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
- Three Rivers Winery
- Kuleto Estates.
Here at Pink Bunny Ears we choose independent family owned wines over corporate ass klowns. Who’s with me?