The Man Who Was too Big to Fail


News item about another bailout constituency (real estate developers!), courtesy of the Wall Street Journal last month:

Real-estate owners are pressing the government to take preemptive action before thousands of properties begin to fail. Among those who have been active in the lobbying effort: William Rudin, whose family is a large Manhattan office-building owner, Stephen Ross, chief executive of The Related Cos., a major U.S. developer, and Steven Roth, chief executive of office and retail landlord Vornado Realty Trust.

In recent weeks, industry representatives have met with officials in the Treasury Department, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, senior lieutenants of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairwoman Sheila Bair, members of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.).

Emphasis mine, for emphasis. Who is this Stephen Ross fellow? Oh, he is the country's 78th richest person, says Forbes magazine:

Nephew of late Forbes 400 member Max Fisher (d. 2005) founded real estate developer Related Cos. 1972. Initially focused on building, financing low-income housing; branched into riskier luxury buildings in New York. "Encountered bad times" early 1990s, recovered. Firm has developed more than $16 billion of property across the U.S., including Time Warner Center in Manhattan. In May nabbed billion-dollar deal to develop Manhattan's West Side rail yards after Tishman Speyer abandoned the project; Related will develop 12 million square feet of office, residential and retail space.

Hmmm, I wonder if the Hudson Yards project involves the use of eminent domain? Subsidies?

Ross also happens to be in the news this week because he just became the majority owner of the Miami Dolphins football team. An organization that, like most pro sports franchises, has an interesting relationship of its own with taxpayers. As Orlando South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde observed:

What a country we have, where Ross can ask for hundreds of millions in welfare with one hand and plan to buy a $1.1 billion football toy with the other.

This, finally, may be your poster boy for Too Big to Fail. A man whose fortune rests on convincing governments to hand him our money and forcibly evict private citizens from any properties in his way. Remember this, in bailout season: While 50-yard-line guys like Ross ask for taxpayer handouts to pay for his own bad bets, us bums in the cheap seats will have no similar recourse to relieve us from the mistake of showering him with money in the first place.