We’re living in our eloquence, another old lang syne

It’s a blue moon and the Wine Dog will be holed up in the bunker with the Hellhoundz tonight.  For the most part I think New Year’s eve is amateur night.  I’d say “take a cab” but I remember one night years ago in the City where in fact we did take a cab.  Several cabs.  And I got myself a little stupid.  And the last cab ride home it was like 2:30 in the morning and the guy was driving like a complete asshole.  Now, I know a little about driving like an asshole.  So I said to the cabbie “Dude.  Stop the cab.  Right now.”  He did.  I continued “Look buddy, I’m hammered and I could be driving like an asshole and trying to get us killed.  But instead I’m paying you to drive like an asshole, trying to get us killed.  We can get out now or you can stop driving like an asshole and take us home safely .” He settled down.

Ten years ago today was my last day at First American Title Guaranty Company.  I worked in Commercial Services in Pleasanton.g.  FATCO didn’t allow anyone time off from November 1 until December 31 every year.  Somehow the management always got time off.  My manager when home to the Midwest.  She asked me to cover her big closings and I did.  With aplumb.  Because I’m that good.  We had some monster deals go down in that unit.  Still I did bigger deals at LandAmerica NCS.  That’s where I got a piece of the KSL resorts deal.  1 billion dollars.  5 properties, four States.  The deal was put on hold because of a hurricane in Florida.  I think it was Ivan. Or the financial restructuring of 73 Kelly Moore stores in nearly every county in the State of California.  Talk about moving pieces.  Anyway, it was my first last day at FATCO.  January 3, 2000 after the Y2K bug did not bring the world to an end, I reported to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter at 101 California in San Francisco.  That was an amazing ride.  I will never forget standing in the window of the 62nd floor of the WTC looking out at the little planes flying by and then looking down at the ants on the sidewalk.  Or the room sized elevators, I’d never seen anything like that before.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in one of those when the flaming jet fuel started pouring down the shaft.  Even though September 11, 2001 put a fork in that portion of my career, I can say in retrospect that what I learned at Morgan Stanley allowed me to be where I am now.  That was worth every moment.

OK, enough bullshit.  Here we go.  Last year’s goals:

Wine Dog Goals for 2009

  1. Continue polishing Rita’s training  –on track
  2. Get Bubba’s training to the next level –on track
  3. Lose that damned 50 pounds -fail
  4. Set two new powerlifting records -set three
  5. Finish a
    1. Bicycle race -done
    2. Metric Century  -done
    3. Century -done
  6. Raise $5000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation through Team Fatty (see new button in the sidebar) –fell short but raised $1200 in this economy I can’t complain
  7. Organize real estate business to optimal efficiency -fail
  8. Finish getting the title service business running -fail
  9. Close a deal every three weeks –I did this for August, September and the first part of October.  Consistency this year.
  10. Get a solid marketing campaign going and stay on target with it -fail
  11. Finish at least one of the writing projects -fail
  12. Get this damned house painted -done
  13. Landscape both yards -getting there, can’t call that one done or a fail
  14. Remodel main bath (the only thing inside the house I didn’t do. -fail

Not bad.  When I look back on this the key is organization and I failed badly with being organized.  The REO business we do is based a lot of a CYA mentality.  The bank Asset Manager is covering their ass with their manager, the servicer’s AM is covering their ass with the bank AM who is covering their ass with their manager and that of course just rolls up the food chain.  Our team wants us to cover our ass with the servicer’s AM who is covering their ass with the bank AM who is covering their ass with their manager and that of course just rolls up the food chain.  And at the end of the day, I’m the schmuck who has to run around and cover all these asses.   Trust me, one has always dropped the ball and it’s always my job to fix it.  It took me several months to figure out how to manage these peoples’ emergencies.  In the beginning I spent a lot of time chasing my tail.  My broker is too busy to teach me much of anything so I have to figure it out on my own.  I got knocked around pretty bad in the last year, but I would say I was smart enough to learn what to do and what not to do.  And take my beatings in stride.  I had it rolling for a couple of months but didn’t have the systems in place to keep it rolling.  One of my unwritten goals was to get the mortgage paid on time every month last year.  I did.  After 32 years of working for The Man, the concept of a free fall has finally penetrated my understanding.  Don’t want to ever be there again.  In addition to last year’s goals I mentioned the BMW parked in front of the garage.  This morning it is parked in the garage.

10-8garage

I have pretty much built the deck I was talking about last year.  And the front of the house has new double panes.  I was able to pay for the dog’s large vet bills as they came up but I’d like to stop having Pet Emergencies next year  Bubba’s diagnosis is chronic IBD.  I think I’ve mentioned the woman I know who owns the Top Twenty Doberman.  I saw her last week.  She suggested soaking their food before I gave it to them and giving Bubba Japanese rice.  He’s been getting Japanese rice, so that was good.  His regimen is 2 cups Taste of the Wild wetlands formula for breakfast, soaked in warm water, two cups of rice about 3 hours later, with Grizzley salmon oil on it, 2 cups of rice with lean beef 3 hours later and 2 cups of Taste of the Wild 3 hours later.  I noticed Tuesday when I was walking him that his coat is shining and thick where it’s come back.  It’s also not the light grey that it was, it’s a charcoal grey.  He’s on prednisone and I think he’s in less pain.  It’s been a month like this and I want to do this for a total of 3 months with no change before I reassess his situation.  I think we’re finally getting there.  And thrilled that he doesn’t have cancer.

1-17 bubba

I drank some amazing wine last year and went to some amazing places.  Met people that I would have never guessed would spend time with the Wine Dog.  Even more shocking, they remember me the next time they see me  It’s really quite a blessed existence I lead.  So without further ado….

Wine Dog Goals for 2010

  1. Lose that damned 50 pounds
  2. Organize real estate business to optimal efficiency and STAY ORGANIZED
  3. Get marketing plan running and keep it running
  4. Close a deal a minimum of every 3 weeks consistently
  5. Finish landscaping the yards
  6. Remodel main bath
  7. Bench 215 in competition, deadlift 300
  8. Ride faster (15mpg average) and complete
    1. At least one metric event
    2. At least two Century event
  9. Raise $2500 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation through Team Fatty (new button to be there soon)
    1. pie-in-the-sky-goal -Ride for the Roses in Austin.
  10. Attain goals #1, #2, #3 and #4 by June 1 so that I can justify a new S-Works frame and all the accouterments
  11. Finish a writing project
  12. Get broker’s license
  13. Buy a new vehicle for business

That’s enough  Yes, another year with no wine goals, but that’s been working for me, so why change?  Naturally there are other things that I’m not going to put out there right now, but if I get at least half of those it will have been a great year.  Of course shining God’s flashlight down on cockroaches will always be a goal of PBE and I will not let up on Bill Foley or the Hauptmans  I will continue to point out Foley’s business practices whenever his name comes up in the wine industry and do what I can to stop him from ruining another business that I love.  And the Hauptmans, well, they’re just cockroaches.  At least Mr. Balter got everyone but the Alliance folks dialed in and he’s working on them now.  I think there will be a lot more justice than we thought, I just hope that it isn’t too late for those folks who have been trying to save their homes while the Hauptmans play legal games.  Cockroaches.

But we all live with the scars we choose

We’re all singing “Happy Days are here again” right? Everyone has had their salaries restored to pre-mortgage meltdown rates, right? Your bonuses and commissions have all been restored by Mr. Foley right? Everybody is holding hands and singing “We are the World” at the Evil Empire, right? Oh let’s just quote the earnings call. During the earnings call Al Stinson said:

Open order counts continue to accelerate in October, as we averaged nearly 10,000 open orders for the first two weeks of October. We focused on moderate head count reductions during much of the third quarter eliminating about 850 positions. Despite a 16% sequential drop in closed orders and $101 million or 7% reduction in total title revenue, we were still able to generate pretax title profits that only decline about $13 million and an 8.9% pretax margin that was only a 30 basis points or 3% sequential decline from the second quarter.

Yep, Bill lopped off another 850 heads and turned in Q3 EPS of .32 per share to the Captains of Industry. Nice job asshat.

The Evil Empire continues to balance the books and bring profits to his Wall Street lords on the backs of the employees. Splendid. Restore your staff’s salaries, commissions and bonuses and THEN post profits for Wall Street. Any question that Bill Foley is a reprehensible character? Any question about his morally bankrupt business practices? Ask one of his employees, they’ll tell you.

You see a little bit of a food fight broke out when my pals over at AWB picked up on my pounding of the drums. They get why I have called for a boycott of Foley Wine Group. But they took it on the chin because the wine consuming public, or maybe it’s just a couple of morons that commented over there, don’t get why Bill Foley must be stopped. The thing in the Wine Spectator article that just jumps out at me is how Bill never said “I bought Sebastiani because I wanted to preserve a 104 year old tradition.” Nothing like that. He bought Sebastiani so that he would have more control over distribution. He never said and doesn’t give a crap about what kind of wine they make or the people who make it. It’s about distribution. So when some little wanker says “Oh he saved Sebastiani”, I say get a clue. Sebastiani’s time had run. Businesses have a life, and maybe Sebastiani was at the end of it’s life and needed to be laid to rest. Not to be further bastardized by a corporate raider. Mark my words, if he’s not stopped by the consumers, he will irrevocably change the wine industry forever, but not for the better.

Old Repulsive released earnings last week too. Well, earnings isn’t really the right word. The loss per share after an accounting adjustment was .20. They paid a .17 cent dividend per share so essentially they’re pretty close to stopping the bleeding. More importantly, they laid off less staff and retained more long term employees than any of the other title companies. They acted as if they knew business was cyclical and they had saved for that rainy day. They continue to behave in a much more admirable manner than any of their competitors. They have their problems, that’s for sure, but they don’t seem to bow to their Wall Street gods like Bill and Parker Kennedy do and here at PBE that’s a good thing.

The Bloodless Empire and Dinty Moore will be reporting on Thursday of this week. I will guess that one posts earnings the other doesn’t. Anyone want to venture a guess? I know, that was a softball. Speaking of softballs, this guy was truly the diameter of a softball. I saw him walking across the street, couldn’t believe it so I pulled over and snapped a picture, since I was up in Round Hill Country Club checking on one of our listings anyway and had the camera.

10-26tarantula

I killed the Czar and his ministers

PBE is like the Post Office. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” PBE delivers.  Just the other day Doctor Capone asked about the Mercury/Alliance debacle.  This morning, I look in my inbox and POOF!

10-20-09mercury letter

The operative word in the letter is “might”.  Most of the Alliance, Mercury, and Financial folks will remember that David Balter is the attorney for the State of California Labor Commission.  He was on this like a duck on a junebug back in 2007.  Mr. Balter really cares about the folks who got caught in Jerry & Patty’s scheme.  This is about recovering the lost wages, vacation pay stolen by Jerry Hauptman and Patty Hauptman when the companies failed. You know, 10 minutes after they both took their own salaries and skulked off to their mountain home.  Apparently these days Patty Hauptman is billing herself as an “Independent Management Consulting Professional“.  Apparently because she did such a professional job of managing Mercury Companies…nevermind.  You’ll be pleased to know that Jerry Hauptman is a “Management Consultant” at…yep, the Evil Empire.  I’m going to change my LinkedIn profile to simply read “Her Satanic Majesty”.

And remember, don’t buy Bill’s plonk.  The wine industry needs to say “no” to Bill Foley.  Leave it on the shelf.  The title insurance community has learned the hard way why Bill Foley is bad for business, and we all know why he’s bad for the consumer.  Don’t let the Burgermeister do to the wine industry what he did to the title industry.

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I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul

We all know I love sports analogies, most are baseball centric. My clients get to hear them all the time. You can’t hit the ball if you don’t get into the batter’s box. They all know that one. Another one I was using just yesterday was “Don’t serve up a steaming hot meat pie if you don’t want me to hit it over the fence”. Right now I feel a little bit like Carney Lansford in Angels in the Outfield. Carney played the grizzled nemesis who dug deep into the batters box intent on hitting the ball out of the park.

carney

He was big and strong and very serious about knocking the snot out of the baseball. Well, I’m big and strong and very serious about knocking the snot out of this story. The November 15, 2009 Wine Spectator will feature a story entitled “Growth and Acquisition”. It’s a piece about Bill Foley and his foray into the wine business. It talks about his background and his building of what is quickly becoming a wine empire. Unfortunately, Wine Spectator misses the mark, because while all the PR folks and Wall Street like to focus on the money he makes, they always ignore the corpses and destruction left in his wake. If anyone who reads this blog has any question, when I refer to the Evil Empire, I am talking about Fidelity National Financial. I’m talking about Bill Foley’s flagship. I’m talking about the company he built and then used to change an industry. Not for the better. I have heard more stories of homeowners or borrowers with issues after a transaction with a Fidelity company than any other company. There’s a reason I hate them. And I’ve got the background to support it. The author of the Wine Spectator piece, MaryAnn Worobiec writes:

In 1984 he organized a group of investors and led a leveraged buyout of a small company called Fidelity National Title Insurance, which would turn out to be one of the defining moments of his career.

Mine too, because in 1984 I worked for that little tiny title company. I was sitting in the office in Santa Barbara, California when he walked in with his henchmen. Anyone who follows the history at all knows that not only did he have his office in Santa Barbara, up until he decided he didn’t want to pay taxes or California salaries any more, the entire company was based in Santa Barbara. And if anyone listens to the Gubernatorial debates, Tom McClintock actually mentioned Fidelity National Financial in those debates, saying that FNF was moving their offices to Jacksonville Florida because they were tired of paying California State taxes. They were also tired of California salaries but they couldn’t say that one out loud.

That was only one of Foley’s reprehensible business practices. He is well known in the title industry for paying ridiculous salaries, bringing people in from other companies where they had stable jobs, giving them 60 days to perform and then capping them immediately when they didn’t. There has been much speculation that the purpose of this practice was to steal their book of business. Quite honestly if a title rep or an Escrow Officer moves from one company to another there is attrition in their book of business. Some clients will stay and try out the new team, some don’t like the drama and will give their business to a completely different company and some will come to the new company. There is never 100% capture. For Fidelity it has always been about numbers: market share and making money. It has never been about quality or service. That’s not to say that the rank and file don’t care about quality or service, it just means the executive team doesn’t care about quality or service. The only service they care about is lip service. The rest is all numbers. They have a strict formula and when the orders and closings drop below a certain number heads roll. How many? Thousands. FNF continued to post positive EPS throughout the mortgage crisis. They did it on the backs of their staff. October 2007, FNF lays off 1700 people. July 2008, FNF lays off 1600 workers. February 2009, Fidelity lays off 1500 workers. 18,000 jobs lost since 2003? There’s a number.  This is a company that traditionally balances the books on the backs of the employees.  When you’re in the service providing business, this is always fraught with peril.  When I was laid off at Alliance, I managed to get off an email to the entire company before the IT department had to shut down the mail servers.  I simply quoted Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s founder and CEO.

A company that is managed only for the benefit of shareholders treats it’s employees as a line item, a cost to be contained. Executives who cut jobs aggressively are often rewarded with a temporary run-up in their stock price. But in the long run they are not only undermining morale but sacrificing the innovation, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the heartfelt commitment of the very people who could elevated the company to greater heights.

Yet, that’s the Fidelity business model.

What those numbers won’t tell you is that the remaining staff took it up the ass. The minimum reduction in salary is over 20% and those salary cuts remain in place today in spite of the fact that the company has turned around and is posting huge profits again. There are two ways that FNF cuts your salary. One is an across the border slashing. Most employees gratefully accept this because they still have a job. The corporate culture leads them to believe that there is no where else to go for a job. The second way they cut salaries is to lay people off and then bring them back a month or two later as either a temp with no benefits or at a greatly reduced salary. Once again the employees gratefully accept it because it beats the crap out of $1800 a month from the State. I would venture to guess that every single individual currently employed by the Fidelity “family of companies” has taken a huge reduction in pay since 2006. If you haven’t, I’d love to hear from you. And the Easter Bunny. And Santa Claus. Because none of you exist.

Bill Foley’s business practices took an industry that used to take pride in accuracy and reduced that to acceptable risk. In other words, we can afford to do our jobs with X amount of half-assedness. He created a culture where people were so overworked that the probability for them getting their jobs accomplished correctly was in the single digits. As a client of mine used to say “He squeezed people’s eyeballs” in business transactions. And it’s made him a very rich man. It has not made him an honorable man and it has not made him a good man.

So now he’s taking his business “acumen” into the wine business. He’s buying up vulnerable wineries and vineyards and creating another empire. And the wine industry is wetting themselves trying to saddle up to him. Well, you know what? It’s all fun and games until 18,000 people lose their jobs. It’s all bread and roses until he doesn’t want to pay the salaries of a qualified winemaker. It’s his MO, like the scorpion, it’s in his nature. I’ve seen it. Twenty five years of it. This is your future wine industry. You can choose to do business with this man and embrace these business practices or you can choose to opt out. As consumers, we can speak with our wallets. As business people we can choose to not do business with a morally reprehensible character. As employees, we can seek work elsewhere. This man must not be allowed to do to the wine business what he did to the title business.

On October 15, Bill sent out an email to all of the employees of FNF. Here’s a direct quote, because that’s how we roll here at PBE:

Firestone Vineyard has put together a great consumer promotion that I want you to know about.  The Winery is sending one lucky consumer to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, accompanied by a personal chef and plenty of Firestone wine.

Scroll down to read the latest Newsletter from Firestone. To enter the contest, click here.

Good luck!
Bill

It certainly not the first time Bill has sat out at his ranch in Montana and told his staff “Good luck”.  Good luck making your mortgage, good luck keeping your job because I’m going to try my best to steal your book of business.  Good luck paying your bills.  Good luck getting overtime out of me.  I know all of the FNF employees are ready to run down to Machu Picchu right now because not a one of them has had an issue with their 20-30-40% reduction in their pay.  Attached to that is the Firestone Vineyards newsletter.  Now I can assure you that there are a few FNF employees who are staying drunk through this whole thing, but they aren’t drinking Firestone.

I’m not a big believer in boycotts, but there are a few companies I do boycott.  Boycott is different than just not doing business with them.  I try to not do business with any of the First American companies.  I hate the company but in this business sometimes I don’t have a choice.  I try not to allow my transactions to go to a Fidelity company but sometimes you don’t have a choice and they do have some good employees.  Those folks need to buy groceries too.  I try not to buy goods made in China, but sometimes that’s nearly impossible.  I try not to ever watch anything on a Fox station.  That includes the news and football games.  If there’s a game on another channel, I watch the other game.  But I boycott Foley Family Wines.  From Ms Worobiec’s article:

From the outside, it doesn’t appear that anything has changed at Kuleto. Founder Pat Kuleto is still the face of the winery, and the winemaker is still David Lattin. But Foley’s management, financial backing and increasing leverage with distributors will keep the brand alive, and likely expand it. “What doesn’t fit in [the portfolio] right now are small niche, cult brands that are too complicated to bring into the portfolio and tough for the sales team to sell,” he says.

If it appears that Foley is focused on the distribution chain, it’s because he is. His original goal-before the buying spree-was to create a multibrand portfolio totaling about 500,000 cases, to get more leverage with distributors. He sees the distribution chain as one of the biggest obstacles in the wine industry. “You need mass. I see that more clearly now [after purchasing Sebastiani] than ever.” He wants to model Foley Family Wines after Jess Jackson’s multibrand Jackson Family Wines. “I really believe that if you get to be a certain size, you get to be more influential with vendors,” he says.

Currently Foley Family Wines owns more than 1,000 acres of vineyards in the United States, 700 of them in Santa Barbara, making Foley the single-largest vineyard owner in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. With the purchase of Sebastiani, Foley has reached his initial 500,000 case goal, and laughs, saying that he actually “overachieved.” “My interim goal is 750,000 [cases]. I’m trying to be careful,” says Foley. “There are some great opportunities out there. I’m going to run out of money before I run out of wineries to buy.”

Look out.  He’s told us what he’s going to do.  Don’t let him.  Boycott Foley Family Wines.  Do it for the future of the industry.

Foley Family Wines brands:

Altvs
Curtis
Firestone Vineyard
Foley Estates
Kuleto
Lincourt Vineyards
Merus
Sebastiani
Three Rivers Winery

Save the complaints for a party conversation

FNF earnings soar in 2Q

The Burgermeister must be thrilled. They shed a lot of blood but they got the Evil Empire back into the black. Ethics be damned! The Evil Empire earned 40 cents per diluted share up from 3 cents per share q2 2008. Orders increased 61 percent. Of those 61 percent, I wonder how many people actually chose to do business with them as opposed to the thousands who were illegally strong-armed into doing business with them because of pre-existing back room deals cut with unscrupulous banks. To me that’s the same mentality as a spurned spouse who continues to force themselves into somebody’s life after the relationship ends. If they don’t want to be with you, leave. If we don’t want to do business with you why do you force us to? One day someone is going to file a class action against Fidelity and First American for these business practices. I hope their attorney forces which ever company they sue to shut down for a month Nationwide as part of the settlement. These guys deserve it. It’s not like it’s a one time offense, it’s their business practice and it’s wrong. I’m sick and tired of business that thinks that the rules don’t apply to them. Banks and insurance companies are at the top of the list in my book and I pray we don’t bail out another one of these companies, we let them fail.

I don’t know this guy but I bet he’s banned from the First American servers too. Because it’s much wiser to ban the dissenting opinion than to have meaningful discussion. I like his take on AB 957 too. I suspect this blog is banned from their servers too. You see, I’m not alone. The voices are starting to rise up and we will be heard. Enough is enough. Pretty soon you won’t be able to google “First American+Respa” from their servers. Good to see they’re getting into another business sector. Not. And Citigroup is apparently in the luxury hotel business now.

I could go on this tangent for quite a while today, but yesterday a simple ball joint repair job has turned into replacing the brain in the brake and traction system of the BMW. I have to go sell a house. It devoured the bulk of the commission I made last Friday. I guess stopping and ABS and panic braking are important, but damn! I think I can buy a new KIA for what I just handed the mechanic.

Remember, Boycott Foley Wine Group! Don’t let this guy do to wine what he did to title insurance.

Lucky to be coming home again

The luckiest man in America this morning.

fox-lies_sanford1

He’s still not a Democrat, but I didn’t see a moment of coverage yesterday on a guy who should have been bent over a barrel by the media. The second luckiest guy in America is Ryan O’Neal and that I can get behind. On probably the worst or one of the worst days of his life, he got handed a get out of jail free card. The white hot glare of the media got distracted by the death of the King of Pop and good Lord willing, he’ll be able to grieve the loss of the love of his life in peace. I would hope that Olberman went home and took a long hot shower after all of that last night. Dude, you’re better than that. Did Jackson do anything after “Thriller”, really? I mean besides molesting young boys. Alright, I’ll give him “Bad” but that’s it. Sorry, dude paid $20 MILLION to one family. God only knows how many other families took hush money. They may not have been able to convict him, but like OJ, it doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. The fight for the elections in Iran and the investigation of a corrupt politician who happens to be the Governor of South Carolina matters. Because you know he flew there on the taxpayer’s dime. I actually don’t care that he stepped out on his marriage. That wasn’t my business when Bill Clinton did it, and it’s not my business now. Unless I were to point out that a marriage is between a man, a woman and his Argentinean concubine, but not between two men or two women. And I would only point that out if he were some Bible thumping zealot that sought to force the rest of the country to comply to his rigid religious beliefs….nevermind.

In other news

The Coconut Telegraph is lumbering into action. Let’s play a little game. What agency, which happens to be an ABA of the Bloodless Empire and a certain large real estate firm with blue and white signs has been bouncing commission and disbursement checks? Y’all aren’t taking investment advice from NASCAR Teddy are you?

We’ve got some silly routines around here. One of them is when I take a shower. No matter where Bubba is when I turn on the shower, he comes in and sleeps on whatever clothes I took off. It’s one of the cuter things he does.

showerboy

I’m off to San Diego to lift today. I took the BMW in to get the hood supposedly buffed out yesterday. I had taken a piece of crap in the nose out on Highway 37 and it scraped up the paint on the hood. Doncha just love those flat beds loaded with crap that just flies in the wind? Safeco wanted to know if I got the plates. Dude, I was trying not to die, it was like a big mat or a piece of a roof. It was black, it came off the truck and up at my car. I braked and prayed. Anyway it was supposed to take a day. On the way to the shop yesterday the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. I figured I was going to have to rent a car to go to San Diego. As it turned out, they couldn’t buff out the hood and the insurance company will be paying to get it repainted. And they’re paying for the car rental, so I’ll be dealing with the light display when I get the car back on Monday night. So I’m off to finish up a bit of work and hit the road. I’ll sooo be driving around LA today.

And by popular demand, the list of Foley Wine Groups wines. All of which we boycott.

  1. Merus
  2. Foley Estate
  3. Las Hermanas
  4. Sebastiani
  5. Three Rivers
  6. Firestone
  7. Kuleto

And we boycott because he’s buying up wineries just like he did to title companies. He’s going to build an empire there just like he did in the title insurance business and he’s going to ruin the wine industry just like he ruined the title industry. He will over work his employees, fire them on a moments notice if the numbers aren’t there and provide a slip-shod product to his customers. If we don’t buy his wine, he doesn’t get any more of a foothold in the industry. This man is morally reprehensible and as winos, we cannot support him. And winemakers, please, stop selling wineries to him…dammit.

Let’s talk about no one some one any one

Oh Lordy, isn’t this the oldest real estate scam in the world?  Let’s see, Eugene Borelli?  Hell, he even had the balls to name his company Pyramid Real Estate didn’t he?  Who remembers that?  I guess we were supposed to think that Pyramid referred to the Transamerica building, not the scheme.  Or the preliminary reports with 32 deeds of trust?  Zev ben Simon essentially did the same thing.  He should have never left this country.  I think he’s still sitting in an Israeli prison.  He’d have been done with his light time in Lompoc by now if he’d stayed here.   I hate to see the Cuesta name dragged through all this, even though the original owners cashed out years ago.  Although the use of the term “mini-Madoff” is cute, at least to those who didn’t lose any money.

This story is trying to get traction, but the way I see it, the developer will just build some low income housing some place else to satisfy the requirement and leave it at that.  Wondering what OTG thinks.

You really have to eat the magic mushrooms and follow Alice through the looking glass to understand the logic applied here.   I wonder how many former Landamerica employees would like the opportunity to be working themselves out of a job right now, instead of collecting unemployment and paying $1300 a  month in COBRA to keep their family insured?  Yeah, like that.

Why Cathleen Galgiani is right.  One of my colleagues has a deal with Chicago Title’s REO division in SoCal.  It closed early last week and they STILL haven’t sent the commission check.  Now, if they were down the street in Walnut Creek, and he could go in there and ask an Escrow Officer in person “Where the Hell is my commission check?”, do you think he might have been paid by now?  Embarrassing Chicago.  Get your shit together.  May the Galgiani “Buyers Choice Act” prevail and may these REO divisions that don’t serve anything other than their corporate masters collapse under the weight of their own incompetence.

Let’s file this away under Just Because you Can, Doesn’t Mean you Should.  Now a bunch of executives who were paid millions and millions of dollars are going to claim that a bank caused LandAmerica’s undoing with bad investment advice?  Are you freaking kidding me?  You’re a CEO making obscene amounts of money, if you can’t invest the corporate funds diligently, then you are to blame.  Straight up.  You.  NASCAR Teddy.  You took the CEO’s salary, it’s your fault.  Period.

Let’s file this under What Evil Lies in the Hearts of Parker Kennedy Men.  The criminal in me wants to figure out where the vig is on this.  I know it’s all about angles.  Are they trying to take on The Google?

Speaking of The Google, I refuse to use Bing because it’s a Microsoft product.  For the same reason I refuse to drink any wine of the Foley Wine Group.  I’m hearing the Bill is relocating to Napa.  I’ll be sure to let him know I think he’s number one every time I drive past his place.

Speaking of wine, last night I caved to the little voices in my head and cracked a 1997 Freemark Abbey Bosché.  Time does Freemark Abbey’s wines good.  That 97 was great when it was bottled.  I’ve had it laying down for about 6 years.  The original tasting notes call it big and burly, but that’s never been my experience with Freemark Abbey’s wines.  I should know, I’ve been drinking them since 1980.  I wanted an elegant cab last night and I got that and a lot more.  It was full of ripe black cherries, cassis, even a little Dr. Pepper, with nice balance and a long gentle finish.  I had it with a filet that I just threw on the grill.  Perfect combo.  Currently it’s retailing for around $79-95 bucks.

Let’s finish on a high note.  This arrived in my mailbox a few days ago.  It’s the War Dog memorial.  I presume it’s the one in Guam from the lei.

soldier

But in his heart he knows what it brings

The tone of the news in this country has changed. I can barely watch the local news. Somebody’s laying off 1200 workers, this company is closing it’s doors and this family has fallen on hard times. I’m living it on the front lines and watching some stuffed suit talk about it just pisses me off, because I’m sure they don’t understand what they’re talking about. I’ve been in the middle of several financial stories over the years. What gets reported and what really happened are always parallel universes. So when 60 Minutes got the World Savings debacle right I thought “Baby it’s a brand new world”. And it is. While the cloak of secrecy was thrown over everything for the last eight years, a lot of companies allowed Wall Street (read greed) to dictate how they did business.

Those of us in the title industry witnessed this first hand. Parker Kennedy lost his balls and essentially the company over Wall Street greed, dictated by a hedge fund. On the other hand Bill Foley never had a soul so he was in his element. I remember him coming into Santa Barbara back in the early 1980’s to buy that little tiny title company I worked for. It was before he got Western Title. A guy named Bob used to own the thing. Bob made his money restoring cars for the movie industry. He took the money he made and dumped it into real estate. He got tired of paying for title insurance so he bought a title company. He used to roll up in the best cars. He had a Ferrari V12 and a Rolls Royce and a slew of wild machines. His house had a 10 car garage that was full. Anyway, I remember the day the new ownership blew in. Little did I know what was to come of all this. Here we are 25 years later and that new ownership has changed the title industry, not for the better but for greed. I call him the Burgermeister for a reason. And many of you who know me in RT have heard me say “They aren’t writing title, they’re flipping burgers”. It’s because Foley made his first million with Carl’s Jr. franchises. Then I guess like Bob he got tired of paying for title insurance. As he bought up title companies, he and his team offered monstrous salaries that weren’t in line with any business model for title insurance. Then they worked the high salaried employees as hard as they could. If they produced at that level they could stay, if not they were gone. That simple. But to generate the numbers they asked for a lot of procedures, checks and balances had to fall by the wayside. It was like peeling away an onion watching standard checks and balances for the industry fall to the chopping block. It was all about numbers and if there was a hiccup in the market, heads would roll at the Evil Empire. The company didn’t save money for a rainy day, they operated with the volume turned up. As employees, they had to save for the Burgermeister’s rainy day because he didn’t. He had no loyalty to anything or anybody beyond his own bank account. I kind of wonder how his version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is going to end.

Here we are 25 years later and there are four title insurance companies left in the nation. Agencies are fighting for their lives. I know I get a lot of questions about the Little Engine that Could. I just think they might have saved for this rainy day. I don’t know how else they’re making it. If you pick up marketing material most of the companies will tell you how they carefully review the public records in preparing your commitment or preliminary report. They don’t. They send it off shore to a country that doesn’t have laws in place to write title insurance. But because that’s what the marketing material says it must be true. It’s not. Because it’s more cost effective to off shore the work and lie about what’s really being done than to do the job right in the first place. It’s kind of like Ford and the Explorer. It was cheaper to pay the lawsuits than to make the vehicle safe. It’s like most new construction. It’s cheaper to settle with the HOA than to build it properly in the beginning. This is the business culture we live in. And it’s time we all stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

So when I see that the Burgermeister has bought yet another winery, it makes my head snap off of my shoulders. Until recently, Foley maintained his office in Santa Barbara. When California taxes got too much for him he very vocally moved the headquarters to Jacksonville, just because he didn’t want to pay California taxes. Plenty of Californians lost their jobs in that move. Who would want to leave Santa Barbara for Jacksonville? Really? From his home in Santa Barbara (yeah he kept that) he apparently found his way to the Santa Ynez Mountains, and Santa Barbara County Wines. In my world this isn’t bad, it’s horrible. He has now just bought a large stake in Pat Kuleto’s Estate above Pritchard Hill. After all that he has done to the title industry, when none of us could do a thing, we are now in the position to push back. Boycott the Foley Wine Group. Boycott Bill Foley and let them all know that we’ve had enough of his corporate greed, his raider mentality and his bullying ways.

  • Firestone Vineyards
  • Foley Estate
  • Lincourt Vineyards
  • Merus
  • Three Rivers Winery
  • Sebastiani
  • Kuleto Estates.

Here at Pink Bunny Ears we choose independent family owned wines over corporate ass klowns. Who’s with me?