Mormon Business Hypocrisy
Halestorm, maker of Mormon-themed films, sues financing company
Feb. 9, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah company that produced such films as "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M." is suing an executive producer and his production funding company for failure to pay production costs.
In 2003, Provo-based Halestorm Entertainment began working with Bryan Lampropoulos, president of Joshua, Bryan & Co. — created to raise capital for financing motion pictures — and formed Three River Movies Co., according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The plaintiffs claim that Lampropoulos' company failed to make the promised contribution to the films "Church Ball" and "The Home Teachers" and nearly caused production to shut down.
Halestorm Entertainment owners Kurt Brian and David Hunter say in the lawsuit they paid out of pocket and borrowed elsewhere at the last minute to make up for the difference in production costs.
The lawsuit also alleges that Lampropoulos, through Joshua, Bryan & Co., chartered a private jet to Los Angeles and put the cost on the production budget.
Investors with troubled firm have Mormon ties
Triton executive is a church member, as were many who turned over money that some say was misused.
By Eric Dexheimer and Tim Eaton
Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010
Former Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller laid to rest
Feb 28, 2009
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller received a fitting farewell.
His funeral was held in the arena he built, his casket painted in the scheme of his beloved Shelby Cobras and his five children each driving a sports car in the procession to the cemetery where Miller was laid to rest Saturday.
Miller, 64, died of complications from diabetes on Feb. 20. His funeral was held eight days later at EnergySolutions Arena, home of the NBA franchise Miller twice kept from leaving his hometown. NBA commissioner David Stern and former players including Karl Malone were among about 2,000 people that attended the 90-minute Mormon ceremony.
Miller's children and grandchildren all recited memories of Miller, who started his career in an autoparts shop, expanded to car dealerships and built a business empire and became one of the most prominent figures in the state. A frugal businessman, Miller also donated generously to charities and many of his contributions were noted Saturday.
"There was a lot more to him than just the Jazz," coach Jerry Sloan said after the service.
About 30 flower arrangements were placed on and around the dais, where top officials from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sat facing the congregation. Church president Thomas S. Monson was the last of them to speak from the podium, just above the casket painted blue with white racing stripes down the middle.
Miller was a devout Mormon who refused the attend Jazz playoff games on Sundays, adhering to church guidelines to focus on the church and family activities that day. But his faith was one of the very few things that would keep Miller away from his team or any other part of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.
Oldest son Greg, who took over the family business last summer, was the last of the five children to speak and led the convoy of sports cars from the arena in a blue Cobra convertible. Daughter Karen was the last to go in the procession, driving the red pace car from Miller Motorsports Park, the race track west of Salt Lake City that Miller built out of his passion for auto racing.
Son Steve recited a popular quote from rock star Bono: "Dream up the kind of world you want to live in - dream out loud."
"My dad dreamed out loud," Steve Miller said. "I figured if Greg could paint the casket blue and white, I could quote Bono."
Most of the current Jazz, who hosted Sacramento later Saturday, sat together at the Jazz bench during the service and others attended a viewing the day before.
"He loved Jazz basketball," forward Kyle Korver said. "I think he was the most hands-on owner that I've seen."
One of the floral arrangements was a large replica of the patch the Jazz added to their jerseys. It's the team's original logo, a purple music note with green and gold and the initials LHM on top.
Miller owned the team after buying a 50 per cent share in 1985 and the rest a year later. Buyers from other cities tried to lure the Jazz out of Utah, but each time Miller blocked the deal, determined to make the NBA team work in the tiny market.
Miller was involved with every aspect of the team, even having a locker with a "Miller" name plate next to the players' lockers. When the Jazz played poorly, Miller was known to interrupt halftime or make a post-game speech - reminding the players what he expected for his money.
Former centre Greg Ostertag chuckled when he recounted one of the many tirades he saw from Miller during his 10 seasons with the Jazz.
"We played real bad one time and you could hear him coming, man. You knew he was going to come in there and rant and rave, but he had every right to," Ostertag said. "It was not a lot a lot of words you can say on TV."
Microsemi's CEO Peterson Denies Misrepresenting Degrees From BYU
Last update: 1:07 p.m. EST Dec. 3, 2008
IRVINE, Calif., Dec 3, 2008 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- Microsemi Corporation (MSCC:
MSCC announced today that its President and CEO, James J. Peterson, categorically denies published reports that he has misrepresented his degrees from Brigham Young University.
"I am working directly with the University to clarify this situation," Peterson said. "It appears that the background check there may have mistakenly been made with the name 'James J. Patterson,' not mine, as stated in a Seeking Alpha report."
Peterson further questions the reliability of tipster Barry Minkow, a convicted felon who spent seven years in prison for fraud, as the source for the reports. Minkow uses his tips as a means to profit from "put options" he buys on companies he researches. He uses a disclaimer on the factual accuracy of his reports.
"I have every reason to expect that Brigham Young will investigate this allegation shortly and officially confirm my degrees," Peterson said.
Microsemi Corporation, with corporate headquarters in Irvine, California, is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of high performance analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits and high reliability semiconductors. The company's semiconductors manage and control or regulate power, protect against transient voltage spikes and transmit, receive and amplify signals.
Microsemi's products include individual components as well as integrated circuit solutions that enhance customer designs by improving performance and reliability, battery optimization, reducing size or protecting circuits. The principal markets the company serves include implanted medical, defense/aerospace and satellite, notebook computers, monitors and LCD TVs, automotive and mobile connectivity applications. More information may be obtained by contacting the company directly or by visiting its website at http://www.microsemi.com.
Microsemi CEO didn’t earn degrees, BYU says
December 10th, 2008
posted by John Gittelsohn
Orange County Register
James J. Peterson, the president and chief executive officer of Microsemi Corp., never earned a diploma from Brigham Young University, according to an official university document.
Peterson and other officials at Microsemi, an Irvine company that makes microchips, did not respond to requests for comment placed today and yesterday. Last week, Peterson denied he misrepresented his degrees in a Microsemi press release, saying he expected BYU to confirm his claims to have earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA at the Provo, Utah, school. Also last week, Microsemi’s board issued a press release saying they stand behind the CEO.
An official “Verification of Enrollment” letter says: “No degrees awarded at BYU as of December 9, 2008.” The original document contains Peterson’s social security number, student identification number and date of birth. To see a copy of the document, CLICK HERE.
Peterson also serves on the board of STEC Inc., a Santa Ana chip making company. Another STEC board member, Vahid Manian, resigned last week after his claims of earning two degrees from UC Irvine proved untrue. Manian was also fired as a senior vice president of Broadcom after his academic credentials were shown to be false. STEC did not respond to requests for comment.
Questions about the academic claims of Peterson and Manian were first raised by Barry Minkow, whose San Diego firm, Fraud Discovery Institute, investigates the backgrounds of executives and short sells the stock when it discovers false claims on their record.
Minkow served seven years in prison for corporate fraud from 1988 to 1995.
“There’s an advantage to being a crook. You learn the law,” said Minkow, who said he has reported Peterson to the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging wire fraud and securities fraud for falsifying his credentials.
Microsemi CEO Didn’t Get Degrees, School Confirms
By Ian King
Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Microsemi Corp. Chief Executive Officer James Peterson didn’t receive any degree from Brigham Young University, according to the school’s registrar, repeating his position after Peterson said he expected to be vindicated.
“We have tried to look at everything that Mr. Peterson has said and tried to look for any possibility,” Jeffrey Bunker, registrar of the Provo, Utah, school, said today in a phone interview. “All of our records and information clearly verify and reverify what we stated earlier, that he did not receive a degree.”
The latest confirmation from Brigham Young comes after Peterson told analysts and investors he was working with the school to address the issue, which he characterized as a misunderstanding. Rick Schafer, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., wrote to clients today advocating that they buy Microsemi shares if they fell further because he expected Peterson to be cleared.
Bunker said Peterson had contacted him and asked the school to issue a statement saying that it was working with him to resolve the dispute.
“We are working with the public, providing information as accurately as we possibly can,” Bunker said. The case wasn’t an issue of mistaken identity, he said, nor did Brigham Young receive credit earned by Peterson when he was in the military -- two explanations that Peterson gave.
“I am working directly with the university to clarify this situation,” Peterson said yesterday in a statement. “I have every reason to expect that Brigham Young will investigate this allegation shortly and officially confirm my degrees.”
Peterson didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail and a call to his mobile phone seeking comment today.
Microsemi, based in Irvine, California, tumbled 27 percent to $11.33 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading, following a 16 percent decline yesterday.
A regulatory filing for STEC Inc., a company where Peterson serves as a director, said he has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Brigham Young.
A U.S. government security clearance application form provided by Peterson lists his position at Microsemi and states that he has bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Brigham Young.
Marriott rethinking bars
Hotelier discovers way to make hotel lobby a destination
By Michael S. Rosenwald
WASHINGTON – In its heyday, Studio 54 in New York was the hottest nightclub in the world. Guests danced on a floor decorated with the man-in-the-moon with a spoon. On the balconies they did more than drink. Celebrities controlled dark corners. One night, a devout Mormon showed up. His name was J. W. Marriott Jr.
Dropping in on new clubs and hotels is one of Marriott’s favorite chores in running the world’s largest hotel company. He swore off alcohol as a young man and he dislikes noisy places, but if a visit to Studio 54 or any other bar will give him a little more insight into what customers want, save him a table. People who work for him say it is emblematic of his commitment to keep Marriott International Inc. competitive.
That’s precisely what he is doing now, with his company beginning a dramatic makeover of its bars in response to demands on hotel companies to find quick new ways to increase value and generate more revenue. The pressures are driven by intense competition for guests because of a strong return to business travel and by private equity firms, particularly the Blackstone Group, which have swarmed to the hotel business, buying properties and hoping to flip them for big returns.
“This is certainly the most competitive this business has ever been,” Marriott said, sitting in the lounge of his company’s Ritz-Carlton on M Street. “We are seeing some really big money come in.”
He has juggled priorities – be faithful to his religion, but serve his customers – on trips to places such as Studio 54. Now Marriott International executives are drawing on what their 74-year-old chief executive has learned in a lifetime of checking out the next big thing, only to later watch it fizzle. While some of Marriott’s competitors have gone for see-and-be-seen derivatives of Studio 54 – a new W Hotel in Dallas will have a version of Ghost Bar, a hot spot in Las Vegas – Marriott International is headed somewhere else entirely.
It is transforming the bar into a constantly evolving part of the lobby, where guests can eat an omelet in the morning, conduct a meeting in the afternoon and have a martini at night – all in the same classy place – thanks to sliding walls, disappearing backs of bars, and subtle lighting and music changes.
The firm’s executives have dubbed it “A.M. comfort, P.M. cool.” The idea is to make the lobby – a place where guests weren’t spending money – a destination with plenty of opportunities throughout the day for guests to employ their expense accounts.
“You’re going to turn a loss into a gain,” said John Williams, president of DiamondRock Hospitality Co., which owns several Marriott hotels and will include the new bar functions in its properties. “You are making a unit of the hotel more functional, more efficient, and more responsive to the customer needs of today.”
The bar updates are in many ways a natural extension of other changes big hotel companies have made.
“They did the hotel guest room and they did the destination restaurants and now the focus is on the bar,” said Stacey Shoemaker Rauen, the managing editor of Hospitality Design magazine, a trade publication. “Hotels have the full attentions of their guests, so why not make better use of the bar and lobbies?”
Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International generally avoids aiming for hip, splashy changes. The company’s internal culture hews faithfully to the firm’s founding six decades ago as a folksy root-beer stand. The closest Mr. Marriott, as he is known around headquarters, has come to integrating hip into his life was the recent addition of an iPod for his office – and that was a gift from his children.
Hip as something that is chased but never caught was a lesson learned over visits to hundreds of hotels and bars, including Studio 54. “That was a bar that was going great,” Marriott said. “So I went to see it. When I left there I knew they weren’t going to make it and they didn’t. There was a hot factor, but that’s all there was.” It was, he thought, in bad taste.
In many respects, with nearly 3,000 hotels, it would be impractical for the chain to even attempt hipness. “Staying relevant over time is really so much more important to our owners and our franchisers, who have to make big investments in changes, than in making a splash just at one time,” said Michael Jannini, Marriott’s head of branding.
“It’s about this: How do you take this hard-working stereotype of the road warrior and this stereotype of the black-T-shirt-wearing, 4-in-the-morning person, when real life for a lot of our people is in the middle of that?” Jannini said. “How do you create an open environment where people can have a BlackBerry in one hand and a glass of wine in the other?”
The broader implication, from a business perspective, is to generate more revenue per square foot. As a manager of hotels, Marriott International has to persuade owners to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on the upgrades. Then, if the changes work, Marriott’s management fees will blossom.
The nasty taint of porn
Deseret Morning News
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Pornography taints everything it touches. Mitt Romney should have understood that. So should the Marriott Corp. and other hotel owners who offer hard-core movies in hotel rooms.
Romney caught a bit of flack last week because he spent nearly 10 years
on the Marriott board and yet never tried to reverse the company's
policy of providing pornography on demand, something J.W. "Bill"
Marriott Jr., defended in a 2000 letter as being economically
important. The corporation controls only a few of the hotels with its
name on them.
For a presidential candidate who has railed against pornography, this
is not entirely insignificant. Even if the subject never came up at a
board meeting, one can argue that at least part of the $25,000 plus
stock he was paid annually for his board membership came from the money
some hotel guests paid for access to the films.
Make no mistake about pornography's influence on society. A recent
report from the American Psychological Association drew strong ties
between pornography's pervasive influence and the "sexualization" of
girls and women. This, the report said, has resulted in greater
societal sexism; "fewer girls pursuing careers in science, technology,
engineering and mathematics; increased rates of sexual harassment and
sexual violence; and an increased demand for child pornography."
Romney seemed to understand this when he told graduates at the
Christian-owned Regent University that pornography poisons "our music
and movies and TV and video games."
But it is indeed lucrative.
Interestingly, several hotel chains have decided to forego the extra
money out of a sense of moral obligation. The Web site cleanhotels.com
helps travelers locate these. The site includes what it calls, "The
Clean Hotels Pledge." Among other things, this pledge recognizes, "the
addictive nature of pornography" ... "that marriages, families and
careers have been devastated because individuals have developed an
addiction to pornography after being lured into viewing a pornographic
movie in the privacy of their hotel room," and that children can
accidentally be exposed to images that "can have a lasting negative
That lasting negative effect can be like the stains you get from
playing with a barrel of paint. Even if you don't like the color, it
tells the tale of where you've been.
Mormon church-owned paper rips Romney on porn
Editorial charges he profited from industry as Marriott board member
July 13, 2007
The Mormon church-owned Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City published an editorial criticizing Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney for profiting from the pornography industry as a board member of the Marriott International hotel chain.
The paper pointed out the former Massachusetts governor "caught a bit of flack last week" from critics who charged he did nothing during his 10 years on the board to reverse the corporation's policy of offering pornography on TV in its rooms.
"Even if the subject never came up at a board meeting, one can argue that at least part of the $25,000 plus stock he was paid annually for his board membership came from the money some hotel guests paid for access to the films," the Tuesday editorial said.
Romney leads polls in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. In nationwide surveys, he generally has ranked third or fourth.
Last week, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Phil Burress, president of Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values, both took aim at Romney over the issue.
"Marriott is a major pornographer," said Burress. "And even though he may have fought it, everyone on that board is a hypocrite for presenting themselves as family values when their hotels offer 70 different types of hardcore pornography."
In 2000, the company's Mormon chairman and CEO, J.W. "Bill" Marriott Jr., defended the pornography policy in a letter to Bill Johnson, executive director of the Michigan-based American Decency Association.
"The in-room entertainment operators who provide our systems rely upon a certain volume of movie types in order to be economically viable," Marriott wrote. "If we were to eliminate the 'R' and non-rated offerings, the systems would not be economic."
Romney, whose first name is Willard, is a namesake of the hotel chain's founder, who was a close friend of his father.
On the campaign trail, Romney has condemned pornography, telling graduates at Regent University in Virginia that it poisons "our music and movies and TV and video games."
But the Mormon-owned daily acknowledged the business "is indeed lucrative."
Nevertheless, several hotel chains have decided to forgo the profits, and a website called cleanhotels.com assists travelers in finding places that subscribe to its "Clean Hotels Pledge."
The pledge recognizes "the addictive nature of pornography" and points out "that marriages, families and careers have been devastated because individuals have developed an addiction to pornography after being lured into viewing a pornographic movie in the privacy of their hotel room." Children, also, can accidentally be exposed to images that "can have a lasting negative effect."
Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan told WND that when "the church-owned newspaper in Salt Lake openly rebukes two of the most high-profile, nationally well-known members of the LDS church – a presidential candidate and a brand-name corporate CEO – that's an event of seismic proportions."
"It will make this issue particularly difficult for Romney to defend," he said. "What does he say, that his own church is wrong on the issue of pornography?"
The church's official website, Glenn points out, says members "should avoid pornography in any form and should oppose its production, distribution, and use."
Osmond Blames Allergies and Bad Air Quality for Faint
Fall Didn't Mean the End for Marie Osmond; Mark Cuban and Partner Are Eliminated
Oct. 24, 2007
Marie Osmond's post-samba faint on "Dancing With the Stars" Monday night didn't mean the end to her run on the show.
Billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his partner, Kym Johnson, who tied with Osmond and her partner, Jonathan Roberts, for last place, were eliminated.
Cuban, who said he lost 30 pounds during the course of the show, accepted the loss gracefully.
"I gained so many new friends, I've gained such an appreciation for the effort that everyone puts in. It's been such an amazing experience. I wouldn't have traded it for the world," Cuban said.
Many people, though, were more interested to hear from Osmond, who said an "accumulation" of factors had contributed to her fall, including allergies and poor air quality.
"I noticed when he [Roberts] spun me a couple of times, I kept spinning," Osmond told the show's host Tom Bergeron. "And then I kept missing hip bumps. I could tell something was funky."
Osmond appeared fine during the dance, and she seemed happy and excited by her performance — even jumping up and down in front of the judges.
"Remember when I was jumping? I was trying to wake my head up. I don't know what happened," she said.
Bergeron suggested that the various California wildfires -- the closest burned just 20 miles or so from ABC studios in Burbank as the show aired -- may have aggravated her allergies.
"I'm sure it was an accumulation of things," Osmond said.
Osmond also mentioned her divorce from her husband of 20 years, Brian Blosil, which the couple announced in March.
"I'm divorced, but I'm still going through stuff … and every woman will understand," Osmond said.
But Osmond, who laughed off the fall, said she wasn't worried about it hurting her chances in the competition.
"Tragedy plus time equals humor," Osmond said. "With all sincerity, I'm a jokester. After 40 years in this business, you can take spins in many directions."
Hitting the Floor
Osmond was listening to judge Len Goodman's critique of her dance with partner Roberts when she suddenly fell to the ground.
The audience members laughed — until they realized it was the real thing. Osmond had fainted.
"For just a beat, I thought as the audience did that she was kidding,"Bergeron told "Good Morning America" today in a phone interview. "I thought she was responding to Len taking so long to get to his critique."
Goodman was saying that the samba is one of the hardest dances to master when Osmond went down. The show quickly cut to a commercial.
Emergency medical technicians were on hand and responded immediately, but Bergeron said Osmond began to come around about 20 seconds after they cut to the break.
"Her eyelids were fluttering open," Bergeron said.
And her first words as she regained consciousness and saw everyone gathered around her? "Oh, crap," Bergeron said.
Later, Osmond explained what happened, and while she apologized for fainting, she was taking it in stride.
"Once in a while it happens to me when I'm winded. I'm really sorry," she said. Then with a laugh, she added, "I guess I am sleeping beauty. I'm sleeping on the job."
Bergeron said Osmond was breathing heavily after the dance, which is normal, but she tried to hold her breath to slow down her breathing, which likely lead to her fainting.
No Sympathy Votes
Osmond, 48, was well enough to hear the judges render their scores for her samba.
Unfortunately, she received no sympathy votes, as the judges' votes had been already recorded before she fainted. All three judges -- Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli -- awarded Osmond and Roberts a seven out 10 points.
That put the couple in last place, along with billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his professional partner, Kym Johnson.
"Scary Spice" Melanie Brown and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy came in first place in Monday's samba and rhumba competition, with 29 out of 30 points.
Cheetah girl Sabrina Bryan and her partner Mark Ballas Jr. were close behind, with 28 points.
Cameron Mathison and Edyta Sliwinska, and Jane Seymour and Tony Dovolani both received 26 points, while Jennie Garth and Derek Hough got 25 out of 30 points.
Bergeron said EMTs have been standing by since the first season of "Dancing With the Stars."
"It's very strenuous. You never know what's going to happen on live television," he said.
Mitt Romney -- Be Afraid Be Very Afraid
Contact: Rev. CJ Conner, 651-373-9137
ADVISORY, Jan. 11 /Christian
Newswire/ -- On December 12th, 2007, the very same day that Romney
indicated his support of the Federal ENDA legislation, news of his
investment company's buyout of Clear Channel Communications surfaced.
Clear Channel owns Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's contracts, and is
the largest conservative radio conglomerate in the country. It may be
no small coincidence that conservative talk show hosts lambasted
Christian Mike Huckabee as a liberal just mere hours before he took the
Romney is no media novice. For years he has supported the Mormon media blitz of television and radio spots that have slowly brainwashed so many of us into believing that Mormons are Christians too. Today in the national political debate, to ask questions about the Mormon "jesus" is labeled religious bigotry- hate speech that must be silenced.
Romney is said to be worth at least a quarter of a billion dollars, and has given every indication that he intends to buy the presidency, sparing no expense. If voted into office, it would be the first time ever in American history that a president would control so much wealth, as well as so much of the media.
Christians in America need to begin asking questions.
Is it really the right thing for America to make a man as powerful and rich as Romney president?
Is America in the position to take such a risk at such a crucial moment in our history?
Are we really ready to turn our nation over to an untested man that has served only one term as governor of liberal Massachusetts?
Can Romney really be trusted when he says he is opposed to abortion, does not support gay marriage or civil unions, and is ready to solve our illegal immigration crisis, even as he's waffled on all these issues?
Are we really so naïve to think that a man of such vast wealth did not build his portfolio standing on the back of the working man?
Is it really wise to vote for a man when in our gut we know for certain that something just isn't right about him?
Rev. C.J. Conner is the author of Jesus and the Culture Wars: Reclaiming the Lord's Prayer.
Leaders caution faithful on scams
Letter comes just before Ogdenite expected to plead in 180M fraud
By Lesley Mitchell
The Salt Lake Tribune
Just weeks before a Mormon entrepreneur is expected to plead guilty
in a scam that defrauded about 800 people of $180 million, The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is warning its members to steer
clear of financial scams.
In a letter by the church's First Presidency read to its
congregations Sunday, the church said it is "concerned that there are
those who use relationships of trust to promote risky or even
fraudulent investment and business schemes." It is unclear if the
letter targeted Utah congregations or its entire worldwide membership.
The church declined to answer questions on the letter and whether
the case involving Ogden businessman Val E. Southwick and other recent
cases like it triggered it. A spokesman would only say that "the
principles of personal discipline in financial management and of
avoiding debt have been taught by church leaders from the earliest days
of the church."
But what sets this letter apart from earlier messages is that it
specifically addresses fraud and urges members to invest "wisely with
responsible and established financial institutions."
Southwick is accused of defrauding 800 people from Utah, 29 other
states and three foreign countries of as much as $180 million. A number
of victims in Utah and Nevada were members of the LDS Church. And
Southwick, through companies such as Vescor Capital Inc., flaunted his
Mormon status to help persuade people to invest with him in what may
end up being the biggest case of fraud in Utah history.
"Unfortunately, church members were easy targets when a few
unlicensed and unregulated church members (and in some cases bishops)
were paid high commissions to promote the Vescor investment scheme -
which targeted, in many cases, senior citizens in their retirement
years," Craig P. Orrock, a Mormon attorney representing several of
Southwick's victims, said Thursday in an e-mail.
In another case, a Utah County man was charged for allegedly
fleecing 140 real-estate investors out of $11 million. Like the
Southwick case, the one involving Paul Bouchard and other related ones
involved a number of LDS victims and is likely to result in additional
prosecutions and more publicly disclosed multimillion dollar losses.
Commerce Department Director Francine Giani said she is glad to see
Mormon leaders speak out against affinity fraud, in which scam artists
try to use their standing in churches, professional organizations and
other groups to persuade others to invest with them.
"Affinity fraud is alive and well in the state of Utah," said Giani,
a member of the LDS faith. "I salute the church and I hope people who
are not members read it as well."
In the letter, the First Presidency, composed of President Thomas
S. Monson and his two counselors, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter Uchtdorf,
reiterates the need to check the background of any prospective
financial adviser. "While all investments carry an element of risk,
that risk can be managed by following sound and proven financial
principles; first, avoid unnecessary debt, especially consumer debt;
second, before investing, seek advice from a qualified and licensed
financial adviser and third, be wise."
Salt Lake City business attorney and LDS Church member Stuart
Hinckley, co-founder of an LDS-oriented Web site designed to promote
ethics in business, said he, too, supports the church's efforts to urge
members to investigate anyone before committing their money. Many cases
of affinity fraud could be avoided, he said.
The church, Hinckley said, is saying "research and verify and get
an objective view about what it's about rather than just trusting
someone based on a relationship," he said. "This is good advice for
LDS Church member Curt Bench, a Salt Lake City bookstore owner,
made a $1,500 investment in the late 1970s in diamonds.
The husband of one of his employees at the time was promoting the
investment. Part of the appeal, he said, was they were active members
of the LDS Church. In addition, Bench figured an employee was unlikely
to scam his manager.
"I went through a horrible experience trying to collect," he said,
noting he recovered only half.
But probably one of the best examples of church-oriented affinity
fraud involved the high-profile case of Mark Hofmann's Mormon document
forgeries. Bench himself was friends with Hofmann and did business with
"If he hadn't been assumed to be a good church member, then I don't
think he would have had the same access to church officials or many
people as he did business with," Bench said.
Today, when Bench hears people talk about their church membership
or position in the church in relation to a business venture, "it's
automatically a red flag," he said.
"This is not a problem exclusive to the LDS community, and it's not
the church's fault," he said. "People trust each other, and they
especially trust members of their own faith; it's natural."
Bill Marriott and Ian Schrager make odd bedfellows in hotel world
As one of the biggest hotel groups goes boutique, can Bill Marriott make a deal with Ian Schrager work?
From The Times
April 14, 2008
At 76 years old, Bill Marriott could never be mistaken for hip. The chairman and chief executive of one of the world's largest hotel companies is the model of traditional conservative American values. His idea of cool is probably a long glass of iced lemonade on a warm day.
The hotels in the 3,000 properties-strong business that bears his name exude an air of reliable, solid, perhaps slightly fusty, conformity. Even its top brand, the rapidly expanding luxury Ritz Carlton chain, consciously recreates an atmosphere of teak-furnished, chintz-upholstered, old-fashioned elegance.
Yet in a testament to the spirit of change that animates successful business leaders, Mr Marriott recently acquired a new and quite unusual best friend. His latest - improbable - bedfellow is Ian Schrager, the enfant terrible of 1970s New York, known for style-led boutique hotels such as the Sanderson in London and Morgans in Manhattan.
The two men signed a deal last year to start a new brand of high-end, super-trendy, luxury hotels called, in a very postmodern, unMarriott sort of way, Edition. The first is set to open its doors in Los Angeles in 2010, closely followed by properties in Paris and South Beach, Miami, and at least ten more after that.
It has been described as one of the strangest pairings in capitalism: the upstanding Mormon who started life as heir to the rootbeer stand in Washington DC owned by his father, and patiently built one of the world's best-known brands; and the fast-living New York party king, the ageing monarch of style and creator of the modern “boutique” hotel, who once spent time in a federal prison for tax evasion.
Mr Marriott seems faintly bemused by the cultural frontier he has crossed. “Earlier this year we announced the new Edition name in LA and we had a big party. It was so noisy you couldn't hear yourself speak. I was asked to say a few words and I said this was the craziest party I've been to since high school,” he told me.
It was, Mr Marriott happily acknowledged, the success of Starwood's W Hotels chain - one of the few real marches that the rival hotel group has stolen on him in the past decade - that inspired the partnership.
Critics have wondered whether such an unusual pairing really can work. It is hard to imagine the two men having anything in common other than the fact that they both spend a lot of time in hotels - more than 300 nights a year, in Mr Marriott's case - but the older man insists that the fit is a good one.
“Ian [Schrager] is responsible for design, for the concept, the creativity of it and we'll be managing and marketing the hotels. We'll use his PR ability and his ability to create products that drive demand,” he said.
I asked Mr Marriott if his staff had noticed any signs that he had become hipper since he started his new partnership. “I'm still the same old conservative guy - still wear a tie. Ian will not wear a tie - I don't think he owns a necktie.”
Sure enough, when we met, Mr Marriott was in grey business suit and tie - even in the casual surroundings and circumstances of a 76th birthday celebration and family reunion at Marriott's Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona. Later, when another new Marriott partner, the superchef Laurent Tourondel of the BLT French-American steakhouse chain that is sweeping America, came by to cut a special birthday cake, Mr Marriott was still soberly attired in the Arizona heat.
The American recession is on the front of every business leader's mind and for Mr Marriott, the business cycle is a familiar, if painful, acquaintance. “There've been six [recessions] since 1960 and I've been in every one of them,” he noted with a smile. Yet even he is a little concerned about the unpredictability of the latest downturn.
“The thing that's different about this one is the tremendous amount of uncertainty,” he said. “Nobody really knows how much more of a hit the sub-prime situation is going to cause financial institutions.”
The hotel business is highly susceptible to the cycle. Mr Marriott says that occupancy levels in the hotel industry in the United States are likely to record a slight decline this year, for the first time since after the terrorist attacks of 2001 - a little under 1percent. Revenues continue to grow, although at a slower pace: revenue per available room is expected to be up by 3 per cent this year, down from 6 per cent and 7 per cent increases in the past two years.
For Marriott, a third of whose revenues now come from outside the US, the rest of the world is a comfortable cushion against the weakness in America. Half the new rooms that Marriott is opening are outside the US, with continuing growth in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Europe has been less impressive, but London continues to churn out high revenues. Mr Marriott notes the city's status as an international centre and marvels at the influx of long and short-term guests - from Russia, in particular, wryly noting the change in his 50 years in the hotel business: “We used to think they were going to blow up the world and now they're going to buy up the world.”
Marriott's global role is not something that many would have predicted when the company was founded by Mr Marriott's father in 1927. After the famous rootbeer stand and its offshoots, Marriott Sr moved into the lodging business, but it was his son who built it into an empire. Even then, Mr Marriott displayed a canny flexibility that proved critical to the company's growth.
The teetotal Mormon family faced an early ethical dilemma as they expanded. Their first few hotels had been in dry states, but with the opportunity to open in Philadelphia came a challenge: “We were either going to stay in the hotel business and sell liquor or not sell liquor and get out of the hotel business. We couldn't put a sign out front saying we were members of the LDS [Latter Day Saints, the Mormon Church] and wouldn't sell drink - we'd have got all the Mormons staying with us, but that's all.” Today, ethical challenges can also be business opportunities. Like many corporate leaders, Mr Marriott has come under pressure to deal with the company's large carbon footprint. In addition to the usual energy-saving measures that are becoming standard in hotels - less frequent laundry, efficient-flushing lavatories and longer-lasting lightbulbs, the company recently began to reserve parking spaces at corporate HQ for hybrid cars. Last week Marriott signed a deal with the Brazilian state of Amazonas to help to protect 1.4million acres of endangered rainforest.
Critics are sceptical about what they see as PR initiatives even as the company continues to pursue growth, but Mr Marriott insists that he is a firm believer in the challenge of global warming - “We don't want ten feet of water in New York City running down Broadway.”
Mr Marriott still likes to get a direct feel for what Marriott guests think about their hotel experience. These days, however, when he stays at his hotels, the management always knows in advance that he is coming. As a result, he admits, he feels a little like the Queen, who is said to have gone through life thinking that the world smells of fresh paint.
Mr Marriott has started his own blog (blogs.marriott.com) as a way to keep in touch with his customers. “To a lot of people in the world, corporations are faceless and don't have any soul or spirit behind them,” he said.
“I think people like to know what I do; that as CEO of this company I still like to go to the movies with my wife on Saturday afternoons. That I put my pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.” Another thing, we can only presume, that he has in common with Ian Schrager.
The leader questioned
If you could change one thing in the financial and commercial environment, what would it be?
A lack of focus on employees and customers and too much focus on short-term results
Who is or was your mentor?
Does money motivate you?
Success and growth motivate me - money is an offshoot of that, but not the primary motivation
What is the most important event of your working life?
June 16, 1956 - the day I came to work for our company
What gadget must you have?
What does leadership mean to you?
It means embracing a lot of different opinions and being a great listener
How do you relax?
With family - kids, grandkids; dining out; going to the movies
Born: March 25, 1932, Washington
Educated: University of Utah
Career: US Navy 1954-56; Marriott Corporation 1956-present (president 1964; chief executive 1972; chairman 1985)
Family: Married to Donna Garff, four children, fourteen grandchildren
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