'Queen of Versailles' CEO backs off election threat

Westgate Resorts' David Siegel strongly advised employees not to vote for President Obama.

By Jason Notte Nov 9, 2012 3:48PM

Hotel maid copyright Simon Jarratt, CorbisBack in October, Westgate Resorts CEO David Siegel sent out an e-mail to the 7,000 employees of the privately held company, many of them in the battleground state of Florida, warning them their jobs were at risk if the president was re-elected.


Now that President Barack Obama has been elected to a second term, are Siegel's employees boxing up the contents of their cubicles? Is Siegel pricing out retirement properties? Is all that tough-guy campaign talk being backed up with some cold, swift impunity?


Not so much.


Siegel was still barking a bit on Wednesday, when he responded to Bloomberg writer Susan Berfield's question about the layoff threat with a hedging "I don't know. I'm going to work my hardest to keep the company going and expand the best I can."


In the same breath, however, he admitted to giving everyone in his company an average 5% raise to "help them handle the additional burdens the government will put on them."


Let's go back for a second to the exact words of Siegel's e-mail, which built off of the sentiments from a chain e-mail he sent during the 2008 presidential campaign.


"The economy doesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration," he said in the e-mail. "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company."


Siegel told Bloomberg that the e-mail wasn't a threat and that, on election day, he "wished employees luck" and "didn't do anything to encourage or discourage employees, to find out who their preference was." Employees familiar with their boss may be accustomed to Siegel's hyperbole and statements, but they also seem well aware of his inability to follow through.


Siegel's company weathered the recession during President Obama's first term, but it came at a personal, public cost to both him and his wife, Jackie. They stopped working on a 90,000-square foot home modeled on the French palace of Versailles four years ago so they could prop up Westgate. The home, which is the subject of the pointed documentary, "The Queen of Versailles," merited a mention in Siegel's pre-election e-mail when Siegel hinted that he'd start working on it again if Obama lost.


Instead, the sprawling sarcophagus of a home remains only partially finished. It's still on the market for $65 million.


Siegel wasn't the only highly visible public figure to place a high-stakes wager on Obama's defeat and lose. Las Vegas Sands (LVS) chief executive Sheldon Adelson spent more than $50 million supporting Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates. Republican strategist and Fox News commentator Karl Rove, meanwhile, filtered about $300 million through his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS super political action committees during the election cycle and came away with nothing.

However, Adelson wasn't publicly admonishing pit bosses at the Venetian to vote Romney or turn in their vests. Despite getting a bit testy with his Fox News cohosts on Election Night, Rove never told Megyn Kelly on camera to start clicking through Craigslist for work because he and Roger Ailes were going to can everyone from Sean Hannity to Steve Doocy if Obama won.


Only Siegel completely misread public sentiment toward people of his stature. He missed the portion of the Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study of financial industry marketing execs in which 81% believe Wall Street pay will continue to batter the industry reputation. He didn't catch the Gallup survey in May that discovered that fewer than one in five Americans trusted big business or the poll of high school students by the University of Arizona in August that found that 75% agreed with the following statement: "The stock market is rigged mostly to benefit greedy Wall Street bankers."


Still, Siegel won't relent.


"I don't want to fulfill my own prophecy," he told Bloomberg.


That's the thing about life in Versailles: As Louis XVI could attest, the worldview from its gilded vantage point makes it really easy to lose one's head.


Tags: LVS
133Comments
Nov 9, 2012 6:18PM
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This guy is building a 90,000 square foot home and I live in a 1500 sq ft home.....And I am suppose to feel sorry for this jerk? I don't think so!
Nov 9, 2012 5:53PM
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What a scumbag, he absolutely tried to influence and coerce his employees to vote the way HE wanted them to, and that is just so wrong...

But then again, as we all know, most CEO's have a very hard time distinguishing between right and wrong.

Nov 9, 2012 6:12PM
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What a TERRIBLE economy it is when your $65 million mansion doesn't quite get finished.  Do what a good Republican would do  -  take back your employees' 5% raises and give it to yourself.  Then have your army of tax lawyers and CPAs find the appropriate tax loophole.  If they can't find one, make sure some congressman gets his pocket padded to CREATE one for you.
Nov 9, 2012 6:25PM
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Scumbag is FAR too kind to this type greedy SOB.  Regrettably, his is the norm, not the exception to be found in the Ivy League taught Corporate Business Model.     Frank Lorenzo, Carl Ichan, Stephan Wolfe, Big Oil, the Insurance Industry almost without exception, and now the utilities -- AEP, BFI, American Water, all Harvard trained piranahas who devour American labor and American consumers with greed, unbridled dishonesty, and are traitors to the Country.  Damn them all to Hell along with Hannity, Rove, Ailes, Limbaugh, Trump, Norquist, Cantor, Mcconnell, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Baker, the entire Bush Clan, and their ilk.

Nov 9, 2012 6:45PM
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The biggest joke of the last 12 years has been the tax cuts for "job creators". These "job creators" demanded more from their workers without expanding the workforce and pocketed the savings from the tax cuts. Time to put up or shut up! Create jobs or lose the tax cuts implemented for job creation. Seeing as you already despise "handouts" like food stamps to hungry children, you should have no problem ending your corporate welfare
handout.
Nov 9, 2012 6:08PM
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This blowhard is just as full of hot air as all the other Republicans spouting doom and gloom if Obama gets reelected.  Truth is, they're just trying to protect thier Bush era tax rates.  How would it make any sense for him to cut the size of his company, thus reducing his revenue, while paying higher taxes?  Sounds like a double hit to me.  He's not going to reduce the size of his company unless a lack of demand for his product demands it.

Nov 9, 2012 5:29PM
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Westgate does not have to worry about my business.  I will also ask others to boycott this bigot

Nov 9, 2012 6:30PM
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  By telling his employees not to vote for Obama he most assuredly made sure that they would.
Nov 9, 2012 7:03PM
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Siegel's company will not pay a dime in increased taxes.   My wife worked at Santa Anita Park for 30 years.  Through the years, employees received modest pay increases.  These increases would always show up as a  modest increase in the cost of a program, a glass of wine, a cup of beer, parking fees, entrance fees  or every race track junkies favorite a hot-dog.  So will any, if any, tax increases be passed along by Siegel.  So rejoice and be happy that you can live the life that most others can only imagine.  Remember the mother and child that will be sleeping in the car or under the bridge tonight.
Nov 9, 2012 6:55PM
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I stay in hotels 80 -100 nights a year. Never stayed in a Westgate. I will definitly not stay in one now unless I'm in a bind. Are they any good?
Nov 9, 2012 8:03PM
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Threatening employees either explicitly or back handedly, that they may be fired if they don't vote for one candidate or another, should be totally outlawed if it is not already. THIS BEHAVIOR IS NOT FREE SPEECH >>>>  IT IS CRIMINAL BLACKMAIL !!!!!!!!

 

David Siegle should be prosecuted for 1) tampering with an election, 2) blackmail, and/or  3) harrassment at the workplace, which are all crimes now. This type of harrassment just shows how necessary Worker Unions are in the America of today where some employers are trying to bring back the American Guilded Age of the late 1800s were employer abuse of workers was the rule.

 

This is a matter of morality and fairness. It should be a bi-partisan issue of decency.

 

Nov 9, 2012 6:20PM
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All ceos believe they are gods  and can do whatever they want, tipical republicans.
Nov 9, 2012 6:35PM
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ST. LOUIS (AP) - A coal producer owned by a longtime critic of President Barack Obama's energy policies will lay off nearly 160 workers at Illinois and Utah mines, blaming the freshly re-elected president for a "war on coal."

Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. said in a statement supplied Friday to The Associated Press that it would give pink slips to 102 workers at its West Ridge Mine in Utah and 54 at its underground mine in the southern Illinois town of Galatia. Both mines are run by Murray Energy subsidiaries.

Nov 9, 2012 8:09PM
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It's like John Schnatter crying about how he will have to go up 10 cents on one of his crappy Papa John's pizza's to pay insurance on his employees. The $2.00 delivery fee is about 14 times the insurance hike. I'll cry for John while he plays golf on his private course on his mansion and estate.
Nov 9, 2012 6:18PM
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Anyone notice the trend here on MSN, the AP, etc. since the election?  It seems that that there are a lot of folks being cast as villains because Obama won; it is as if there is this attitude of that everything that people are worried about has now been proven wrong and now all the sudden no issues exist.  I don’t necessarily think what this CEO may have portrayed is correct (i.e., that people better not vote for Obama or they will lose their job), but I also don’t think people see the gravity of the situation the country is in with crippling debt and a failure for people to take personal responsibility.  The consequences are huge if the U.S. doesn’t get its house in order.

 

We are all on the same team here, when will it be recognized that way?

Nov 9, 2012 5:42PM
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I hope republicans never say anything bad about other countrys and their election process when we have leaders puting fear in the hearts of Americans on their right to vote.  Isn't this what happened during the 40's, 50's to southern black voters......oh wait a minute, they we're allowed to vote!!!!!
Nov 9, 2012 7:05PM
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These types of action boarder on treason in my opinion - well, if not exactly that foul crime, at least admit that they eat away at the heart of the American system and are Un-American.
Nov 9, 2012 5:44PM
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Wealth is accustomed to making profits that are appealing to them.  They could and should control their greed.  Wealth wants it all.  Don't like it move out.  Build your company on the shores of the Ganges. 
Nov 9, 2012 5:39PM
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Let's see what happens come January before we start dismissing his comments as a bluff of sorts. If the layoffs become reality, I guarantee there will be no follow through on this story.
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