4/4/2011 11:59 AM ET|
Gene Simmons, insurance salesman
With music, merchandising and reality TV already under his belt, the Kiss rocker turns to a new venture targeting the superrich.
Would you buy life insurance from a man who dresses in spandex and coughs up blood?
Gene Simmons has embraced many personas over the years: the demonic, fire-breathing bass player for legendary rockers Kiss. A rabid merchandiser who oversees an empire built on his band's merchandise, ranging from T-shirts to designer coffins. The star of a reality series, "Gene Simmons Family Jewels," gearing up for its seventh season on the A&E network.
His latest venture is helping to sell life insurance to high-net-worth individuals.
Simmons spoke to TheStreet recently as he packed for a trip to Israel being filmed for his TV show. It is the first time he has returned to his homeland since -- as a young man named Chaim Witz, the son of an Auschwitz death-camp survivor he and his family migrated to Queens, N.Y., in search of a better life.
The night before the trip to Israel, Kiss played their usual set of hits - "Detroit Rock City," "Love Gun" and "Stutter" among them -- at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Once upon a time, backstage post-concert might have been a bacchanalia; that night it was a client meeting.
Simmons was schmoozing for Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy, a Franklin, Tenn.-based firm he helped found a year ago. The firm specializes in providing life insurance for the rich in, it claims, a very financially advantaged way.
Focusing on those with assets of $20 million or more, Cool Springs facilitates loans that allow clients to procure high-value life insurance policies with little or no money upfront. The loan, which covers premiums, can be paid incrementally or settled from the ultimate payout. The firm says this approach helps minimize estate taxes.
Some in the industry cast a skeptical, if not critical, eye on the concept of premium financing, which other firms and insurance companies have offered over the years. Cool Springs says its strategy will succeed because the cost of borrowing and commissions are low for their affluent clients. The interest rate is flat, based upon the London Interbank Offered Rate. Clients have the option to fix the interest rate for a term ranging from one to 30 years or allow it to fluctuate as frequently as every week.
Among Simmons' partners in the venture are CEO Samuel Watson, a 29-year veteran of the life insurance industry, and David R. Carpenter, who retired in 1995 as chairman and CEO of Transamerica. Also aboard is Richard Abramson, who managed Paul Reubens' Pee-wee Herman character, co-created and produced the acclaimed children's show "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and previously joined forces with Simmons for several business ventures, including a marketing firm that included the Indianapolis 500 as a client.
Simmons' involvement came after him and Abramson, having passed on a financial product they were working on, were introduced to Watson.
Simmons' role is rainmaker, an evangelist for the new firm whose fame and connections can bring in clients from the world of entertainment and sports.
And Simmons has his patter down, stressing how even the most financially savvy can be either underinsured or choosing the wrong products.
"Life insurance is a must," he says. "It's the one thing in your life you are doing for everybody else. Once you are dead, you really don't care, but while you are alive it is the one big, selfless thing you should be doing. And you should try to maximize the amount of money that you leave behind to your family, your loved ones and whoever else you deem."
Simmons is blunt that, at his company, only the superrich need apply. (If that's not you, feel free to compare life-insurance quotes with MSN Money's form.)
"It is not for everybody," he says. "People of a certain economic level should be buying Volkswagens, and they shouldn't be getting a Rolls-Royce."
In keeping with assumptions you might make based on his public persona, it doesn't take much prompting for Simmons to veer away from the dry selling points of insurance.
The word "premium"? He hates it, considering it a "soft sell" that avoids calling it what it is -- "money, writing a check."
"I hate fine print," he adds, building a head of steam. "I hate it. You can't even go in and buy a car. The sticker price is $25,000. But, by the time you leave, it is $31,000. Why doesn't it just say $31,000 as the full price? Because they lie, that's why."
A mention of the estate tax, zeroed out last year and back at 35% for this year and next, propels him even more into invective.
On the national debt:
"Between bailouts and schmeckle-outs and all the outs that the government has gotten involved in, big government is now bigger than ever. You no longer need mommy and daddy to wipe your butt; you've got the government to do that every time you do something wrong."
On tax policy:
"They've got to get the money somehow, and they are going to get it, trust me. How are they going to do it? It's Robin Hood time. Somebody's going to take from the rich and give to the poor. The American Dream -- work as hard as you can and enjoy the fruits of your labors -- is not really true. Under the present administration, which I voted for, a more accurate description is, 'Work as hard as you can and when you finally gain the rewards of your hard work, we're going to make sure a lot of it goes back to everybody else.'"
"If we don't leave the rich alone, and I'm talking as a poor person who worked his way up, they will move to Sweden or someplace else. Keep beating up the people who create jobs and watch them go offshore. Everybody is shocked when you pick up the phone to order a magazine subscription that the order fulfillment is in India. Everybody's shocked when that happens. Well, keep beating people up who create jobs and see what happens."
On challenges entrepreneurs and small businesses face:
"I want to start a business, so I go and I borrow and get myself deeply in debt. I'm going to make 'popcorn farts' -- that's going to be my product. I have to pay rent or buy a building. I'm on the hook for that. I have to hire people, I have to pay their salaries, worry about their retirement plans and, in case one gets pregnant, I have to worry about the pregnancy plan; I have to pay for their vacations and overtime. Then, I have to buy equipment and insure the place.
"Finally I make the first popcorn fart. It costs me a dollar to make, that's the cost of goods, and if I'm lucky I can get $1.40 to $1.50 for it. The store, the distributor and everybody else will make much more than I do, and all they do is sell it. Everybody else gets paid first, if there's a profit I get paid last. If the business goes under, I am fully on the hook for it. And, after I make my first dollar, I have to give 50% to the government if I'm lucky. After that, if I want to leave it to my heirs I get beaten up again. At what point do they just simply come clean and say, 'I have a gun to your head, give me your money.' The capitalist system is not in good shape. The American dream is not what it used to be, and that is why the people who become high-net-worth individuals have to be much more diligent that they ever have been before."
This article was reported by Joe Mont for TheStreet.
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More class envy, and the first post to boot.
Come out of the closet? KISS is, among other things, a marketing scheme, and so is every vernture Simmons has been involved in since. Nothing new here, he is a businessman that has made hundreds of millions of dollars, get over it.
He gets up to 2 million a show for a KISS performance, so the word cheap does not apply at all. His merchandise marketing rivals Lucas and Star Wars, and his other ventures including the one in this article are CLEARLY to provide a future income stream for his family after KISS is done, and the income from that becomes unpredictable.
"More Stupiditiy" you chose your name well.
P.S. If you knew ANYTHING about KISS you would know his character is NOT a "Vampire", DUH!
So I must have missed something in the last few years. When exactly was it that the rich started being abused? When exactly did the wealthy tax rate become so overwhelming for them? I seem to recall that they just had tax rates kept at pre 2000 levels, got bailouts to the tune of almost a trillion dollars on the backs of working people (or those of our children as the case may be), gave bonuses to the morons who put us in this position in the first place (biggest this year), had income rise steadily and dramatically throughout the last decade (27% increase over the decade) while the average working Joe had their incomes remain flat (2.1% increase over the entire decade). Where is this so-called targeting of the rich? Seems to me it's the lower and middle classes that are being targeted by them. And they pay too much in taxes? How many corporations paid $0 in taxes this year while making billions of dollars in profit (see e.g. GE's tax reporting for the last five years), and then they got tax refunds? C'mon Gene, get real! Your diatribe is without moral compass, without factual basis, and bereft of reality concerning those of us who actually work for a living. And did I mention, all those jobs you say are rightfully being shipped overseas? Seems to me that since this country's citizens are the ones who buy the products, by making jobs scarce all the wealthy do is deplete the amount of money capable of being generated. Pathetic.
The super rich don't have enough options? When global Peak Oil brings about the financial collapse, having insurance is not going to save the money hoarders.
oh yes. No one knows more about money than Gene Simmons.If I were rich I'd get a policy from his organization. Unfortunately I'm not of great wealth and just have to truddle along with a plan for my husband .
Gene is the man when it comes to hustling a buck.Ask him he'll tell you. He could sell air conditioners to the devil. Regardless of what you think of the man personally ,hes like he is because hes driven.Also he has better hair than Trump.
His ethnicnicity has nothing to do with anything. Does anyones ever? FYI in the mid 70's Kiss was everywhere and generally thier music was the closest thing to head banging in the mainstream.
Thier stage show was everything and all of them were strong musicians,, yeah gene can really play that bass..
KISS is just a name Gene came up with. It means what it means. Thats what he does. He takes mundane
and gets it noticed. Hypes everything.. would market KISS dogfood for rock n roll dogs.Has the guts of a burgler and makes no apologies, Hes a self made man who admires his creator. You gotta love that.
Also where do you think Rob Zombie got ideas from. Its marketing.A gimmick.. and Kiss started it.
If he wants to sell insurance ...good for him. He has a mansion.. babe wife.. talented kid.Lived a dream,
had a million women.. Made millions.. still does. His mug is on every tv show he can get on.35 yrs after he peaked hes still visable.. talked about..envied.. criticized.. and applauded.
Id be overloaded with1/10th of that.
Someday mommy, when I grow up, I want to be an insurance salesman? Lowering yourself & your standards to parade around wailing in spandex & morbid makeup doesn't show good common sense & judgment in my book. - Anything for showmanship & a buck?
Just more Cheap Tricks & gimmicks? - Buying insurance from someone who used to dress the part & still acts the same? I don't think so. Wake up Nero, Rome is going to burn?
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