Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Another Donald Trump on the horizon? Tilman Fertitta?

Is Tilman Fertitta already there?   CNBC has a large advertisement on page A5 of the New York Times lauding their program "Billion Dollar Buyer" with Fertitta as its star.  Apparently there were a few episodes of this show broadcast last year, and now it is back with an expanded schedule.

Not familiar with Fertitta.  He owns Landry's restaurant chain and four or five smaller ones with well known regional names.  He owns casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere, the Golden Nugget.  His Wiki page can explain all of this, but that can be managed and it seems to be, some might say manipulated.  A May 1997 feature story in the Texas Monthly seems to be a much more honest version of Fertitta's path to success, and he is certainly a success, a hard charging highly competitive businessman with a blunt demeanor.

Sometime in the mid-nineties Fertitta began to be noticed in a national sense, and not just in Texas, Louisiana, and Las Vegas.  I asked the CEO of a Texas bank at that time if he did business with the firm, thinking that would be something to strive for.  His reply was straightforward and his words were more or less "we don't do business with people like that."  He added other information sparingly that led me to believe that all was not on the up and up with Tilman.

Reading now I see that his family and some relatives with Sicilian roots were associated with a mafia like syndicate in the Galveston, Texas area in the middle part of the 20th century.  They controlled many parts of commerce, some legal and some not, in that area and it was generally speaking good for business and the parts of the community, based on what is read here.  How that was accomplished was not detailed.

That said, Fertitta does not seem to have ties to any such organization although he would clearly have made contacts with those who had in the past due to his family ties.  Like Trump, he purportedly leads a healthy lifestyle, but it surely includes red meat.  Unlike Trump, he and his wife do seem to be documented contributors and participants with multiple charities.  His political views were once liberal on issues like poverty, the minimum wage, and healthcare, and like so many high rollers in the late '80's and the 90's, he was friends with Bill Clinton.  He now may be more comfortable with the Republicans based on some current associations.

While the Democrats and the Republicans may be short on bench strength, the phenomenon that elected Trump may not be, as it could have a 59 year old successor waiting in the wings.

Postscript comments, 11/30:  Not included at all in Wikipedia is the fact that Fertitta had a close call in his finances in the late 1980's.  His aggressive expansion and use of leverage was not an approach that fared well in that period.  This is not unlike Trump during that period.  They both recovered, using legal settlements to minimize their debt and government programs to support their recovery.

Unlike Trump, Fertitta does not appear to be one who favors over the top extravagance in his lifestyle.  He does live large for sure, but gold leaf is not on everything.

It is certain that many others have much more knowledge about Fertitta than is known here.  This was written on a whim, initiated by the aforementioned advertisement.


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