When you get time and if you are interested in the subject of the Uniparty and The Club, I hope you will consider reading this HOH four part series. Please forgive my writing style and focus on the content and implications because stories like this one give us big clues.
That said, let’s finish this and move on. Time to Monday morning quarterback this puppy and put it to bed (H/T to Catturd). I want to start by asking an off-the-wall question of our resident numerologists, symbolism experts, and those skilled in family planning and development.
Why would all of the major members of the subject Haslam family each have THREE children?
Big Jim and Cynthia – Three: Jimmy, Ann, Bill
Natalie – Three Children from first marriage
Jimmy and Dee – Three: James (Jimmy adopted Dee’s son), Whitney and Cynthia
Ann and Steve – Three Children from Steve’s first marriage
Bill and Crissy – Three: Annie, Leigh, Will
Coincidence? Seems strange. What if one or more had gone off the rails and only had one or two? Would it have brought the whole family circus down or something?
This one is a whole lot more serious. Why no autopsy of Cynthia with a sudden, unexpected death at age 42 in the middle of the day? Big Jim and her family knew her father reportedly died of a heart condition in his 30s. Not having an autopsy started rumors, possibly unfounded. Why would Big Jim not want to know for sure about the cause of death of his wife and mother of his children since a similar condition may affect one or more of his children or anticipated grandchildren in the future? The rumors grew over time when two years after her death Big Jim married his long time friend, fellow UT classmate and former Miss Tennessee, Natalie. She had divorced her first husband a year after Cynthia’s death. The rumors quieted down two decades later when his daughter, Ann, was diagnosed and had surgery for an aorta dissection in a similar age bracket as her mother. Did Cynthia ever exhibit symptoms? Would Big Jim know if he was on the road as much as has been reported? Would he have insisted on her going to a cardiologist if symptoms occurred in front of him?
What if Cynthia had lived a normal, longer life? So much to question and unpack.
Ann was strongly impacted at age 18 by discovering her mother dead in the couple’s bed. She never really got her act together after that. She went to UT but did not finish. Did not marry Steve until she was well into her thirties. Family life had become more complicated with her trying to take over for her mom and Big Jim marrying Natalie with her three children to add to the family dynamics so soon. She discovered her personal aorta problem after marriage to Steve. Was it causing her problems all along?
More importantly, how would the children have turned out if Cynthia had lived? A reportedly grounded, kind, giving soul who took care of family and friends. In the public eye, but no socialite beauty like Natalie. Would Big Jim have been as aggressive in business nationwide with all of the galas, events and dinners? Would Jimmy have been more careful and considerate with his mom in his ear? Would Bill have gone to seminary and become a pastor as he planned, or, would he have even been involved with people who kindled the desire? Would Bill have ever started going to Young Life, which made such an impact on his life. Would the family have joined The Club, or, just been a regionally successful, pay it forward family in the local Club?
Natalie’s Divorce/Remarriage to Big Jim
Wow, that was quick. Apparently, Natalie’s first marriage had been on the rocks for several years. But it completely cratered quickly when Big Jim became available. Natalie was already a big thing in local high society and could handle herself well with powerful people.
What if Natalie had remained in her first marriage? How would things have gone for the children of both Big Jim and Natalie? What would have happened to Pilot? Natalie proved herself highly valuable in both the local and big Clubs.
Big Jim’s Early Career Choice and Financial Missteps
What if Big Jim had gone into the other career he considered upon his return from military service – marketing and advertising for radio and this new fangled thing being developed and sold called a television, which he thought was just a fad (his comments)? Would he have been as successful? What impact would it have on his family and their futures? What if Big Jim had adopted a slower, more measured expansion rate in the early years? What if Marathon, his supplier, had not agreed or been capable of stepping up and buying an interest in Pilot while also providing more money for expansion when he over expanded and the company finances tanked? Banks were reeling from the Ford/Carter years with sky rocketing interest rates. Money was tight for small businesses in particular.
To Big Jim and Marathon’s credit, they were loyal to each other from that first deal on. That’s the way it should work. There were periods when they did less business together based on individual circumstances, but each always stepped up for the other as the situation and opportunity presented itself.
Big Jim’s faith is old school. It’s there, just not discussed much in the media. But people know he is a believer and a benefactor. In the local Club, historic St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral is high on the list and apparently that may have been where they went based on a few media reports. We do know Big Jim did not ever drink alcohol or smoke per Jimmy.
But he deemed it OK to sell both to customers in the business. He just chose not to partake.
Jimmy does what Jimmy does. Who knows.
Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church has been the choice of Bill since his youth after his mom died. It has always been highly evangelical in approach, outreach and worship services. Bill became very active in Young Life as a teenager, an international Christ based organization. It had a profound effect on his faith journey. You can look it up to learn more. It has been effective over the decades in its outreach to all young people to bring the message of Christ in a more fun and relaxed environment. Bill is on the Board even today.
What if the rest of the family had gone the route of Bill? What if Bill had gone the route of the rest of his family?
What would the University of Tennessee, its facilities, its athletic programs, and the many charities and community organizations who benefited greatly from the philanthropy of this family look like today if Big Jim and Pilot never happened to the scale it did?
Pilot Business Expansion
What if the bank President I worked for had not taken Pilot and Big Jim on as a customer such that he trusted them enough to make an out of policy financing package? It was a career limiting move if it had failed. What would Pilot have done from that point on? Between the efforts of Pilot and its primary competitor, TA, the travel and trucking industries were changed forever in North America. What if Marathon had not continued as a supplier with their buyout by Big Jim in 1988? What if Marathon had not reentered the picture in ownership later to push the expansion of travel centers such that the Flying J merger occurred? Would Buffett have ever been interested enough to make the move after Jimmy’s mess, which probably still would have happened with Jimmy being who Jimmy is and doing what Jimmy does.
Ross, Dee, and Jimmy
What if Ross had never left Knoxville to go to NY to learn the globalist television production business? What if Big Jim and Ross had never met and became friends and birds of a feather? What if Jimmy never went to see Ross about going into state politics that day? Would Dee and Jimmy have ever hooked up on their own, even with both families presenting opportunities to make it happen? What if Dee remained married to her first husband or had married somebody else first who was more compatible?
The confidential informant for the FIB investigation is a guy named John Verble, although he had to sue to try to be recognized as a whistleblower, presumably to make some money since he was fired from Morgan Stanley afterwards for reported non-Pilot related violations of company policies. Verble had recorded conversations with former Pilot sales exec Greco who had left the company who knew about the rebate fraud. Greco was supposedly angry at having been passed up for a promotion and became concerned about it all.
It also appears MS did not want Verble revealing other incriminating stuff about them and other clients per Verble. Which he may have known before making the decision to go to FIB first about Pilot. Was he a bastion of integrity who just wanted to preserve truth, justice and the American Way with no other motives?
It was not long after Greco/Verble did their thing that another Pilot employee came forward about the fraud. The following articles give some good info:
But, what if John Verble had remained in his previously chosen profession of 20+ years before becoming an investment advisor for MS? Why did he leave being a therapist and licensed marriage counselor with a doctorate in psychology from UT? He made a mid-life change to the investment career in his mid-late 40’s. Why? Again, why did he not go to HR at MS when he first learned of the fraud from Greco, why immediately contact FIB and agree to record future conversations? The situation seems really weird to have happened organically, does it not? One might even think Mr. Verble was created or otherwise turned into what he became for purposes we later see. Why would he (or anybody) risk a $350 K per year job at MS that he needed education, training and licensing to receive, to just chunk it all and turn FIB informant with no guarantees of anything other than being embroiled in a legal mess for years? Those type jobs with that much personal income do not grow on trees in the Knoxville, TN area. Did FIB have stuff on him concerning other MS clients that they used to compel him into the role to avoid personal prosecution, which he has managed to do despite MS’s allegations of improprieties?
What is that smell in here?
What if Jimmy and his gang of crooks had never been discovered? Greco states it had been going on since 2003. Why did the charges only relate to 2008-2013? Who are the feds protecting by limiting the dates of the scheme? Who was the Pilot outside accounting firm and why did they not suspect cooking of the books during their exams, or did they and looked the other way? Did they suffer consequences for “missing” this?
Better yet, what if the USPS decided to honestly investigate Verble’s charges of defrauding them with the rebate scheme? Why didn’t they?
As PDT might say, it’s nasty business, folks.
Again, how long had the Berkshire purchase of Pilot Flying J’s stock been in the works? Warren Buffett was a keynote speaker at UT’s College of Business as far back as 2003 that Pilot sponsored among others. Berkshire had purchased Knoxville based Clayton Homes along with their mortgage companies that same year. They are now the nation’s largest manufactured home company. If not before that point, Buffet would have spent time with founder Jim Clayton’s friend, Big Jim Haslam and family during the visit and beyond.
Would Berkshire’s planned purchase of Pilot ownership have influenced the USPS decision? Remember, Obama and Buffett are very close. Would FIB have been sent in to rattle Pilot’s cage to lower the future deal value for Barry’s super rich benefactor friend? Buffett and Berkshire study industry leaders for years and perhaps decades before pulling the trigger to do a deal. The Pilot purchase is a big dollar deal even for Berkshire. They will be reportedly borrowing $11 billion for the second PFJ stock purchase next year. Jimmy is already out as CEO and will be out as Chairman. With an 80% ownership position, Berkshire will have a restricted subsidiary in their holding company (control) with the Haslam family still being able to enjoy the 20% ownership position’s financial upside in the future. Deals like this don’t happen quickly. There is a lot of estate and tax planning that occurs beyond the business aspect. How much, if any, did Jimmy’s antics cost the family and other investors during the period in terms of monetary valuation?
In one published survey with individual active employee responses I read recently, Pilot ranked at 3 out of 5 stars. Average. The interesting part was the vast majority in the survey ranked them 1 (poor) or 4 (good). Mundane work without much career upside in a stressful environment with long hours were the gist of the complaints. One of the top positives was that it was a good place to learn for the next job in their employment careers. Pay and benefits reflected the average rating, not great but OK.
Which is basically what I observed back in my day. I saw many people there under the age of 40 with very few happy faces. They were polite and professional, but seemed tightly wound and intimidated by management. I’m sure they would be called energetic and enthusiastic by Jimmy. Job turnover was high in many lower rung positions because of the lack of upward mobility.
So, what if the environment was more relaxed with stronger positional upside that would encourage people to make Pilot their career employment and increase productivity via good incentive programs that ensured integrity? Would they see employees willing to risk their futures and that of the company by doing stupid things like committing rebate fraud against their lifelines – the customers? Would the job hopping be less, meaning quality people stayed for longer periods adding to better productivity. What would that mean to customer satisfaction and the potential for fraud and corruption from within?
What if Big Jim Never Went to UT
Woah. Something like that could probably be asked of all of us. Pass. It hurts the brain.
I have provided a snapshot of American capitalism at work that led a family that I briefly had involvement with on their journey to the inner circle of Club membership. The patriarch is getting closer to meeting his maker after being a pioneer of sorts in his industry He parlayed his business prowess into political service for the RINO faction of the GOP. The eldest son achieved his dream of playing with the big boy owners of the NFL, stepping on whoever he needed to along the way and since. He is widely regarded by most sources as the first or second worst owner in the league with Dan Snyder of the Washington Football Team. The daughter is just happy to be there, she just loves being a Haslam (her words). Then there is the youngest son, conflicted for most of his life with his occupation, who spent his political capital as a NeverTrumper in a Trump MAGA state, creating a situation of having peaked at a relatively young age for politicians. He waits for a Bush type RINO Revival Train that may never come in his lifetime, despite the prep work the GOP provided to have him work his way into the oval office when it was his turn.
Does having great access to F U money and power make it worth the sacrifices of integrity and character you have to make to be accepted members into The Club? You decide. I personally passed on following that pathway several decades ago. Evidence of that is that I am a QTreeper.
Less darkness, more light. Fun and butterflies. Until then…