Quicken IPO Shows It's Time We Stop Shaming Dan Gilbert, Billionaire Welfare Queen


  • Photo by Jordan Buzzy

It’s time we stop shaming Dan Gilbert, billionaire welfare queen

Last week, Dan Gilbert lay bare how unfair we’ve been to him.

Indisputable evidence arrived when the humble merchant and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers chose to offer public stock in his parent company, Quicken Loans. The sale is expected to raise tens of billions of dollars, fueled by last year’s profits of $893 million, with Gilbert himself possibly collecting as much as $4 billion.

This may sound like serious money in impoverished countries like Alabama or Canada. But here in the high-flying American Heartland, where a Miller Lite at Rocket Mortgage Field House costs approximately $120, it’s barely enough to launch a tipsy monologue about how your high school sweetheart dumped you for a vegetarian mathlete.

Take away a few zeroes here and there, and Gilbert is practically broke. Don’t be surprised if he shows up in an off-the-rack suit at a charity gala in Aspen this summer.

Cleveland should be ashamed.

Recall the year 2017, when Dan desperately needed our help. He wanted to refurbish the city’s “living room,” then known as Quicken Loans Arena. So he offered a win-win proposition. Residents of Cuyahoga County and Cleveland would kick up $70 million plus interest to pay for it. In exchange, we would be given a chance to not afford tickets to the greatest event in defense-optional sport, the NBA All-Star game.

It was more than fair. Gilbert was simply following that grand county government tradition, where the guy with the least amount of money always picks up the check. Yet some citizens balked.

Our loutish refusal was led by Greater Cleveland Congregations, a religious group remarkably unaware of Jesus’ teachings on charity. They castigated Gilbert’s move as a money grab. He was the richest man in Michigan, they noted, worth $7.3 billion. Cuyahoga County, by contrast, had a net valuation of $427.50, a figure expected to precipitously drop if that guy Bobby from Collinwood finally moved in with his girlfriend in Canton.

Besides, if the county was handing out money, they reasoned, it should also fund mental health crisis centers, workforce training, and neighborhood improvements — none of which would be remotely useful to a backup center making $6 million a year.

Then came an even greater affront: These so-called men and women of the cloth wanted to put the matter to a vote. It was the ultimate act of entitlement. They never stopped to ask the obvious – What Would Jesus Do? – knowing full well He would have just put Dan’s tab on his MasterCard and watched the All-Star game at Aunt Marcy’s, who still has cable.

At that moment, Cleveland lost its soul, deciding it was okay to hold welfare queens up for public contempt. The Apostles wept. As did many of the bigger names in the Koran and Torah.

We had forgotten the historical trauma faced by the least of our citizens, the mega-rich. Unlike their small business brethren, they cannot build a factory, rebab a stadium, run a hotel or locate new offices without public largesse. They’re as helpless as baby ducks crossing the freeway. Or your 29-year-old cousin who quit his job at the model train store to devote more time to his incel support group.

The big hearts of Washington understand this. That’s why Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Why Amazon, Netflix, Delta, Ely Lilly, and Halliburton paid no federal taxes at all last year. You can’t expect a baby duck to just cross a freeway on its own. It needs nurturing, guidance, and checks starting in the seven figures.

Our friends in Michigan recognize this. When Dan was speculating in real estate in downtown Detroit, the state approved a series of welfare packages worth up to $1 billion. They were collectively known as the “Gilbert bills” to ensure he felt special.

President Trump can also be counted among the more-beneficent-than-us. After Dan donated $750,000 to his inauguration party, Trump responded by designating Dan’s Detroit land an “opportunity zone,” which provide tax breaks to disadvantaged owners of boutique hotels. Trump knew what it’s like to struggle. New York has given him $123 million in welfare. Without it, he’d be working the drive-thru at Arby’s. The cost in misplaced curly fries alone is too horrific to quantify.

There was a day when Cleveland’s heart was so large it included a snack bar and IMAX theater. But our public shaming of Dan exposed its corrosion. The snack bar has closed. The IMAX only offers showings of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

If it is ever to invigorate again, we need to apologize to Dan. Then write him a very large check.

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