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Vote Obama Out—or You’re Fired!

October 9, 2012

Gawker has a letter (also authenticated by our sister paper, Orlando Weekly) from Central Florida’s palace-building time share mogul, David Siegel, to his 8,000 employees. In it he tells them that if President Obama is re-elected, he’ll fire them all:

“You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities.”

Siegel tells his story of success, founding the company 42 years ago and driving an old car, working hard from his garage while his neighbors worked 40 hours and “spent every dime they earned.” It’s an inspiring story. It contrasts, however, with the story he told me and Jeff Billman in his office in the summer of 1999 as he tried (erroneously, it turned out) to evict the tenant in his $22,000-per-month house. That was quite an interview, and the link is still live.

Siegel, 1999, recalling the rent-to-own store he opened in the early ‘60s in Miami:

Soon Siegel had a store in Liberty City and a fleet of Volkswagon vans. His salesmen offered the refurbished sets to the area’s African-American residents for $10 down and $5 a week, he says, adding, “I only had about $10 in each one.”

Those $5 payments soon financed three stores, a gas station, a house with a pool and a Buick convertible. “My goal was to make $125 a week,” Siegel says. “I usually exceeded that.”

To be fair, he didn’t say whether the Buick convertible was new.

Shockingly, Siegel’s store got burned down in the riots and he ended up in Central Florida selling swamp land to gullible “investors.” He quickly went on his own and in a few years (if his 1999 recollection is to be believed) made millions on those undevelopable acres, mostly by touting their proximity to Disney World–but also by drawing up bogus development plans and occasionally clearing a dirt road. He sold to people in New Jersey, Mexico, and as far away as Belgium. State regulators and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development came after him, but he lawyered-up and stared them down. Most of the buyers of his properties (including the young man who would go on to become musical director of Gloria Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine) had little or nothing to show 20 years later.

The real story of the company Siegel founded 41 years ago is told here.

These days, Siegel is famous for trying to build a new Versailles as his personal residence, and suing the documentary film maker who chronicled the effort. Pace the conspiracy-minded “Neutron” Jack Welch,  Siegel appears to be the perfect caricature of the Romney Man.