Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Star's Obsession With Don Marsh Overlooks The Obvious

Don Marsh was one of the Indianapolis Star's favorite corporate citizens when he held the reins of the family grocery store chain that bears his name--one of the newspaper's largest single advertisers. Following his ouster as the company's CEO after Sun Capital's acquisition of the business, the Star no longer had much use for him and his every peccadillo seems to have become fodder for front-page news in the Star. Today's news story was no different:

Don Marsh, his recent civil trial showed, was dealing with a lot more than deli orders and fresh baked goods while he ran Marsh Supermarkets.
Like mistresses. He admitted to spending company money on five of them.
And globe-trotting. The grocer cozied up to Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Middle East potentates and took trips to the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the Grammys and Mardi Gras.
And trappings of wealth. He had a $90,000-a-year chauffeur, five vacation homes and a habit of handing out $20 bills to maids and stewards, butlers and maitre d’s.
The two-week civil trial earlier this month was, no doubt, one of the most revelatory accounts ever of corporate excess in Indiana.
"One of the most revelatory accounts ever of corporate excess in Indiana?" How soon they forget about convicted Ponzi schemer Tim Durham and his plundering to the tune of more than $200 million while hosting parties with Playboy Playmates and pseudo celebrities in his Geist mansion, or the lavish and flamboyant excesses of former Conseco CEO Steve Hilbert, who met his sixth wife after she jumped out of a cake at a birthday party he threw for his son's 21st birthday. Yeah, Don broke one of Rex Early's golden rules: "Do not fish from the company pier." But he's a small potato compared to Durham or Hilbert. And he didn't plunder the wealth of his investors as so many others have, even if he did take advantage of his position. What I've noticed is the Star's careful omission of key persons in discussing Marsh's bad boy ways.

Yes, Marsh's international forays with the likes of Cuba's Castro, Venezuela's Chavez  and Libya's Gadaffi does more than raise a few eyebrows. How would a Midwestern grocery store executive gain access to such persons? After all, former First Brother Billy Carter didn't just land on a tarmac in Tripoli during an unplanned plane landing without the help of someone with a little more pull. In Marsh's case, that would be former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the esteemed statesman, foreign policy guru and darling of the Indianapolis Star. For some reason I doubt the Star will probe into those matters any further. And on that note, what about all those mistresses of Marsh? He apparently had a lot of them.
And then there were the mistresses.
Marsh – married for 54 years, with five children – admitted to five extramarital relationships.
Two were company officers. One was a vendor. Another, an old flame. All received company-paid items of value, from dinners to jet flights to tickets to the Indianapolis 500.
Mistress No. 5 was a Russian woman who directed a ballet program that Marsh talked his board into possibly sponsoring on a U.S. tour. She stayed in a New York apartment at company expense. (Marsh to jury: I can’t pronounce her last name.)
Some readers asked me why the Star omitted from its reporting Marsh's relationship with former GOP National Committeewoman Dee Dee Benkie, who was ousted last year and replaced by then Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman. Carmel attorney Joseph Stork Smith penned quite a tell-all book on Benkie, "Rove-Ing Her Way To The White House: Machiavelli's Sexy Twin Sister." According to Amazon's description, the book is as titillating as its title implies:
"Rove-Ing Her Way To The White House" demonstrates that it was clearly possible to lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate others to gain full security clearance in the White House. Such behavior enabled Dee Dee Benkie to do just that during the administration of President George W. Bush. The rise to power of Dee Dee Benkie was facilitated by former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush, Karl Rove. Her fall and political comeback culminating in an appointment as current Co-Chair of the RNC Finance Committee is a true story that involved politics at the highest level (the White House), sex, criminality, not following the Golden Rule, and, most importantly, jeopardizing the security of the United States of America. Extensive material regarding the treacherous behavior of Dee Dee Benkie is presented. The book describes her as a holder of several beauty pageant titles, President of the Young Republican National Federation, and her activities as former special assistant to Karl Rove. The book reveals for the first time Dee Dee's true character. She has had extensive involvement in the criminal justice system, has unscrupulously manipulated good people to obtain what she wanted, blatantly disregarded criminal laws, and ignored the adverse effects that her ruthless actions have had on others. The author as an attorney, educator and businessman has had a multifaceted career. His unique perspective comes from the fact he personally witnessed, became involved in, and was negatively affected by the events laid out in Rove-ing Her Way to the White House. Readership should be popular with anyone who is interested in a true story that involves politics, the security of the United States of America, the criminal justice system, beauty pageants, or the poignant message of a thought-provoking book.
Just like the Star completely ignored the transgressions of some Indianapolis' most prominent movers and shakers over the years as retold by one of its own former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, Dick Cady, it will focus on the smallness and insignificance of Don Marsh's peccadillo's while pretending the real elephants in the room aren't really there.


CircleCityScribe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unigov said...

Marsh's transgressions were small potatoes...the Star's focus on him reminds me of Congress's investigation and subsequent perjury trial over Roger Clemens steroid use.

Or Martha Stewart's insider trading...an energetic and overblown prosecution for financial irregularities, compared to the panoply of theft exhibited by bigger fish.

CircleCityScribe said...

cough, cough, Unigov!

I don't think $2M is "small potatoes"...you must be a billionaire to say that!!!