Ron Burkle

  • 28 Nov 2006 at 10:25 AM
  • Companies

Despising Jeffrey Epstein

As long as we’re on the subject of Ron Burkle, we might as well note that there’s something not-quite-right about the criticism of the guy leveled by that celebrity-and-media gossip blog called Gawker. More particularly, Gawker has been challenging the notion that Burkle “despises” Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy money manager indicted earlier this year after police uncovered evidence that he had been getting naked and masturbating while local high school girls manipulated his flesh.
We too had thought the two men were friends. But just because they may have been friends back before Epstein was indicted doesn’t mean they’re friends after. This might be exactly the sort of thing that could make someone go from enjoying someone’s company to despising them. We certainly didn’t have anything against Epstein before the stories came out. So, like, maybe Burkle despises him now. And wouldn’t that kind of be a good thing? We mean, wouldn’t it show a bit of character, a moral compass, that sort of thing?

Ron Burkle’s Shopping Cart Is Full Of Politicos

burkle.jpgThe notion that California’s Supermarket King Ron Burkle is not a political entrepreneur—someone who has used his connections with politicians to profit—is unsustainable. But, of course, Burkle manages to sustain exactly that notion. The Forbes article that got so much attention from Gawker yesterday (mostly on the question of whether Burkle is or is not friends with Jeffrey Epstein), provides a brilliant little glimpse inside the self-image of Burkle.

The mainstream business press beats up on him, essentially for buying access and influence among politicians and leaders of the pension funds that invest with him.
“I basically became the poster child for the ills of political donations and business. It’s preposterous!” he protests.

Totally preposterous! Except, you know, for this sort of thing:

In the mid-1990s he had contributed money to the campaigns of Governor Gray Davis, San Francisco’s former mayor Willie Brown (his former lawyer) and State Treasurer Philip Angelides, and later Brown and Angelides joined the Calpers board. “How were we supposed to know in the mid-1990s that Willie Brown was going to be on the board of Calpers?” he says. You would never have guessed unless maybe you knew that Willie Brown was about as well-connected as any politician in California’s history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Yucaipa arranged for Clinton to make a speech at a Teamsters conference in 2003, and later Clinton urged Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. to trust Burkle and present him with possible deals. Result: This spring Yucaipa paid $100 million to buy a controlling stake in Allied Holdings, a trucking outfit in bankruptcy proceedings. “Clinton got it to the point where Hoffa actually helped us with that deal, something I couldn’t have gotten on my own,” Burkle says.

Ron, Ron, Ron. Look. We know you want people to think you built your fortune on your own, pounded it out on the battlefield of the free-market and all that. But it’s not taking. So we’re going to give you the same advice we gave Aleksey Vayner: Go with what you got. There have been plenty of American fortunes built on political connections. And now you’ve got one of them. If those nasty free-market types want to tease you for it, well just wipe away your tears with your piles of money.
The Rise Of Ron Burkle [Forbes]

Burkle, Cont’d: Money vs. Ego

waroftheroses.jpgPer last week’s speculation that Ron Burkle’s divorce records may be sealed because he wants people to think he has more money than he does, Jared Stern writes in:

Burkle is actually worth much, much more than everyone thinks. In the divorce battle, the less $$ they can prove he has, the less he has to give to his ex.

So we guess it depends on which is more important to Burkle: ego or money. Tough call.
Also: Mickey Kaus finds a teensy bit of shameless hypocrisy in the situation:

When I shopped at Ralph’s supermarkets in the 90s, when they were owned by Burkle, I remember row upon row of a particular product at the checkout counter. It was … it’s almost too disgusting to recall … tabloids! Shoddy, standardless, gossip-obsessed tabloids!

Squaring the Burkle [KausFiles]

Ron Burkle Conspiracy Theories

burkle.jpgFor those of you still trying to parse the Ron Burkle/Jared Paul Stern situation:
One conspiracy theory circulating on the West Coast (and espoused by one of Burkle’s rivals) is that Burkle had his divorce records sealed because they would disclose that he’s not worth as much as people think he is and that his holdings aren’t doing as well as everyone thinks. We’re not sure if that’s true, and a rival certainly has an incentive to push that theory, but if this photo is accurate, we’ll acknowledge that the private plane needs redecorating.
The LA Times’ Joel Stein consults the Freakonomics guys on the price-elasticity of extortion demands:

“He probably could have gotten away with it if he’d been reasonable,” agreed “Freakonomics” co-author Stephen Dubner. “But by asking for $200,000 from one payola victim, he’s basically saying his services are worth a few million a year because he could easily try to shake down a dozen or two [dozen] people at the same time.”

The Price of Defame [LAT]