

And, after acquiring a Frenchmen Street nightclub, Torres is at odds with the operator who claims the former owners failed to give him the opportunity to purchase the building himself, as was required in his lease. Attorneys, a court of law, or both will no doubt be determining a resolution
to that matter.

But don’t count Torres out—on resolving property disputes, or anything else.

“I perform the best when I find something that’s totally messed up that I have to fix. I actually work better under pressure and stress. I’ve learned a lot from my mentors, and one of them, now a good friend, is Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Houston Rockets, the Landry’s Restaurant Chain and the Golden Nugget Casinos. I look up to him, and I listen to him. He doesn’t schedule anything beyond a week or so out, because he believes it’s important to stay focused on what’s right in front of him, right now.

With those sorts of parameters in play, it’s a bit difficult to get answers to questions that involve the future tense. But Torres is not ruling out running for office … someday. And it could be for mayor.

“When I considered a mayoral run previously, I was unhappy with the way the city was being run,” recounted Torres. “But you have to love what you’re doing, and the more I thought about going to the 2nd floor of City Hall, I realized it just wasn’t my time yet to sit still like that.”

There’s certainly no sitting still on his nationally televised CNBC show The Deed, a docu-series Torres created in which he not only shows wannabe real estate developers the ropes, but finances their projects as well. Although the television network vets the prospective candidates, it is Torres who vets the future investments from a financial perspective. With his dollars, it must make sense. A recent house-flip in season two of the show focused on Preston Tedesco, a Tulane law student who teamed up with Torres to renovate a Bywater shotgun.

“With Preston, we’re 50/50 partners,” explained Torres. “I put up all the money, and he puts up the sweat equity.”

That relationship has survived long after Preston’s first house flip on the show. Torres appreciated the tenacity of this millennial, who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“The first time I called his office and made my pitch to have coffee with him, I was told he might be available in six months,” remembered Tedesco.

“Sidney was filming the show at the time, but I didn’t give up.”

That Bywater flip, by the way, went under contract within a week of completion and sold for $369 per square foot. In New Orleans real estate terms, that is a bonanza in anyone’s book.

So, what’s next for the tycoon, with a $300 million net worth, who now has a 20-year-old son, Sidney Torres V, at Lynn University in Boca Raton who is now entertaining the idea of becoming an entrepreneur himself?

“I will support whatever his interests are,” says his father, “and the best training he could get would be right here in these offices—but by another mentor, because I think it’s tough to be taught anything by someone as close to you as a parent.”

Torres is also a parent to 2-year old Safina Donecia Torres, from his longtime relationship with former model Selina White. His eyes light up when he speaks about the precious little girl, who may have no Roman numerals after her name but is another SDT in a long line of them.

“I realize it sounds egomaniacal to name your child the fifth, or give your daughter the same initials, but I’m proud of my family, and I’m proud to carry the name. So, I’m passing along that pride.”

Just recently named as one of City Business’s 2018 Icons, he’s in the company of other business luminaries like Darryl Berger, William Goldring, and Donald Link. For the 43-year old, the real question may be where he goes from here.

“Every day, I have to figure out what’s next,” Torres said contemplatively. “You asked me where I’d be in 20 years. To be quite honest, I don’t know where I’ll be in the next 20 minutes.”

Wherever that is and whatever it entails, Torres is more than an idea man. He knows how to implement those ideas, and get things done.

Clad in his trademark black attire, a GQ version of Voldemort of Harry Potter fame, he strode into his new offices along the ever-morphing Tulane Avenue corridor off Carrollton. As he answered questions from this inquiring journalist, over my shoulder he kept a watchful eye on a bank of security cameras detailing every move from around his new building. 

“I really like to see what’s going on everywhere,” explained Sidney Torres IV, with whom I chatted about his past, present and future. That seems to be an ever-prevalent theme in the life of this entrepreneur.

If you live in New Orleans and aren’t familiar with Torres, you probably need to come out from underneath your rock. As part of the Torres dynasty of St. Bernard (his grandmother Lena Torres has been a longtime Clerk of Court, and his father Sidney Torres III is a prominent attorney), the thrust toward upward mobility seems to be genetic. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was easy.

“I think you’re born with the ambition and drive to find something you love,” explained Torres, “and I’ve had the good fortune to learn the real estate business from the ground up, with the help of some good mentors.”

There were some initial bumps in the road getting there, however. After spending two weeks in college and deciding it wasn’t for him, Torres kicked around at a radio station in Baton Rouge before landing a job as a personal assistant to rock star Lenny Kravitz, who was on tour.

“It got me out of my hometown and gave me a chance to see the world, but I was young and naïve, got into the party scene pretty heavily and an ongoing drug problem resurfaced. Off-focus, with no boundaries, two years into my employment, Lenny fired me. And he was justified. I crossed a line.”

But failure can be a learning experience and a kick in the pants to establish a work ethic. The first step was getting into re-hab. Once clean, Torres decided to begin working for a contractor, cleaning up job sites before move-ins. A quick study, he became a foreman within a year.

A former soccer coach, who did real estate on the side, became Sidney’s mentor, however, and with his grandmother co-signing his initial $50,000 loan, his mentor directed him to a specific area of the city to scout properties.

“I bought my first property off Maple Street in 1997,” Torres remembered. “I liked the area because it was close to Tulane and Loyola, and my coach had taught me that no matter what happened to the New Orleans market, the students from those schools would always have New York and L.A. money. You want to be in an area that isn’t dependent just on New Orleanians.”

To say that one deal led to another sounds cliché, but the hard work, which included learning every aspect of the renovation and flipping business, paid off. He went from small cottages, boutique hotels and large commercial properties to his ultimate renovation in Eleuthera in the Bahamas. When I inquired as to why he’d gone to the Caribbean, Torres told me it was partly to prove something.

“I felt that I had to show everyone that I didn’t need to be in New Orleans, where I grew up, to be successful. So, I found this bankrupt, 8-room bed-and-breakfast called The Cove, right at the water’s edge. With permission from the Prime Minister and their Parliament, I turned it into 75 villas, three restaurants and two bars. I put $15 million into the property and finished the build-out in eight months. I sold it at a nice profit to a developer who owns Canyon Ranch and Enchantment Resorts. I undertook this project because it was a challenge.”

The operative word here is challenge, and it’s a persistent theme in Sidney Torres’ career. When former mayor Mitch Landrieu, challenged the real estate mogul, who’d been highly critical of his law enforcement in the French Quarter, to put his money where his mouth was and fix the crime problem himself, Torres responded in a big way.

He founded and funded the French Quarter Task Force, sending off-duty New Orleans Police Department officers to patrol the tourist-laden Quarter in their Smart cars. A smartphone app in which people can report crimes in real time yields an immediate task force response. The private policing app is now being used in other cities like Memphis and recently made its debut on the northshore.

“With today’s technology, it’s become really useful,” said Torres, “because it finds your longitude and latitude coordinates, and allows us to find anyone in a rescue situation. So, if you’re on a farm, or out on the water where there are no cross streets, it still works.”

Like much else in Torres’ life, he turned over the reins of that project to someone else—briefly, the city of New Orleans. But, in time, he took it back, because he had other ideas about what he wanted to do with the app. He now has other information integrated into the software, like how to pay a ticket, or where to find a bail bonding company.

Sidney Torres is probably best known for his trash business, which evolved out of a vacuum when Waste Management’s trucks were flooded in hurricane Katrina and the city had absolutely no trash pick-up. He rented a truck to pick up the trash at his own hotel in the French Quarter, and word spread quickly that there was a trash truck rolling through the streets. Requests poured in, and in short order, he had a fleet of 50 energy-efficient trucks to service the city, replete with lemon-scented aromatics wafting through the Quarter’s corridors. With TV endorsements from friends Lenny Kravitz and Kid Rock, he was quickly dubbed Trashanova, for turning grime into glamour. Six years later, he sold SDT Waste and Debris Services at a healthy profit.

“I got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” remembered Torres. “I sold it to Waste Connections, out of Canada. They are the parent company of Progressive Waste Solutions. At the time, I was in 24 of the state’s 64 parishes. I had established relationships with multiple municipalities. It’s not just about price, believe me. Sure, we got brownie points for cleaning up New Orleans post-Katrina, but we also provided 5-star service to cities across Louisiana.”

Two years ago, Torres made a command decision to re-enter the trash collection business. Under the moniker, IV Waste, he has begun with commercial clients. Parish-wide garbage services come up for bid infrequently, but when renewals do arise, expect Torres to be right in the fray.

“Jefferson Parish is coming up in the not-too-distant future, and I’d like to get St. Bernard Parish back, as that’s where I grew up,” explained Torres. “I didn’t bid on New Orleans the last time it came up for bid, because I thought I was running for mayor in 2016. But with that behind me for the time being, I decided to concentrate on reinstating myself in the waste removal business. Beyond the numbers, there’s way more to this. For instance, recycling. Each parish has to come up with specific guidelines, train its people and most importantly, enforce the laws. In San Francisco, if you put trash in the recycling bin, you’re fined. With that sort of enforcement, you can actually affect the environment. Without it, you’re paying for recycling, but just wasting time and money.”

Wasting money isn’t something Torres ascribes to. Not within his real estate empire, not in his trash business and certainly not in another one of his businesses using the familiar IV suffix from his name—IV Capital, a private investment firm that lends money to small businesses.

“After I sold the garbage company SDT Waste, and paid off all of my debt, I opened IV Capital to do hard-money lending,” recalled Torres. “I always remember when Joe Canizaro started First Bank & Trust, and we were looking down from his tower office, and he pointed to all of the properties which he had financed. I thought back then that one day I wanted to be in a position to help others, because I know what it’s like not to have the track record or collateral where anyone would even remotely consider loaning me a million dollars.”

Those days, clearly, are over. But being a success isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. With any empire comes a fair share of headaches, sometimes requiring a lawyer on speed dial. To be sure, Torres is no stranger to controversy. Most recently, there have been ups and downs in a legal battle concerning a former French Quarter church on Rampart in which detractors argued Torres was in violation of Vieux Carré zoning regulations. After some legal wrangling and a lease with a church, he has now been granted an occupational license to run the property under the “place of worship” designation, which allows him to host various events without the zoning required for an official event hall.

And, after acquiring a Frenchmen Street nightclub, Torres is at odds with the operator who claims the former owners failed to give him the opportunity to purchase the building himself, as was required in his lease. Attorneys, a court of law, or both will no doubt be determining a resolution
to that matter.

But don’t count Torres out—on resolving property disputes, or anything else.

“I perform the best when I find something that’s totally messed up that I have to fix. I actually work better under pressure and stress. I’ve learned a lot from my mentors, and one of them, now a good friend, is Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Houston Rockets, the Landry’s Restaurant Chain and the Golden Nugget Casinos. I look up to him, and I listen to him. He doesn’t schedule anything beyond a week or so out, because he believes it’s important to stay focused on what’s right in front of him, right now.

With those sorts of parameters in play, it’s a bit difficult to get answers to questions that involve the future tense. But Torres is not ruling out running for office … someday. And it could be for mayor.

“When I considered a mayoral run previously, I was unhappy with the way the city was being run,” recounted Torres. “But you have to love what you’re doing, and the more I thought about going to the 2nd floor of City Hall, I realized it just wasn’t my time yet to sit still like that.”

There’s certainly no sitting still on his nationally televised CNBC show The Deed, a docu-series Torres created in which he not only shows wannabe real estate developers the ropes, but finances their projects as well. Although the television network vets the prospective candidates, it is Torres who vets the future investments from a financial perspective. With his dollars, it must make sense. A recent house-flip in season two of the show focused on Preston Tedesco, a Tulane law student who teamed up with Torres to renovate a Bywater shotgun.

“With Preston, we’re 50/50 partners,” explained Torres. “I put up all the money, and he puts up the sweat equity.”

That relationship has survived long after Preston’s first house flip on the show. Torres appreciated the tenacity of this millennial, who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“The first time I called his office and made my pitch to have coffee with him, I was told he might be available in six months,” remembered Tedesco.

“Sidney was filming the show at the time, but I didn’t give up.”

That Bywater flip, by the way, went under contract within a week of completion and sold for $369 per square foot. In New Orleans real estate terms, that is a bonanza in anyone’s book.

So, what’s next for the tycoon, with a $300 million net worth, who now has a 20-year-old son, Sidney Torres V, at Lynn University in Boca Raton who is now entertaining the idea of becoming an entrepreneur himself?

“I will support whatever his interests are,” says his father, “and the best training he could get would be right here in these offices—but by another mentor, because I think it’s tough to be taught anything by someone as close to you as a parent.”

Torres is also a parent to 2-year old Safina Donecia Torres, from his longtime relationship with former model Selina White. His eyes light up when he speaks about the precious little girl, who may have no Roman numerals after her name but is another SDT in a long line of them.

“I realize it sounds egomaniacal to name your child the fifth, or give your daughter the same initials, but I’m proud of my family, and I’m proud to carry the name. So, I’m passing along that pride.”

Just recently named as one of City Business’s 2018 Icons, he’s in the company of other business luminaries like Darryl Berger, William Goldring, and Donald Link. For the 43-year old, the real question may be where he goes from here.

“Every day, I have to figure out what’s next,” Torres said contemplatively. “You asked me where I’d be in 20 years. To be quite honest, I don’t know where I’ll be in the next 20 minutes.”

Wherever that is and whatever it entails, Torres is more than an idea man. He knows how to implement those ideas, and get things done.

Clad in his trademark black attire, a GQ version of Voldemort of Harry Potter fame, he strode into his new offices along the ever-morphing Tulane Avenue corridor off Carrollton. As he answered questions from this inquiring journalist, over my shoulder he kept a watchful eye on a bank of security cameras detailing every move from around his new building. 

“I really like to see what’s going on everywhere,” explained Sidney Torres IV, with whom I chatted about his past, present and future. That seems to be an ever-prevalent theme in the life of this entrepreneur.

If you live in New Orleans and aren’t familiar with Torres, you probably need to come out from underneath your rock. As part of the Torres dynasty of St. Bernard (his grandmother Lena Torres has been a longtime Clerk of Court, and his father Sidney Torres III is a prominent attorney), the thrust toward upward mobility seems to be genetic. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was easy.

“I think you’re born with the ambition and drive to find something you love,” explained Torres, “and I’ve had the good fortune to learn the real estate business from the ground up, with the help of some good mentors.”

There were some initial bumps in the road getting there, however. After spending two weeks in college and deciding it wasn’t for him, Torres kicked around at a radio station in Baton Rouge before landing a job as a personal assistant to rock star Lenny Kravitz, who was on tour.

“It got me out of my hometown and gave me a chance to see the world, but I was young and naïve, got into the party scene pretty heavily and an ongoing drug problem resurfaced. Off-focus, with no boundaries, two years into my employment, Lenny fired me. And he was justified. I crossed a line.”

But failure can be a learning experience and a kick in the pants to establish a work ethic. The first step was getting into re-hab. Once clean, Torres decided to begin working for a contractor, cleaning up job sites before move-ins. A quick study, he became a foreman within a year.

A former soccer coach, who did real estate on the side, became Sidney’s mentor, however, and with his grandmother co-signing his initial $50,000 loan, his mentor directed him to a specific area of the city to scout properties.

“I bought my first property off Maple Street in 1997,” Torres remembered. “I liked the area because it was close to Tulane and Loyola, and my coach had taught me that no matter what happened to the New Orleans market, the students from those schools would always have New York and L.A. money. You want to be in an area that isn’t dependent just on New Orleanians.”

To say that one deal led to another sounds cliché, but the hard work, which included learning every aspect of the renovation and flipping business, paid off. He went from small cottages, boutique hotels and large commercial properties to his ultimate renovation in Eleuthera in the Bahamas. When I inquired as to why he’d gone to the Caribbean, Torres told me it was partly to prove something.

“I felt that I had to show everyone that I didn’t need to be in New Orleans, where I grew up, to be successful. So, I found this bankrupt, 8-room bed-and-breakfast called The Cove, right at the water’s edge. With permission from the Prime Minister and their Parliament, I turned it into 75 villas, three restaurants and two bars. I put $15 million into the property and finished the build-out in eight months. I sold it at a nice profit to a developer who owns Canyon Ranch and Enchantment Resorts. I undertook this project because it was a challenge.”

The operative word here is challenge, and it’s a persistent theme in Sidney Torres’ career. When former mayor Mitch Landrieu, challenged the real estate mogul, who’d been highly critical of his law enforcement in the French Quarter, to put his money where his mouth was and fix the crime problem himself, Torres responded in a big way.

He founded and funded the French Quarter Task Force, sending off-duty New Orleans Police Department officers to patrol the tourist-laden Quarter in their Smart cars. A smartphone app in which people can report crimes in real time yields an immediate task force response. The private policing app is now being used in other cities like Memphis and recently made its debut on the northshore.

“With today’s technology, it’s become really useful,” said Torres, “because it finds your longitude and latitude coordinates, and allows us to find anyone in a rescue situation. So, if you’re on a farm, or out on the water where there are no cross streets, it still works.”

Like much else in Torres’ life, he turned over the reins of that project to someone else—briefly, the city of New Orleans. But, in time, he took it back, because he had other ideas about what he wanted to do with the app. He now has other information integrated into the software, like how to pay a ticket, or where to find a bail bonding company.

Sidney Torres is probably best known for his trash business, which evolved out of a vacuum when Waste Management’s trucks were flooded in hurricane Katrina and the city had absolutely no trash pick-up. He rented a truck to pick up the trash at his own hotel in the French Quarter, and word spread quickly that there was a trash truck rolling through the streets. Requests poured in, and in short order, he had a fleet of 50 energy-efficient trucks to service the city, replete with lemon-scented aromatics wafting through the Quarter’s corridors. With TV endorsements from friends Lenny Kravitz and Kid Rock, he was quickly dubbed Trashanova, for turning grime into glamour. Six years later, he sold SDT Waste and Debris Services at a healthy profit.

“I got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” remembered Torres. “I sold it to Waste Connections, out of Canada. They are the parent company of Progressive Waste Solutions. At the time, I was in 24 of the state’s 64 parishes. I had established relationships with multiple municipalities. It’s not just about price, believe me. Sure, we got brownie points for cleaning up New Orleans post-Katrina, but we also provided 5-star service to cities across Louisiana.”

Two years ago, Torres made a command decision to re-enter the trash collection business. Under the moniker, IV Waste, he has begun with commercial clients. Parish-wide garbage services come up for bid infrequently, but when renewals do arise, expect Torres to be right in the fray.

“Jefferson Parish is coming up in the not-too-distant future, and I’d like to get St. Bernard Parish back, as that’s where I grew up,” explained Torres. “I didn’t bid on New Orleans the last time it came up for bid, because I thought I was running for mayor in 2016. But with that behind me for the time being, I decided to concentrate on reinstating myself in the waste removal business. Beyond the numbers, there’s way more to this. For instance, recycling. Each parish has to come up with specific guidelines, train its people and most importantly, enforce the laws. In San Francisco, if you put trash in the recycling bin, you’re fined. With that sort of enforcement, you can actually affect the environment. Without it, you’re paying for recycling, but just wasting time and money.”

Wasting money isn’t something Torres ascribes to. Not within his real estate empire, not in his trash business and certainly not in another one of his businesses using the familiar IV suffix from his name—IV Capital, a private investment firm that lends money to small businesses.

“After I sold the garbage company SDT Waste, and paid off all of my debt, I opened IV Capital to do hard-money lending,” recalled Torres. “I always remember when Joe Canizaro started First Bank & Trust, and we were looking down from his tower office, and he pointed to all of the properties which he had financed. I thought back then that one day I wanted to be in a position to help others, because I know what it’s like not to have the track record or collateral where anyone would even remotely consider loaning me a million dollars.”

Those days, clearly, are over. But being a success isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. With any empire comes a fair share of headaches, sometimes requiring a lawyer on speed dial. To be sure, Torres is no stranger to controversy. Most recently, there have been ups and downs in a legal battle concerning a former French Quarter church on Rampart in which detractors argued Torres was in violation of Vieux Carré zoning regulations. After some legal wrangling and a lease with a church, he has now been granted an occupational license to run the property under the “place of worship” designation, which allows him to host various events without the zoning required for an official event hall.

And, after acquiring a Frenchmen Street nightclub, Torres is at odds with the operator who claims the former owners failed to give him the opportunity to purchase the building himself, as was required in his lease. Attorneys, a court of law, or both will no doubt be determining a resolution
to that matter.

But don’t count Torres out—on resolving property disputes, or anything else.

“I perform the best when I find something that’s totally messed up that I have to fix. I actually work better under pressure and stress. I’ve learned a lot from my mentors, and one of them, now a good friend, is Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Houston Rockets, the Landry’s Restaurant Chain and the Golden Nugget Casinos. I look up to him, and I listen to him. He doesn’t schedule anything beyond a week or so out, because he believes it’s important to stay focused on what’s right in front of him, right now.

With those sorts of parameters in play, it’s a bit difficult to get answers to questions that involve the future tense. But Torres is not ruling out running for office … someday. And it could be for mayor.

“When I considered a mayoral run previously, I was unhappy with the way the city was being run,” recounted Torres. “But you have to love what you’re doing, and the more I thought about going to the 2nd floor of City Hall, I realized it just wasn’t my time yet to sit still like that.”

There’s certainly no sitting still on his nationally televised CNBC show The Deed, a docu-series Torres created in which he not only shows wannabe real estate developers the ropes, but finances their projects as well. Although the television network vets the prospective candidates, it is Torres who vets the future investments from a financial perspective. With his dollars, it must make sense. A recent house-flip in season two of the show focused on Preston Tedesco, a Tulane law student who teamed up with Torres to renovate a Bywater shotgun.

“With Preston, we’re 50/50 partners,” explained Torres. “I put up all the money, and he puts up the sweat equity.”

That relationship has survived long after Preston’s first house flip on the show. Torres appreciated the tenacity of this millennial, who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“The first time I called his office and made my pitch to have coffee with him, I was told he might be available in six months,” remembered Tedesco.

“Sidney was filming the show at the time, but I didn’t give up.”

That Bywater flip, by the way, went under contract within a week of completion and sold for $369 per square foot. In New Orleans real estate terms, that is a bonanza in anyone’s book.

So, what’s next for the tycoon, with a $300 million net worth, who now has a 20-year-old son, Sidney Torres V, at Lynn University in Boca Raton who is now entertaining the idea of becoming an entrepreneur himself?

“I will support whatever his interests are,” says his father, “and the best training he could get would be right here in these offices—but by another mentor, because I think it’s tough to be taught anything by someone as close to you as a parent.”

Torres is also a parent to 2-year old Safina Donecia Torres, from his longtime relationship with former model Selina White. His eyes light up when he speaks about the precious little girl, who may have no Roman numerals after her name but is another SDT in a long line of them.

“I realize it sounds egomaniacal to name your child the fifth, or give your daughter the same initials, but I’m proud of my family, and I’m proud to carry the name. So, I’m passing along that pride.”

Just recently named as one of City Business’s 2018 Icons, he’s in the company of other business luminaries like Darryl Berger, William Goldring, and Donald Link. For the 43-year old, the real question may be where he goes from here.

“Every day, I have to figure out what’s next,” Torres said contemplatively. “You asked me where I’d be in 20 years. To be quite honest, I don’t know where I’ll be in the next 20 minutes.”

Wherever that is and whatever it entails, Torres is more than an idea man. He knows how to implement those ideas, and get things done.



Get more from Inside Publications

Want to know the latest? Join our newsletter below.