Sunday, November 13, 2011

Maurer Vouches For Litebox And Its CEO

Michael "Mickey" Maurer
Mickey Maurer, publisher/owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal and former economic development head for Gov. Mitch Daniels uses the editorial page of his weekly business paper to vouch for the credibility of Litebox and its unlikely business visionary, Bob Yanagihira, and to criticize those who have questioned Yanagihira's credibility. Maurer begins his column entitled, "Ideas worth testing when risk is nil," by quoting Ira Gershwin: "They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round . . . It's the same old cry." Maurer seems to forget or ignore that it was one of his own distinguished business reporters, Cory Schouten, who first questioned the Litebox deal, in taking to task those who questioned the project. Maurer says of the critics:

The Indianapolis Star and some pundits decried the event as either politically motivated or evidence that our leaders were duped. The reasoning goes that the announcement was ill-timed just before the mayoral election and if Litebox had been vetted by state and local authorities, they would not have promised incentives upon learning that Yanagihira left a trail of tax liens, at least one disgrunted investor and other evidence of failed business ventures. I disagree on both premises.
Despite probing by Indianapolis media, Yanagihira refused to say who was providing the financial backing for his ambitious plans to roll out the mobile, high tech, drive-in movie theater he envisions. At first he told reporters at the press conference called by Gov. Daniels and Mayor Ballard to announce plans to build a manufacturing facility on the city's northwest side that would employ more than 1,000 workers that he had several "well-heeled investors," but he later told reporters at the same press conference that it was just him financing the project. While Daniels called Yanagihira's plan "visionary" in defending the state's endorsement of his project, the Star learned that several other companies were already making a nearly identical product, all of which could be purchased for less than the investment Yanagihira was promising to make in Litebox.

Maurer first argues that there is "no measurable downside to offering state and local incentives to Litebox . . . no jobs, no money." Apparently, Maurer hasn't been keeping tabs on the excellent investigative series undertaken by WTHR's Bob Segal that found a high percentage of the job announcements made by the agency he formerly ran never produced a job and, contrary to his claim, public monies have been lost on at least some of these failed job announcements.

Maurer has also apparently been made privy to  information about Yanagihira's financial backers, something the quixotic entrepreneur refused to give up to probing reporters.
Alexander L. Cappello, chairman of the board at investment bank Cappello Corp., believes Yanagihira is a good bet--a best his company has made. Capello makes a lot of good bets. He heads a global merchant bank whose principals have conducted more than $100 billion in transactions, including California Republic Bank, Geothermal Resources International and the Cheesecake Factory. He is a former member of the board of trustees of University of Southern California and is an active member of the World Presidents Organization.
Actually, Maurer got the name of that last organization wrong. It's the Young Presidents Organization and Cappello formerly served as its international chairman. It's the same organization for which former President George W. Bush recently helped raise money at a private reception hosted at the Carmel mansion of Lucas Oil founder and CEO, Forrest Lucas. The organization was created with the backing of the CIA back in the 1950s to introduce young leaders in foreign countries for the purpose of opening export-import talks and franchising discussions.

According to Maurer, Cappello claims he has known Yanagihira for 15 years and describes him as a "brilliant, creative and lovable entrepreneur--a real nice guy." Cappello claims Litebox's technology is new, and there is a big demand for the product: "trucks outfitted with giant video screens that workers will manufacture as fast as they can." It's not new technology, and unless the federal government is planning to purchase a whole bunch of them to use to reprogram the minds of Americans to be imprisoned at future concentration camps in a scene straight out "Red Dawn," there's not going to be any big rush to purchase this existing technology.

I will give Maurer credit for his honesty. "Would I invest any money in his company?," Maurer asks. "Hell, no--not a farthing." I'm betting his National Bank of Indianapolis wouldn't lend a dime to Yanagihira either. If it's your money, however, Maurer could seem to care less. "If the government had to make a bet on the success or failure of every entrepreneur who has an idea and wants to create jobs in Indiana, we wouldn't have nearly the triumphs of job creation that we've enjoyed in Indiana the last few years," Maurer claims. Sorry, Mickey, you've got it all wrong. Or perhaps you've just given up on the free enterprise system and believe it's now the job of government to pick winners and losers in the business world. It's a pretty sad state of affairs when someone who has enjoyed the kind of business success Maurer has enjoyed without help from the government now believes government plays a necessary role in creating jobs by picking and choosing whose business ideas get the stamp of approval from big brother government.


Marycatherine Barton said...

Are you so sure that Mickey Maurer hasn't had some help from the government along the way to hiw gaining such financial riches, Gary?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Not that I'm aware of, Marycatherine.


The "picking and choosing" unfortunately, as you know, sometimes is prevalent at the Federal level as well.