Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wedded bliss...for only $10,000 an hour.

One of my favorite jokes is about the 3rd grade teacher who asks her students whom they consider to be the most important person in history.

Little Susie raises her hand and answers, “Abraham Lincoln, he was a great man because he freed the slaves.” Jimmie blurts out, “Plato, because he was a philosopher and he started the very first school.”

The teacher, Mrs. Ellicott replies, "Those are very good answers, does anyone else have someone in mind?" That’s when Robert raises his hand and replies, “Yes, the most important person in history was Jesus Christ.”

Mrs. Ellicott smiles. “Robert that was the answer I was looking for. But I’m surprised. As a Jewish boy I wouldn’t think that would be your answer.” “Yeah, everybody knows it was Moses, but business is business.”

Years ago, I met Victor Kiam. He’s the man who liked the Remington Razor so much he bought the company. He also bought the New England Patriots in 1988. A rather colorful man, Mr. Kiam was bemoaning the fact that his Patriots were a terrible football team. Looking to brighten the moment, I suggested at the very least Mr. Kiam was making money. Are you kidding me? I’m losing $10 million dollars a year on these guys,” said Mr. Kiam. Why then, I wondered aloud, do you even own the team? His reply? “Because I bought them for $84 million, I’ll lose another 30 million and sell them for $150 million. And that son is how you make money.” Thus, the basis for one of Mr. Kiam’s famous quotes: “Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward.”

While a great businessman, Mr. Kiam’s math didn’t work out very well.  In 1992 he sold his share of the Patriots for $23.5 million to a wealthier man who also assumed the team’s $45 million in debt and an additional $38 million owed to another minority partner.  Eight years later, Tom Brady came along.  Timing is everything.
Admittedly, losing $10 million a year is a staggering number, but it pales to comparison to Kim Kardashian. She lost more than $10 million in 72 days. Don’t feel sorry for her, she’s still worth more than $35 million. And Kim’s soon to be ex-husband, Kris Humphries, makes an average of $2.5 million per season in the NBA (if they ever settle the current NBA lock-out). After 7 years in the league Humphries has managed to hang on to about $8 million. Clearly, he’s the more practical of the two.

But it gets better. Kim and Kris get to keep the wedding gifts. ABC News reported the couple's wedding registry requested items like a Baccarat Cosmos vase valued at $7,850. There’s also the “Havana” crystal ashtray, reasonably priced at $840. I should note neither of the couple smokes, but you never know who’s coming for dinner at the Kardashian’s. If you’re looking for something more affordable, choose from two Lalique nudes at $325 each and Lalique's "Wisdom" set of three "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" figurines, priced at $735 though they're only three inches high. If you’re really on a budget, the least expensive item in the registry was a $12.50 cloth napkin. But I think you need to buy at least six to get a table at the reception.

Hold on. There’s more. Reportedly, Kim earned $17.9 million in broadcast rights for the four hour wedding extravaganza. Fox News estimates the couple was paid a little over $10,000 per hour of wedded bliss. If the courts rule the income was part of the marriage, then California’s 50/50 split gives Humphries half of the broadcast fee after Kim’s Mom, Kris Jenner takes her 10% commission for negotiating the deal. Did I mention Kris Jenner has a book coming out today? Timing is everything.

In January of 2001 I was smitten by a beautiful red haired woman. It was love at first sight. For me. She required considerable convincing. One evening, shortly after we'd met, we were having drinks with a group of friends at a restaurant and the woman, not knowing I was already emotionally committed to her, said, “I’ve already married for love. The next time I marry it’ll be for money.” I was devastated, but I didn’t give up. After a courtship and engagement that was somewhat longer than the 4 months Kim was willing to wait, we were married. I didn’t get my wife a 20.5 carat engagement ring and I think the Justice of the Peace charged me $40 for the ceremony. Dinner and drinks for a few close friends at a local Tex-Mex Restaurant was another $200 and my bride's dress set her back $40.  Almost ten years later we’re still going strong. Some businessman I am. Our average hourly rate of wedded bliss is less than a tenth of a cent. But some things are priceless.

To paraphrase Deal or No Deal’s Howie Mandel, “I made a great deal.” Victor Kiam and Kim Kardashian picked the wrong case. But business is business and everyone knows timing is everything. So, to Kim and Kris, I lift a $350 Waterford Goblet and offer a toast: maybe next time.

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