‘Just when I thought I was out’
Museum CFO is finally retired — maybe
Virginia Business’ 2022 Virginia CFO of the Year award winners represent large and small businesses and large and small nonprofits.
Large nonprofit | Hossein Sadid, CFO and deputy director for finance and administration
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
After a couple of failed attempts, Hossein Sadid finally retired at the end of June from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where he had served as chief financial officer and deputy director for finance and administration since 2014.
“It’s been a fantastic journey in the last leg of my professional career,” Hossein says of the VMFA. “Frankly, I’m kind of past due for retirement.”
It wasn’t his intention to work until he was 70. He just kept getting pulled back in.
Sadid began his career as a certified public accountant for Ernst & Young, where he worked on an audit for Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Case Western ended up hiring him as its director of internal audit, and he eventually rose to the position of chief financial and administrative officer, overseeing financial operations for multiple departments and acting as a liaison to four affiliated medical centers.
When Sadid left Case Western in 2008, he began seeking work options on the East or West coasts so he could “get out of the snow zone,” he says. Meanwhile, his consulting work took off. He worked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wake Forest University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the National University of Singapore.
A headhunter contacted him about working full time at the University of Richmond, so Sadid and his wife decided to look at the opportunity. “We really fell in love with Richmond,” he says. “That was one of the reasons I accepted the offer.”
Sadid moved to Richmond in 2009 to become the university’s treasurer and vice president for business and finance. When he told his superiors he would commit to four years there, they thought that time frame sounded a little familiar. “I had learned to mimic the life of an undergraduate,” Sadid says with a laugh. True to his word, he stayed at UR until 2013.
“I thought, ‘I’m definitely retiring. I’ve had over 30 years of employment and consulting.’” He wanted more time for gardening, fishing and jogging.
That didn’t last long, though, after a friend talked him into doing some consulting for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “He asked me to help him with a couple of things he was dealing with there … and I said, ‘I’ll commit a day — 8 to 10 hours — a week to help you.’” It sounded like a reasonable plan, but “that 10 hours turned into 50, 60 a week,” Sadid says.
Once he wrapped up his Smithsonian work, Sadid looked again at options to slow the work pace. He considered applying for a landscaping job because he enjoyed working outside. In his childhood, his family had a farm. “We grew our own food, we had our own animals,” Sadid says. “Once you’ve been a farmer, you’re always a farmer.”
Then he saw the job posting for VMFA’s CFO position and became intrigued. It was one more chance to work in the background to support the mission of a nonprofit organization he admired. Today, the VMFA has nearly $42 million in annual revenue and employs more than 650 full- and part-time employees. It is one of the top 10 comprehensive museums in the nation.
“He brought to the museum a great deal of discipline and organization, which has helped us to grow,” says Alex Nyerges, the VMFA’s director and CEO.
A museum director for more than 40 years, Nyerges says Sadid is, “hands down, the best CFO I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.” The VMFA didn’t even have a CFO until 2010. Sadid was the second person to hold the title.
“Hossein brought to us an incredible array of expertise,” Nyerges says. Sadid had fresh ideas, good organizational skills and “an attitude that anything is possible.”
Being selected for the CFO of the Year award had special significance for Sadid in the final days before his retirement. “It’s a great going-away gift for me,” he says.
Read more about Virginia Business’ 2022 Virginia CFO of the Year award winners: