It seems like Ruth’s home is everywhere. Her mom Guna was born and raised in Sweden and her father Rick is a Jewish orphan from Poland who survived the Holocaust as a hidden child and immigrated to Israel in 1947 and then to California in 1964 where he met Guna, who was vacationing there, and fell madly in love with Rick and decided to stay and raise a family in Marin County, California.
Ruth was born a multinational and lived in California until 2004 when she and her young family moved to Gibraltar where they have been domiciled by choice ever since, although they do vacation in Israel and UK where they also have family. She obtained a B.A in Business from University of San Francisco in 1988 and a J.D. from Western State University College of Law in 1992.
Ruth and her two sisters were raised in Mill Valley just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Growing up in the ’80’s she was a total California girl. She sailed, skied, studied piano and ice skated – getting up regularly at 5am to skate before school. Doing accounting for her dad after school, Ruth got a taste for business.
As a survivor, one of his girls had to learn the family business so that none of them would become destitute like he had once been. As the oldest, that someone was Ruth. He insisted she get a law degree as a prerequisite to becoming a businesswoman that men would respect.
The family business included managing residential and commercial real estate, as well as investing in nightclubs and technology start ups. Her dad Rick built it all from scratch – “Ricky” as his friends call him is by all accounts extremely intelligent and extremely well read in many languages. He is also very tough, everyone remembers him and almost everybody loves him.
After law school, Ruth went to work for one of her dad’s phone businesses for a while – an audiotex pay-per-call 900 number provider. It grew rapidly from a domestic to a global enterprise before transitioning to Internet services in the mid- 90s.
The offerings were tarot card and horoscope readings, trivia, wake-up calls, conference lines, voice mail applications and also sexy chat. She certainly learned a lot working for her dad, but quickly came to a point where she needed to break-free and do something of her own.
Growing up near Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the high tech Internet boom, she was inspired by the innovation and the new “information highway” concepts. At the same time, having also spent a lot of time in Las Vegas with her dad, where he developed several apartment complexes and office buildings, she got a feel for the gaming business. Then in 1995, at a trade show, she was pitched an investment opportunity for a first generation online casino package.
It was clunky and primitive but captured Ruth’s imagination to offer games online. She decided to design a new system and hired a team to start building and marketing it, launching Starluck Casino Online in 1997.
Things took off fast. The team soon set its sights on the poker community, launching PartyPoker in 2001. Players loved it and it became the heart and soul of her company, PartyGaming Plc. Ruth’s team put customers first. As a result, they won the loyalty and devotion of players from all over the world. It was a huge success.
In June 2005, after having been audited and reviewed by teams of accountants, lawyers and bankers, Party Gaming floated on the London Stock Exchange at a value of $8.5 billion dollars.
During this time, she had three babies as well and now wanted to be at home more to raise them.
At the end of 2006, Ruth decided to retire her 9 year advisory non-executive position with PartyGaming in order to focus on raising her young children, to start a private investment office and get more involved in The Trust, the philanthropy established in 2004 by a subsidiary of PartyGaming Plc for which Ruth is the lead International Board Member and now also principal benefactor having contributed several additional millions to the fund.
In many ways, Ruth finds it more difficult to make responsible grants than to make the money that pays for them. The question of how to have a lasting beneficial impact with the success she has been fortunate to achieve is not easy to answer, why give to this and not that? Which will have a greater return on money long term? Like business, Ruth enjoys thinking through the this and that.
But for Ruth, married in 2003 to Russ DeLeon and divorced in 2014 (separated 2010), nothing compares to the challenges and rewards of raising kids. Ruth loves being a mom and enjoys spending time with them at school as a volunteer room monitor and driving them from activity to activity. For Ruth, she feels strongly that children are a blessing and she has a duty to hands-on do her part to raise good, responsible kids. It’s a tough, demanding job but one she knows she is fortunate enough to be able to enjoy when so many moms, especially single moms like Ruth, are unable to spend such time with their children. Kids are like start-ups, tough, time consuming, demanding 24/7.
Being a mom has given Ruth new admiration and respect for her own mom. Parenting takes work and Ruth’s mom has a backbone like no one else. Compared to her somewhat-hedonistic dad (who although was financially and emotionally responsible for his family was also away from home a lot), Guna is strict and moralistic and she brooks no dissent. Like lots of mothers and daughters, they argued constantly especially during the teenage years but today, Ruth is thankful for the tough way Guna raised her daughters and that even now in her mid-70s Guna continues to work looking after family properties, tirelessly and determined.
What’s next? Ruth is far from done raising the kids – there’s a ways to go there. But Ruth is fortunate, and she knows it. She has a good home life, lots of competent and caring assistance and so she is eager to expand her philanthropic activities and also get back to venture projects – not as a passive investor but hands on a start up again in due course when the kids are a bit older.
As Ruth likes to laugh about, one night right after the PartyGaming’s IPO, the lead banker said to her “now you can go to Fiji, sit on the beach and never work again.” It sounded like torture to her, she can’t sit still for more than a minute. Never good in school suffering from ADHD and some Dyslexia as well, Ruth’s great gift is creating teams, not taking no for an answer and no fear of hard work. That’s what keeps her going.