When you’re a wealthy, secretive, pin stripe wearing New Jersey family who is found guilty of a multi-million dollar racketeering charge, you are fighting a certain stereotype. Francis Ford Coppola-inspired biases are inevitable. Many Minnesotans are too polite to say it out loud, but they’re thinking it.
The Wilfs have chosen to become very public figures, so they need to be aware of how the news of the last few weeks is effecting their public image. But instead of attempting to mitigate the reputation damage, they are aggravating it.
This week in court, the Wilfs argued that they cannot disclose information about their wealth. The refusal to disclose is bad enough. Secrecy fosters suspicion, and plays into the stereotype. But the rationale they provided for not disclosing is even worse.
“Unfortunately, in the world in which we all live, it is not uncommon to read articles in the press describing plots by malicious individuals targeting well known high net worth individual[s] and their families for physical attack and extortion.”
Did Mario Puzo write that statement for him? “Attackers?” “Extorters?” When scenarios like that are described by a rich guy convicted of racketeering and fraud in New Jersey, many are going to hear Speak Softly Love in the background. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they will.
Mr. Wilf’s growing reputation problems run the risk of creating business problems. Those personal seat licenses start to feel like “an offer you can’t refuse.” The $575 million partnership Minnesota taxpayers are about to enter into with the Wilf’s starts to feel more shady and risky.
To be clear, I obviously don’t wish an attack or extortion plot on Mr. Wilf. But let’s be real. It’s hardly a secret that Mr. Wilf is a very wealthy man. After all, he flaunts a $19 million apartment on Park Avenue, and it is regularly reported that he owns huge real estate developments and Adrian Peterson.
Therefore, any would-be extortionist or attacker already knows that Mr. Wilf is in possession of a boat load of money. If the court puts a number in place of “boat load” it will not further endanger Mr. Wilf.
So, disclose already. Act like someone who has nothing to hide. Stand up and proudly say “This is what I have, and this is how I earned it.” Don Corleone would never say that. If you don’t want Minnesotans to fall prey to the stereotype and subsequently become wary of entering into a $575 million partnership with you, stop feeding the stereotype and let the sunshine in.
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