My parents founded Betel, an drug rehabilitation center, in the mid 1980s.
When I was seven years old, my family moved to San Blas, one of the poorest neighborhood in Madrid. It had the highest rate of heroin use and juvenile violence in Europe at the time. My parents tried to help the suffering people that surrounded them. With a young Australian man named Lindsay, they went out every week to the nearby Gypsy camp, the parks and the bars to meet junkies and invite them back to their small apartment. My three brothers and I took the junkies back to our rooms to play with our toys. Over the years, the men and women became our best friends. They all had nicknames: Poison, Crazy, Tiger, Hard Dick. They were pimps, conmen, bank robbers, drug dealers, and even murderers. The addicts did not know that they were HIV positive and that most would die. They were my older brothers and sisters.
Sadly, my mother died in 2012, but my father still runs Betel. My parents always worked very hard and rarely did interviews or sought any press attention for what they did, but if you want to read about them, this is a slightly dated but good article. Today, Betel operates in over 25 countries and has almost 2,300 addicts in the center.
Tepper family 1983 when we arrived in Spain.
Tepper family 1991 before my youngest brother Timothy died.
Here is a podcast I did with Ted Seides on Capital Allocators. The podcasts cover investing and The Myth of Capitalism, but the interviews also touch on education and how my parents had to home school us at one stage. I didn’t like learning at home at first, but I learned that I could teach myself anything if I had the books and the desire to learn.
My inspiration to learn was Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the first Spaniard to win a Nobel Prize in sciences. Whenever I visited my friends in the infectious diseases ward at Ramón y Cajal Hospital, I saw his quote, “Every man can become the sculptor of his own mind if he sets himself the task.” (Para los que hablen castellano, aqui hay una entrevista con Cesar Vidal sobre El mito del capitalismo, mi familia y mi infancia en Madrid.)
My mother and father inspired us to learn, and my brothers and I all graduated from Oxford the same day. We came a long way from the streets of San Blas.