A CEO who relaxes by blowing things up

Pillar Data Systems founder Mike Workman unwinds at his hobby fireworks factory.

Subscribe to Top Stories
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

mike_workman.03.jpg
fireworks.03.jpg

(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Mike Workman likes to blow stuff up.

When he's not running Pillar Data Systems, the data-storage company he founded in San Jose, Calif., with investment from Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) founder Larry Ellison, Workman designs custom fireworks at his hobby factory outside Oatman, Ariz. And we're not talking sparklers.

In 2003, at Ellison's request, Workman orchestrated a massive show in San Francisco Bay that consumed 6,000 shells in 28 minutes, at a cost of $250,000.

"The permits alone were $40,000," he says.

Though most of his shows are for personal enjoyment - out in the desert with a cigar, a glass of wine, and his dachshund, Clams - Workman competes in annual pyro­technic conventions across the West. His pièce de résistance this year? An aerial shell that will rise to 2,000 feet and shower colors across a quarter mile.

In addition to building fireworks, Workman bottles wine - 400 to 500 gallons a year of reds, from cabernets and merlots to his favorite petit syrah.

"What I found in starting a company is that it really has to be an obsession," says Workman, 51. "So I need alternative distractions that I can be equally obsessed over. I need something to give my brain a rest."  To top of page

Do you unwind from business pressures with an exotic hobby? Tell us about it.

Fireworks clampdown: An explosion in regulations is smothering small fireworks-makers.

Pyrotechnics: Another CEO with a passion for fire.
To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

Photo Galleries
50 years of the Ford Mustang Take a drive down memory lane with our favorite photos of the car through the years. More
Cool cars from the New York Auto Show These are some of the most interesting new models and concept vehicles from the Big Apple's car show. More
8 CEOs who took a pay cut in 2013 Median CEO pay inched up 9% in 2013 to $13.9 million. But not everyone got a bump last year. Here are eight CEOs who missed out. More
Sponsors
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.