- Your “Different Belly Rubs Brings Different Scrutiny” Tuesday Evening Open Thread – June 30, 2020
- Your MXC Monday Evening Open Thread – June 29, 2020
Las Vegas, Nevada
[Sheldon Adelson is the picture of an old-world banker: short, chubby, with the toupee-assisted thinning horseshoe-hair of a man who’d spent long hours poring over financial reports instead of his children’s report cards. He speaks into the ether, rarely making eye contact or pausing for questions. During the relocation, Mister Adelson was director of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and had an estimated net worth of $40 billion.]
The first words out of that idiot’s mouth were, “I don’t want to make any money, I just want to protect my dad’s legacy.” I haven’t heard anything so retarded since the Kennedy administration.
Those first months he was talking about moving to Vegas, I can’t tell you how much information I had to cram into his malformed, clearly damaged cortex; the briefings, the inspection tours… when I did sleep, it was with a book under my pillow, each night a new one, from Adam Smith to “Goodnight Moon”. Hell – I would have read “Everybody Poops” if it would have helped. I needed every idea, every word, every ounce of knowledge and wisdom to help me fuse a fractured human brain into an actual businessman.
My father had been a staunch New Dealer, the kind of that would make Ayn Rand leap from her grave and join the ranks of the living dead. I’d always rejected the lessons he’d tried to impart, running as far away as Wall Street to shut them out. Now I was wracking my brains to remember them. One thing those New Dealers did better than any generation in American history was find and harvest the right tools and talent. Well, Mark didn’t have either, and I have both, so you could say he came to the desert to find his bounty, and here I was to help him reap it.
Tools and talent?
A term my son had heard once in a movie. I found it described my attempts to help Mark rather well. “Talent” describes what you bring to the table in terms of a possible exchange of goods or services. If you’ve ever met Mark Davis,
then you know he’s a tool. He couldn’t find his way out of a room with four doors. A businessman in the 21st Century needs to have presence, an aura about him that makes people take notice when he walks into a room. People notice Mark because when he enters a room it looks like Raymond Babbitt’s roommate walked away from the home. All those white track suits; you’d think a guy who eats that much P.F.Chang’s would have the good common sense to not eat noodles every fucking day.
If Mark’s father were still alive, he probably would have laughed at my frustration. I’d heard all the stories; that Al never taught him business because he considered him soft-headed, that he threatened to write Mark out of the will if he ever got married – because he figured the first woman to diddle him would control him forever. But Al was a maverick like me, and if his son wanted to come to my town with his shiny toy, well it was my job to make sure the job was done right.
You’ve mentioned, on occasion, the problems faced by the LVCVA…
I was getting to that. Now, I own this town; I don’t believe it’s a secret. I have the power, the “tools” Mark doesn’t have, to meet any physical, economic or logistical challenge in this town and state. I was having some difficulty with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority over government support for their renovation of the public Convention Center. Well, not so much “difficulty” as “why should I help pay for it?” I’ve got empty convention space at the Venetian, and yet the city goes crying to the government about how it needs to upgrade its facilities to compete with the private sector – aka Me – and it needs hundreds of millions to do this. Then, once complete, they’ll put their space out on the open market, and undercut places like mine because they’re subsidized.
I ask you – is that fair?
[Sensing this was a rhetorical question, I stayed silent.]
So, once I heard about this Tommy Bahama bowl cut that was looking to move an NFL team into my town, I figured on a plan to use this to my advantage.
Well, right after Jerry Jones & the NFL prevented the Raiders from moving to LA, Mark came into Vegas looking for land & financial help. See, after he got shut out of LA, Oakland decided to triple the rent on that open sewer of a stadium the Raiders play in. They would have never pulled that kind of shit on his old man, so Mark knew he had to do something to get their attention. And that’s where old Shelly (points thumbs at himself) came in.
The one thing people in this town clamor for is “legitimacy”. Entertainers, bankers, politicians – they all desire to leave something behind with their name on it, so they can be remembered forever. Las Vegas entertains over 40 million visitors per year; the only thing that stays behind is their money.
My plan was simple: get the politicians on board with backing the football stadium. Hell, for appearances it could be a joint-use facility with the university. I figured it would take at least $750 million in city & state money to get that sucker built. To make it look good I agreed to pony up $650 million of my own money. The ruse was working perfectly.
[He swivels in his chair, motioning to a picture above his desk. I lean closer and see that it’s not a picture but a framed brochure for his convention center.]
I had what looked like $1.40 billion reserved for building that stadium. But I had to hold firm, because you know politicians: “Oh, but what about public schools?”; “We don’t have enough money to pay for health care.”; “Make them pay for the whole thing – we’re not in the stadium operation business.” And my counter-argument was, “Look – this is a one-time offer. Take it or leave it. But I’m telling you, if you want people to remember your name, give them a sports team to root for.” I knew those vainglorious bastards would fall into line.
You still really haven’t told me your plan, sir.
What – do I have to spell it out for you, James Bond?! Look, if the city & state were going to be dropping $750 million on a new stadium, they wouldn’t have any money to devote to fixing up the convention center, so that business would have to go somewhere else. If the largest convention center in the state is unavailable, then the second probably is. And if they’ve spent all their money for the next ten years, it guarantees regular business for me.
I do things to make money.
Then, what happened?
It all goes back to the League. The NFL would never be able to function in the real world as a proper business. As a cultural institution – sure, it works fine and makes its money. But look at how they’ve set themselves up: they are a disparate group of 30 billionaires, Mark Davis, and whatever the fuck they call that Green Bay thing. They hire a commissioner to organize their collective efforts & be the face of the organization. “The face that runs the place”, as my grandson’s favorite wrestler John Cena would put it. But then they individually & actively work to undermine the common front for their own franchise interests, and yet demand a collective response when it blows up in their face.
The negotiations were with Mark, but approval has to come from the League. And not just from Goodell’s office, but all 30 other owners and that Green Bay tax-dodge. How is that sound business? If I want to close up my factory and move it to Mexico, I just have to pay a tax liability, and usually I can get the local governments to kick in enough money that they’re practically paying me to stay there. That’s how a businessman does actual real business. That guy who owns the Rams – (he muttered to himself) Cronkite? Kripke? Keebler? whatever – he knew what he was doing. Told the League, “I’m moving the team.” and bought the land to build his dreamhouse. Oh sure, I’m positive the Wal-mart side of the family helped guarantee that happened. Plus, he managed to get that inbred olive picker Dean Spanos to move his team there. Hell, he’s getting both part of the relocation fee and annual rent; why, he’ll have that stadium paid off in no time.
And look at what Jerry (Jones, the Cowboys owner) did to help move things along. Jerry told the Rams guy – Klondike? Keaton? – to build his stadium without League approval. Said he knew how to grease the wheel. He owns a major chunk of Legends, a hospitality-marketing company that will sell the suites and sponsorships for the Rams and Chargers in LA, and sold out the suites and sponsorships for Levi’s. That’s who Mark should be mad at; by helping the Rams move, he all-but guaranteed that the League wouldn’t move two AFC teams into one market. That Spanos got to move to LA instead of Davis is just testament to Dean sucking a better cock. Why, Jerry – whom I love, by the way – even squeezed his way into Mark’s stadium deal, and will not only do the suites & sponsorships but find & sign the naming rights, for a hefty percentage, I hope.
Genius, I tell you.
The only thing I can guarantee there is that you’ll never find any Sands advertising in that stadium, or coverage in the Review-Journal beyond the score. Sheldon Adelson doesn’t forget or forgive betrayal.
Forgive me, sir, but I still don’t see how Mark Davis hung you out to dry?
That’s the beautiful thing – I don’t think he does either. I gave him the state on a platter, got them to put up $750 million on the back of hotel taxes & government bonds, and they’re going to divert gasoline taxes into building highway access for the stadium under the guise of “transportation improvements”. And once Sandoval signed that bill into law he turned around, looked me square in the eye, and said “Sucka says ‘what’?” What the fuck does that even mean?
I like to reference “The Art of War” in many of my business pursuits, since Tzu’s tactics & strategies hold many parallels to corporate warfare. He famously observed that, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” Mark came to town with his hat in his hand, looking for a solution to his stadium issues. He knew he had to do something quick; if his mother died while the team was still in Oakland, her ownership percentage would be taxed at 40%, and Mark couldn’t cover that, because all he has for revenue is the team. Unlike the other owners, and whatever the fuck Green Bay is, he doesn’t have secondary – or even primary – businesses as a source of revenue. The Davis’ are the team, and the team is the Davis’. He would have had to sell the team to cover the inheritance taxes, and likely local buyers would have stepped in to buy the team and keep it there.
But I gave him the meeting, and that was apparently all he and his team needed.
I still don’t know if he was smart enough to use me like that. Here is a man who has to wear loafers because he doesn’t know how to tie his shoes, and he came to me because of my stroke in this town and state. We negotiated in what I though was good faith, and he took the deal back to his staffers for review. You should have seen some of the previous “careers” listed by the employees on his “management team”; everyone was some version of an “executive”, a “representative”, an “analyst” or a “consultant”, all perfectly suited to helping someone on the autism spectrum run a football team, but all totally inadequate for the current situation. It had to have been one of those pricks who got in his ear about changing the deal.
And how did they do that?
Well, after I got him the tax money, it came time for us to negotiate revenue sharing agreement. Mark left with his people and we agreed to meet in a week to hammer out our deal. I wasn’t looking for much, but since I was fronting $650 million I figured I should at least get a percentage of some revenues. I wasn’t going to take much; hell, I figured if I could get 2% per year I’d be laughing. Then they came back with that “zero-dollar, fuck you” deal. Turns out those selfish bastards wanted all the money for themselves, and that I was just going to donate my money to help them build. Well, Shelly doesn’t do anything for free, so I walked. Then, as if by magic, in walked Bank of America to fund the part I was going to take out. Get this: they guaranteed the loan based on the projected revenues on naming rights & seat licences, data I gave the Raiders. Those assholes didn’t even have the decency to change the numbers; at least they plagiarized it honestly and took my name off it, so if it goes south I don’t get touched.
How they managed to keep the no-rent clause I’ll never know, but I hear that’s what the NFL is good at ‘arranging’. And they get to keep all revenue from other events using the stadium. Getting UNLV to sign on was a stroke of genius. Now they have three sources of public revenue coming into the stadium, because UNLV is a sub-lease. They have to pay no matter who goes to their shitty games in their shitty conference. I expect a Pac-12 application sometime after the stadium is completed. I hope they don’t have to sell part of the campus like Cincinnati had to sell a hospital to cover their end of costs.
I’ve spent months trying to determine who did me dirty. I figure it was the Rooney family that got involved. So they draw the line at gambling, huh? Never trust anybody with a Kennedy connection. Pretty fucking sanctimonious to color me with the “ooh…gambling!” pen when they’ve been in bed with those bootlegging Micks since the sixties.
So, are you still bitter?
Look son – I’m worth $40 billion; I’m the most powerful person in this state, and I run a casino empire that ranges from Pennsylvania to Macau. I’d say more “embarrassed” than “bitter”. I went into a negotiation with someone who clearly too stupid to know better, and yet I was the one who should have known that underestimating an opponent usually brings disappointment. As Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” It just so happens that I didn’t think I was negotiating with an enemy, but a business partner. I got played; game has to respect game, no matter the quality of opponent.
Luckily, if anyone in this town points it out, I’ll fucking ruin them.
O.co Stadium Executive Offices
When Al Davis died in October 2011, the team not only lost its owner but also its GM. While the season rolled on, the Raiders began conducting a search for a new GM. Former Raiders executive Ron Wolf & former head coach John Madden took key roles in the search, ultimately being the ones to direct Mark Davis to hire him. A former LA Raider in the 1980s, McKenzie had immediate credibility with the fans, if not the new owner – who was filling some pretty big shoes.
When did you notice the first signs that Mark Davis wanted to bring him back?
The day after I was hired. I already planned to fire Hue Jackson because – well, because he’s Hue Jackson. I was conducting my preliminary search when Mark came bursting into my office, huffing & puffing like a little kid who just ran up the stairs. Between wheezes, he asked, “Why you let Hue go? Was he bad?” I sat Mark down, gave him a cocoa, and said I hadn’t made a decision yet. For a brief second, he turned into a different person – “Excellent. I need you to make a full accounting of all available candidates. Please, for my sake, also consider Jon Gruden.” When I reminded him that Jon Gruden worked at ESPN, he seemed to slip back into his alternate personality and said “Mark Davis wants Chucky!” Then he winked & left the room. The whole incident reminded me of Vincent Gigante.
Anyway, Gruden was still under contract to Monday Night, and- to be honest – I didn’t want that lunatic running around while I was trying to rebuild a franchise. So that’s why I hired Dennis Allen.
How did you avoid hiring him the next time the job became vacant, in 2015?
Well, first off, Jon wasn’t ready to return to coaching yet. No one knew at the time, but 2015 was going to be Tirico’s last year in the booth with him. Lord knows how Mike stuck it out as long as he did, but Jon thought they had a magical thing going, so if Mike was staying then so was he. That’s why he felt so betrayed when Mike left ESPN to take over Bob Costas’ high chair at NBC. So when Jack’s time came due after the 2017 season, Jon was more amenable to considering the position.
What made Jack Del Rio so attractive?
Jack had actually been considered by the Old Man back in 2008, before the Jaguars extended him. People forget – Jack played in this league for 10 years. Plus, he had a reputation for being a bit of a hothead, something Al revered in a player. Back during the ’87 strike, when he was new to the team & clearly trying to make a good impression with his teammates, Jack assaulted what he thought was a replacement player but turned out to be Chiefs legend Otis Taylor. Beat him pretty good, to the point where Jack was charged but the case was settled out of court.
He lasted three years on that team, despite beating up a guy who caught passes from Len Dawson. He must have been one hell of a teammate.
Let me tell you, that’s going to get Al Davis’ attention, and he was clearly still a name on the shortlist when 2015 opened up our position. I figured he’d do anything to get out of Denver, especially after what happened against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. Still, it was the core of his defence Wade Phillips guided to victory in Super Bowl 50, so the man does know what he’s doing.
What finally tipped the balance in Jon Gruden’s favor?
A couple of factors. First, Jack just didn’t have time for Mark’s…let’s call them eccentricities. Jack just wanted to come in, coach, and go home. He never truly bought into the premise of “being” a Raider, of how it’s a 24/7/365 lifestyle. Sure, you’ll respond to fans when they call your name; that’s what’s expected. What Jack clearly wasn’t prepared for was Mark’s interpersonal style.
Like the time Mark sat up all night watching wrestling. He came in the next day with a luchador mask and demanded Jack defend his title against Hulk Hogan. Jack laughed in Mark’s face, called the whole scenario “cute” but said he had “better things to do than play dress-up with a grown-ass man”. Now, kind of like that situation in Kansas City, had Jack known the lay of the land – you give Mark his five minutes & then he leaves you alone – he’d probably still be coach today. But by taking that tone with Mark, it set Jack on an inevitable course towards his own dismissal.
I just wished he’d asked first, before responding to him. Maybe I’d have been spared the sideshow…
And the second point?
Right. Tirico had quit the booth after the 2015 season to go over to NBC. ESPN decided to replace him with Sean McDonough, which – from my perspective – was the right decision for the program but the wrong choice for Jon Gruden. Tirico had an innate ability to just tune out Gruden’s bullshit, but because McDonough’s new to the Monday Night family, he felt he had to make some kind of statement, and that statement was constantly calling out Coach Gruden’s bullshit analysis theories.
It got so that, by Christmas 2017, when we were playing the Eagles on Monday Night, Mark sent a bouquet of socks to Jon’s room, proclaiming “Why don’t you wear these on our sideline?” By that time, Jon had had enough of the booth bullying and – let’s face it, Mark threw money at him – the offer we made him was too much to ignore.
We had to buy some time with the Rooney Rule, so we made Jon try to contain the secret until we’d had a chance to cover our tracks. That was a stupid idea. The man’s got no vault. Every time McDonough asked about next season Gruden would giggle like a school girl & whisper, “I’ll never tell.”
Well, dumb-ass, that told volumes, and I hadn’t solved the Rooney Rule issue yet. Basically, I had to double Bobby Johnson’s salary off-the-books in order for him to pledge honesty in the process. Tee Martin was so thrilled to receive the phone call he probably dreamt that he actually came up for a chat. Gruden might cost $10 million per year, but I had to shell out another $500K just to make that happen.
So, do you think this will be a harmonious situation?
Man, at this point I don’t even care. I’m guaranteed through 2020. My victory that day was just getting Mark to put on a suit for the presser.