Commentary

Customers Vote With Their Cash

As consumers become more aware of how their spending habits impact social issues, there’s a growing sense that customers are using their power with measurable impact.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson may have crossed a line when he casually suggested that white supremacy is “actually not a real problem in America,” and that the idea it is a problem is “a hoax” and “conspiracy theory used to divide the country.” Advertisers including Nestle and HelloFresh pulled out of his show, and he departed on a previously unannounced “vacation.”

At the same time, Stephen Ross, the founder-chairman of SoulCycle and Equinox's parent company, hosted a large fundraiser for President Trump, causing a defection of long-time members. The CEO of SoulCycle published a hurried response, trying to distance the chain from Ross' political statements, but it didn’t seem to stem the tide.

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But perhaps most surprising was a notably secretive Wall Street private equity player who has been somewhat mysteriously buying up many of the brands and companies in the weapons industry.

Stephen Feinberg, a Princeton alum and Drexel Burnham Lambert banker, in 1992 founded Cerberus Capital. The private equity firm has flown mostly under the radar, other than its purchase of Chrysler back in in 2007. The investment paid off when the U.S. government bailed out the auto industry.

But Feinberg is a stalwart Republican, and was a major donor and fundraiser for the Trump campaign. So when Cerberus decided that weaponry was an undervalued category, Feinberg set out to purchase many of the privately held arms manufacturers, including Colt, Remington, Bushmaster, Marlin, Nesika, Dakota Arms, Tapco, Barnes, Parker Gun, Harrison Richardson, Timber Smith, Storm Lake and Advanced Armament — all gun brands under one owner.

Those purchases made Feinberg the maker and seller of the Colt AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass murders in the U.S.

Feinberg’s automatic weapon was used in the horrific murder of children in Newtown, Connecticut, causing the publicity-shy investor to make a rare public statement and announce that Cerebus would be exiting the arms business. Cerebus at the time told the New York Daily News that selling Freedom Group “allows us to meet our obligations to the investors whose interests we are entrusted to protect without being drawn into the national debate.”

That was back in 2012 — but much like President Trump’s promises of sensible gun legislation and background checks, once the headlines were over and the news cycle moved on, Cerebus didn’t sell its ownership in The Freedom Group — the arms rollup that Feinberg led — instead rebranding the collection of gun manufacturers Remington Outdoor Company.

Feinberg’s decision to get into weapons has cause some consternation, even within his notoriously quiet family. New York magazine reported: “his daughter Lindsey posted a picture of her father’s T-shirt to Instagram. It featured images of a sniper rifle trailing smoke, a mounted machine gun, and a row of bullets emblazoned with the tagline IT’S TIME TO WORK. In the comments, she’d posed the question: ‘Who is my dad…….???????’”

But one of his close associates is less concerned. Donald Trump not only gratefully accepted his donations,  but named him to lead a working group of the intelligence community — giving him the power to influence personnel and decision-making within the very agencies that The Freedom Group (aka: Remington Outdoor Co.) sells weapons to.

Now Feinberg is coming out of the shadows, as families from Newtown are suing the gun manufacturer for its marketing practices. The suit claims that the guns are marketed with a clear goal of putting guns in the hands of unstable, murderous, and angry young men. No one believes that the AR-15 is a hunting rifle, certainly not hunters. As of March 2019, the suit was moving forward.

And it’s possible that Cerebus’ growing and unwanted notoriety could spread. The firm’s ownership is now under the microscope, as is its ownership of such storied brands as Avon, Staples, and the massive grocery store rollup of Albertsons.

To be clear, Wall Street has historically been able to separate profits from products that produce them. And Cerebus has gone to great lengths to create layers of corporate entities between it and the guns it manufactures.

But one can’t help but wonder if Ceberus employees find themselves walking past the blaring headlines on newsstands of the latest American carnage, as President Trump so aptly called it the day of his inauguration, and think “My company is building and selling the weapons that killed those people in Walmart?”

In March 2014, having promised to exit the gun business, Cerberus rejected a $1 billion buyout offer for the Remington Outdoor Co. — and has since said it was “unable” to find a satisfactory buyer. In March 2018, the company sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving the actual stake of Cerberus in the gun business hidden behind a dense and complex financing.

Which brings us to Feinberg’s Trump connections. Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital owns the military contractor DynCorp International. He hosted a posh $50,000-a-plate fundraiser for Trump and gave $1.5 million to a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016.

Maybe it’s time for the media to start calling it the Cerebus AR-15 -- just so readers and viewers know where to send their hopes and prayers when the next mass-casualty shooting takes place?

19 comments about "Customers Vote With Their Cash".
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  1. Ken Kurtz from creative license, August 12, 2019 at 3:39 p.m.

    That's an awful lot of words there to wrap up a very simple, and paradoxical concept. Feinberg knows that as more illogical calls for "gun control" are made (which history has repeatedly demonstrated can only cause MORE GUNS to flood the market, and be purchased) the more profit there will be in guns.

    Just the mere mention of "controls" be it by the left, or the right translates into thousands of additional gun sales, and increased demand.

    Call the AR-15 what you like. Cerebus? Cerebellum? Occasional-Cortex? It won't stick. Again, alcohol kills 300% more Americans annually than guns do, but nobody goes out of their way to point out the manufacturers of that deadly poison. Like guns, bottles of alcohol are incredibly SAFE inanimate objects until HUMAN BEINGS pick them up.

    We made alcohol entirely illegal, and the net result was MORE PEOPLE ingesting MORE, and DEADLIER alcohol (the black market does that to products for which there is great demand... makes them more dangerous, more deadly, cheaper, and EASIER TO ACCESS). Why do you think heroin is being sold in every schoolyard across this land for next to nothing. Because it's been ILLEGAL for so long, and criminals looking for their fair share of billions of dollars in heroin profits don't care about illegality.

    Feinberg sees vastly increased profit in all this talk of "gun control." It's a paradoxical truth, but it's not "on him" regardless of how hard dishonest people would like to ascribe deaths to him.

    If it isn't the fault of alcohol manufacturers that 100,000 Americans lose their lives every year due to engagement with that much sought after, and desired product THEN IT'S NOT the fault of gun manufacturers that 33,000 Americans lose their lives from gunshot wounds (the vast majority of those 33,000 deaths being suicides).

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 12, 2019 at 8:29 p.m.

    More importantly, The ability to create conglomerates must be stopped and they have to be broken apart into little tiny pieces. Looks like our friend Kurtz is lining up suicide victims as well as his own. Why should anyone care ?

  3. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 12, 2019 at 9:16 p.m.

    People should surely "care." But care intelligently.

    If your definition of "care" includes clamoring for "gun contol"... well, that's unintelligent, knee-jerk "caring" because it can only result in more guns, and more death by gunshot wounds.

    I shared about Sandy Hook recently... that school was two miles from my brother's home in Newtown when that sick bastard trudged up to the front door in December 2012, shot his way in, then slaughtered twenty 5 and 6 year olds, along with six teachers. One armed guard at that front door single point of entry could have put a bullet in that sick murderer's head as he trudged up loaded down with rifles, and ammunition. The walk from the parking lot to the front door had to have taken a full sixty seconds... I walked it myself about six months after the massacre. Enuogh time to riddle that sick punk with dozens of bullets. 

    Did the left intelligently "care" enough to clamor for an armed guard at Sandy Hook? Nooooooooo. To the contrary, the left clamored for "gun control" which a) wouldn't have changed that sick kid's ability to get his hands on his mom's legally purchased firearms, and b) has been proven to make it easier for all sorts of sickos to get black market guns illegally.

    Unfortunately, that's the kind of "caring' that Paula refers to. The unintelligent kind that cannot do a damn thing to help ameliorate, but can only exacerbate the situation across the board. With "caring" friends like Paula, who needs enemies?

    Little known fact. The perpetrator of Sandy Hook attended Newtown High School for a couple of ubhappy years. To get from his home where he shot his mom to death, to Sandy Hook required him to drive right by Newtown High School. Ever wonder why he chose to not settle the score with some of the kids that bullied him at Newtown High School? We may never know the unequivocal answer to that question, but it was WELL KNOWN in Newtown that there were armed guards at Newtown High School, but no armed guards at Sandy Hook guarding the precious 5 and 6 year olds.

    So typical of the Paulas of the world to demonize people that really do care by insinuating that they don't, and then stupidly profess their brand of caring is morally superior, even though their "caring" ideas for solutions have been proven capable only of EXACERBATING the problems. PHONY CARING.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 13, 2019 at 2:49 p.m.

    You have no idea and you are dangerous.

  5. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 13, 2019 at 7:55 p.m.

    Actually, I have many ideas Paula. To me, those that can only go to the same knee-jerk ideas that have been proven inneffective, innefficient, and incapable of effecting any change for the better are the most dangerous of all.

    Would you attempt the 18th Amendment to our Constitution again, Paula? SURELY making the manufacture, distribution, sale, and ingestion of dangerous and deadly alcohol ENTIRELY ILLEGAL and punishable by prison time would at least put a dent in the problems being caused by that toxic substance's popularity back in 1920, right? Surely fewer would die from alcohol under such a scenario, right?

    But NOOOOOOO. Black market took over. More alcohol was manufactured, distributed, sold, and ingested. The alcohol became far more dangerous and deadly, because there were no governmental regulations (criminals seeking profit don't pay attention to safety). For the next thirteen years, SO MANY MORE DIED from alcohol. So many more illegally purchased alcohol. SO MUCH MORE ALCOHOL came to exist, and was consumed. To the deadly detriment of MORE THAN EVER.

    Why do you think controls on guns would be any different? Demand for guns will increase (the six months after Sandy Hook saw more guns sold than in the previous three years). Why? Because there was chatter about gun control which, of course, never came to fruition because virtually everybody knows that it won't work (except to make political points). And the black market will step up to whatever void comes to exist because THERE'S SO MUCH MONEY TO BE MADE supplying that increased demand.

    The truth is never dangerous.

    And remember, alcohol still kills 300% more annually in the United States than guns do. Year after year after year. That number would be far higher (600%? 900%?) if alcohol prohibition was still in place like it is for so many other recreational drugs in the US.

    You know what's dangerous? Politically motivated, bleeding heart BLINDNESS.

  6. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, August 14, 2019 at 7:11 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz: Why is it you think people need to have unfettered access to AR-15s and their like?

  7. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 14, 2019 at 10:29 p.m.

    Read for comprehension, Kenneth.

    My eighth grade daughter has "unfettered access" to heroin right now, in her schoolyard. Why? Because it's been illegal for so damn long, and there's lots of profit to be made by criminals selling it to kids.

    Same thing with guns. 

    I've never owned a gun, and I've never said that anybody should have unfettered access to AR-15's. I've just been stating the simple, paradoxical truth that American history has proven out repeatedly. That is, that government attempts to "fetter" access to products for which there exists high demand in the United States ALWAYS results in MORE unfettered access to those products.

    Hence, illogical calls for controls can only result in MORE unfettered access to AR-15's. Somebody will always step up to manufacture, andf sell them because the profit for that HIGHLY IN DEMAND PRODUCT (and demand always increase in the face of calls for "controls") is such a slam dunk, and so woth whatever "risk" might be out there (very little, in reality).

  8. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, August 15, 2019 at 1:54 p.m.

    Ken Kurtz: So your premise or belief is that people will always desire more a product that is illegal and unavailable (or in extremely limited supply) and that people will go to greater lengths to get that product ... and as a direct result there will be equal or more consumption of that product. Is that correct?

  9. Ken Kurtz from creative license, August 15, 2019 at 8:01 p.m.

    Kenneth...

    Not sure how to respond to this, especially since you are trying to ascribe an ENTIRELY FLAWED, and unsubtantiated premise to me. There is simply no evidence to support it, and it is the crux of the matter. You write...

    Ken Kurtz: So your premise or belief is that people will always desire more a product that is illegal and unavailable (or in extremely limited supply)...

    Where in God's name do you come up with the idea that "illegal" in any way, shape, or form is equivalent to "unavailable" or in "extremely limited supply?"

    It simply doesn't jive with reality, especially when one is discussing previously legal products, for which great consumer demand has been built up over an extended period of time, and that are then made illegal.

    In every instance in US history, making that previously legal, and regulated product "illegal" or prohibited in any way DID RAMP UP DEMAND. DID RAMP UP MANUFACTURING, DISTRIBUTION, USAGE, and DEATH. 

    It's simple to understand why, the average American, faced with the possibility that their beloved product might become difficult to get, will stock up on that product. Will hoard that product, which will in turn lead to an immediate shortage that will stoke the demand fire under others. There's the original demand, which will not go away, and the inevitably heightened demand stoked by fear. THAT'S WHEN THE CRIMINALS STEP IN TO GET RICH!

    Have you not been reading what I've written about prohibition of alcohol via adoption of the 18th Amendment in 1920? The government, chastened by the tens of thousands of annual American deaths from alcohol, made the manufacture, distribution, sale, and ingestion of that dangerous and deadly recreational drug entirely illegal. Black market criminals took over, and demand for alcohol was exponentially increased. Of course, with no regulation in place (what do criminals out to make billions of dollars in profits care about safety, anyway?) the alcohol that was being made, and distributed became far more dangerous and deadly. Cops turned a blind eye, and the Roaring 20's, with alcohol ENTIRELY ILLEGAL, saw TWICE AS MUCH alcohol consumed, and twice as many deaths. Epic fail, yet people like you cling to, and PROMOTE the canard that "illegal" is equivalent to "unavailable" or "supply extremely limited." It's incredibly stupid, with no evidence in American history to support it.

  10. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 15, 2019 at 8:03 p.m.

    Look at heroin. More heroin being imported than ever, more availability than ever before, cheaper than ever, and more deadly than ever. As an experiment, I sent my daughter to her eighth grade class one day with a twenty dollar bill. Her mission was to score some heroin. She called me within an hour of school starting to say she'd succeeded. She knew who to ask (every kid knows, even in elementary school), and a friend's brother delivered a baggie to her within an hour. This type of accessibility, and availability didn't exist in America before that byproduct of the poppy plant was made illegal.


    Yes, heroin was legal in the US for decades! Same as cocaine. We didn't have the problems we have today with drugs like that until they were made illegal, and black market criminals took over the trade for the billions in profit that those drugs command. Would you like to re-phrase your "false premise" question?

  11. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, August 16, 2019 at 8:28 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz: I understand your point and have seen that you've made it over and over on many MediaPost articles over many years. Well, one day (hopefully soon) we'll have a test of whether you are right or those are who believe tight controls will make a difference. The tide is turning as people become tired of and terrorized by the senselessly out-of-contol wild-west of our public places. Let's see what happens.

  12. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 17, 2019 at 8:22 a.m.

    And therein lies the problem, Kenneth Fadner. You, and others like you understand the points, you see the paradoxical truth that governmental attempts to control ultimately fail, and result in more widespread and dangerous availability due to criminal commandeering of market, and profits... and yet you still call for the same actions that have already been proven capable ONLY OF MAKING MATTERS WORSE. You blindly fall back on "Let's see" or "We'll see" when WE'VE ALREADY SEEN.

    Have you ever heard the phrase "doing the same things with expectation of different results is insanity?" Paula says I'm dangerous, but the real danger is pretending that things that have been tried before, failed miserably, and actually made matters worse "might somehow be solutions." It's dangerously insane.

    I know it must be frustrating for the left. You all have a difficult time grasping paradoxical truths. In your world views, things should be cleaner, more "cut and dried." But they are not. Sorry. Pretending that something that has failed multiple times might work in the future will continue to diminish the prospects of the Democratic party, perhaps forevermore. It's time to get real.

    Demand for guns in this country will not go away. Governmental attempts to control demand and supply of guns will only increase both those things. There is ZERO evidence that the opposite, what your type "blindly wishes for," will ever result from "controls." The black market GUARANTEES that people that want AR-15's will be able to get them in the future.

    How many decades has it been now that manufacture, distribution, sale, and ingestion of heroin will get you jail time? Surely you understand that nearly three times as many Americans died last year from heroin than from gunshot wounds. Surely you understand that because of the decades long "controls" on heroin,  the vast majority of black market criminals that have commandeered that trillion dollar market have now turned to importation of synthetic heroin. A packet of synthetic fentanyl, carried into the US in somebody's jacket pocket, is worth the same on the street as two bricks of natural heroin from poppy plants. GUESS WHICH ONE gets through (unfortunately, they both do, but the one that is easier to slip in is FAR MORE DANGEROUS)? Guess which one kills immediately if even a single extra grain of powder gets ingested?

    Let's hear it for governmental controls! Hip, hip, hooray. This is the tired, old canard that the left resorts to as a possible "solution" and that the left wants to hang its hat on?

  13. Ken Kurtz from creative license, August 17, 2019 at 8:25 a.m.

    You are dangerously insane if you think that governmental attempts at "control" will EVER stop a single madman, or madwoman from executing innocent people on our streets. That somehow "controls" will make it so that they cannot access the guns needed to commit their horrific, and sick crimes. The sooner the left gets the paradoxical truth about "control" through its thick skull, the sooner we'll be able to move toward bipartisan solutions that actually have a chance of reducing the senseless American carnage. Until then, it's all meaningless political posturing.

    Be careful out there.The left does not look ready, willing, or capable of giving up tired, old ghosts.

  14. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, August 17, 2019 at 11:08 a.m.

    Ken Kurtz: You say the same thing over and over based only upon your opinion and without any evidence or proof. I'm going to repeat myself once and then be done:
    The political tide will turn against unfettered access to guns and then we will see if that makes a difference. I have confidence it will. The experience of other nations with strict gun controls makes a compelling case that fewer guns per capita means fewer gun deaths.
    I'll let you have the last word if you will confine yourself to concisely stating what your authority is for this assertion: 
    " ... history has repeatedly demonstrated << gun control >> can only cause MORE GUNS to flood the market, and be purchased ...." And, please do not drag your prohibition or anti-drug law analogies into this again.

  15. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 17, 2019 at 5:55 p.m.

    Other countries aren't America, Kenneth. Other countries were not built like America was, on the foundation of gun ownership. Without guns, we'd be a British colony. Apple and oranges, comparisons with other countries.

    I've provided more proof for my assertions than you have. You have provided whim, and prayer. And a loose comparison to a country so unlike ours the comparison borders on idiotic.

    Your mind is made up, Kenneth. You, like many, will stand up for what cannot work, which is the primary reason it will not be attempted in earnest. Politicians have connected the dots on prohibitions, and their utter inability to stem any tides, even if sheeple like you have not. Too many law abiding Americans will say "hell no" and too many criminals will merely go to the black market to get whatever guns strike their fancy. The black market will provide that which Americans want, more cheaply, and will get rich doing so. Doesn't matter the product, all that is required to make black market pop up like an angry pack of hemorrhoids is inept governmental attempts at "control." That's the ONLY door opener for the criminal element.

    My drug analogies are very apt, but you don't want to consider them because they sting you. Recreational drugs like alcohol, and heroin kill many more Americans annually than guns do (isn't your beloved "control" for stopping "killings?"). Aren't you claiming that we're tired of all the deaths? How in hell then are my analogies not germane? You've come with NOTHING about why there's even a chance that attempts to control just another dangerous and deadly recreational product (less deadly than alcohol, which kills 100,000 Americans annually, and less deadly than heroin which kills 75,000 Americans annually) that America loves will provide different results. You've come up with ZIP. ZILCH. NADA.

    Why do you think attempted controls on guns, again, a recreational product that only kills about 33,000 Americans annually (22,000 of those suicides) would actually make guns harder to come by? Do you think Americans desire guns LESS than heroin and alcohol? Do you not understand economics, or supply and demand? 

  16. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 18, 2019 at 7:59 a.m.

    My "authority" for claiming that U.S. governmental attempts to put controls on popular, and beloved (not by this American, mind you. Never owned a gun, and although I tried heroin, and alcohol, I haven't partaken of either in 35 years) recreational products will not work is, plainly and simply, the eyes that allow me to look back at American history. You're standing on thin ice if you want to conflate things with some other, lesser country's history, and experience. That's not very smart.

    You'll do well to study how the black market has operated, and will continue to operate in America (efficiently, and ruthlessly in the face of governmental prohibitions on popular products) to truly understand, and get on the correct side of this issue. I understand the proclivity to attempt to "send some message"... but if the message backfires, as it will, and winds up making more dangerous guns available, well, how dumb is that?

  17. Kenneth Fadner from MediaPost, August 18, 2019 at 12:11 p.m.

    I rest my case.

  18. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 18, 2019 at 5:24 p.m.

    You didn't make "a case." You offered nothing substantive at all to bolster your contentions. We'll consider you "well rested."

  19. Ken Kurtz from creative license replied, August 18, 2019 at 6:29 p.m.

    You know, the dearth of depth on this from the left, this blind insistence that governmental "controls" will work when they have never before worked in the history of America (quite the opposite, to be sure) is reminiscent of Dubya's insistence that going into Iraq post 9/11 would be a "good, and right" thing to do. According to Dubya (or Alfred E. Neumann, who Dubya reminded me of), "if the only thing that comes out of it is sending the right message, then it will be worth it."

    I'm not big on "sending messages" especially if in the "sending" MATTERS ONLY GET WORSE. When we invite black market in to meet the demand for dangerous products, history has demonstrated clearly that matters always get worse. Again, in the six months after Sandy Hook, with all the "empty talk about controls" MORE GUNS WERE SOLD IN AMERICA than had been sold in the previous three years. Was that "better" Kenneth? Of course not, all that empty "political" talk about "controls" resulted in far more guns on our streets.

    I thought Dubya was crazy back then, but most sheeple thought he was dead on. Many Republicans parroted Dubya, raising fists, and claiming "we need to send a strong message" and "kick some ass" over there. When I asked Republicans what going into Iraq, a place that Hussein and his Republican Guard had done a decent job stabilizing (what with the endless fighting between Muslim sects there) would accomplish, I got a lot of what Kenneth Fadner is offering up here. Nothing.

    When I asked people why Iraq, when the perpetrators of 9/11 were all Saudi Muslims, I got a lot of Kenneth Fadner. Nothing.

    When  I asked why in God's name we would put our own children between those bloodthirsty Muslim sects that have hated each other for centuries, and will still hate each other until the end of time, I got nothing but FADNER. Nothing. 

    We killed Hussein, a guy that for many years we supported because he was tough enough to provide relative calm in Iraq, and sent in American soldiers (our children) to take over that job. People used to ask me similar questions back then when I was insistent that going into Iraq would be a terrible mistake that could only make matters FAR WORSE THERE...

    What authority do you have to claim that toppling Saddam Hussein and sending our children in there to calm things down, and die WON'T RESULT IN SOME GOOD?

    JUst like today, my answer was...

    I have common sense, and can see. The Fadners of the world, not so much. 

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