GO
Loading...

CNBC EXCLUSIVE: CNBC TRANSCRIPT: DAVID SIEGEL, WESTGATE RESORTS CEO, WHO THREATENED LAYOFFS IF PRESIDENT OBAMA WINS, ON CNBC’S “CLOSING BELL WITH MARIA BARTIROMO” TODAY

Jennifer Dauble
Wednesday, 10 Oct 2012 | 6:02 PM ET

WHEN: TODAY, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10TH

WHERE: CNBC’S “CLOSING BELL WITH MARIA BARTIROMO

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with David Siegel, Westgate Resorts CEO, today on CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo.” Following is a link to the video of the interview on CNBC.com: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000121675&play=1.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

ROBERT FRANK: WELL THIS IS THE EMAIL THAT HAS JUST EXPLODED ON THE INTERNET TODAY. ITS WRITTEN BY DAVID SIEGEL THE CEO OF WESTGATE RESORTS. HE SENT AN EMAIL TO EMPLOYEES SAYING THAT IF OBAMA WINS THEY COULD ALL LOSE THEIR JOBS. THE EMAIL SAID “IF ANY NEW TAXES ARE LEVIED ON ME, OR MY COMPANY, AS OUR CURRENT PRESIDENT PLANS, I WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO REDUCE THE SIZE OF THIS COMPANY.” HE MIGHT EVEN SHUT IT DOWN IF OBAMA WINS HE SAYS “YOU CAN FIND ME IN THE CARIBBEAN SITTING ON THE BEACH…WITH NO EMPLOYEES TO WORRY ABOUT.” NOW WHAT MAKES THIS EMAIL SO PROVOCATIVE IS THAT ITS AUTHOR DAVID SIEGEL HE IS THE MAN BEST KNOWN FOR BUILDING THE LARGEST HOME IN AMERICA. HE AND HIS WIFE JACKIE BUILT VERSAILLES A 90,000 SQUARE FOOT PALACE JUST OUTSIDE ORLANDO. IN A PHONE INTERVIEW LAST NIGHT DAVID TOLD ME THIS IS NOT ABOUT HIS OWN FORTUNES. HE HAS “ENOUGH MONEY TO LAST THE REST OF MY LIFE AND FOR MY CHILDREN.” HE SAID IT'S ABOUT HIS WORKERS. THEY WOULD BE THE BIG LOSERS IF OBAMA GETS ANOTHER FOUR YEARS. HE TOLD ME HE WASN'T THREATENING HIS WORKERS OR EVEN TELLING THEM HOW TO VOTE, JUST TO EDUCATE THEM BEFORE THEY PULL THAT LEVER IN 27 DAYS. BILL.

GRIFFETH: ROBERT, THANK YOU.

CARUSO-CABRERA: DON'T MOVE, ROBERT. WE'RE GOING TO BRING IN THE CEO WHO ACTUALLY WROTE THE LETTER. WESTGATE RESORTS DAVID SIEGEL JOINS US NOW ON THE PHONE. ALSO JOINING US IS CARLY FIORINA, WHO SAT AT THE TOP OF ONE OF THE MOST RECOGNIZED COMPANIES IN CORPORATE AMERICA HEWLETT-PACKARD. WE'RE GOING TO GET HER REACTION IN A MINUTE. FIRST TO YOU, MR. SIEGEL. WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION INSIDE YOUR COMPANY FROM YOUR EMPLOYEES?

DAVID SIEGEL: MOSTLY POSITIVE. MAYBE THE PEOPLE THAT ARE NEGATIVE HAVEN'T REACTED, BUT THE REACTION THAT I'VE GOTTEN SO FAR HAS BEEN VERY POSITIVE. I WAS COMING TO WORK TODAY AND ACTUALLY HAD AN EMPLOYEE STOP IN THE PARKING LOT, GET OUT OF THEIR CAR, AND COME OVER AND SAY WE'RE BEHIND YOU AND BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU'RE DOING. SO NOT ONLY IS THE REACTION FROM MY EMPLOYEES, BUT I'VE GOTTEN HUNDREDS OF E-MAILS, 90% POSITIVE. I'VE HAD PHONE CALLS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY, PEOPLE ALL VERY POSITIVE. IT WASN'T MY INTENTION WHEN I SENT THE PRIVATE MEMO TO MY EMPLOYEES FOR IT TO GET OUTSIDE OF THE COMPANY, BUT SOMEONE APPARENTLY SENT IT TO THE MEDIA. NEXT THING I KNOW IT'S GONE VIRAL.

GRIFFETH: SO MAYBE SOMEBODY'S GOING TO LOSE THEIR JOB ANYWAY. ANYWAY, BEARING IN MIND, MR. SIEGEL, THAT IT IS CONGRESS THAT SETS TAX POLICY IN THIS COUNTRY, DO YOU REALLY EXPECT TAX STRUCTURE IN THIS COUNTRY CHANGE SHOULD GOVERNOR ROMNEY WIN THE ELECTION?

SIEGEL: I'M ONLY LISTENING TO WHAT PRESIDENT OBAMA IS SAYING, AND THAT IS RAISE THE TAXES ON THE WEALTHY. THAT'S ME AND THE OTHER SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS AROUND THE COUNTRY.

CARUSO-CABRERA: AND THAT UPSETS YOU SO MUCH THAT YOU LITERALLY SAY I'M GOING TO GO SIT ON A BEACH, SHUT DOWN THE WHOLE THING? CONNECT THOSE DOTS FOR ME. TAXES GO UP, AND SO --

SIEGEL: YOU'RE TAKING THINGS OUT OF CONTEXT.

CARUSO-CARUSO: OKAY.

SIEGEL: YOU KNOW, THIS IS NOT SPECULATION. I HAVE LIVED THE LAST FOUR YEARS UNDER THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, AND I'VE WATCHED MY COMPANY BE CUT IN HALF. TODAY WE'RE VERY PROFITABLE, AND I DON'T WANT TO GO THROUGH ANOTHER FOUR YEARS UNDER THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WHERE I HAVE TO DOWNSIZE AGAIN.

GRIFFETH: YOU CUT THE COMPANY IN HALF AS A RESULT OF TAX POLICY? IS THAT WHAT HAPPENED?

SIEGEL: NO, IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH TAX POLICY. IT HAD TO DO WITH THE TIGHTENING OF THE BANKS. TIGHTENING OF MONEY. WHEN THEY GAVE T.A.R.P. MONEY TO THE BANKS, THEY SHOULD HAVE TOLD THEM TO LOAN IT OUT. INSTEAD, THE BANKS KEPT THE MONEY, BOUGHT BACK THEIR OWN BONDS AND THEIR OWN STOCK. THEY MADE THEIR OWN BALANCE SHEETS VERY GOOD. THEY DIDN'T SPREAD THE MONEY AROUND TO BUSINESSES THAT WERE STARVING FOR FINANCING. AS A RESULT, WE HAD TO CUT OUR COMPANY IN HALF. WE HAD TO LAY OFF 7,000 EMPLOYEES AND BE VERY LEAN AND MEAN TO SURVIVE. WELL, IT WAS A VERY UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCE, AND I DON'T FEEL LIKE GOING THROUGH IT AGAIN, BUT THIS WAS BEFORE OBAMACARE, BEFORE INCREASING MY TAXES. I CAN SEE THE FUTURE.

CARUSO-CABRERA: IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE DEALING WITH THE RESULTS OF A COUNTRY THAT WAS OVERLEVERAGED. THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS TO CRITICIZE PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD AGREE. BUT IN THE END, LEVERAGE WAS DRAMATICALLY HIGH. IT WAS GOING TO COME DOWN. YOU REALLY BLAME HIM FOR THE FACT THAT LEVERAGE HAD TO CONTRACT IN THIS COUNTRY FROM ASTRONOMICAL LEVELS?

SIEGEL: NO, WHAT I'M BLAMING HIM FOR IS NOT DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THE ECONOMY IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS, AND I FEEL THAT WE'RE ON A DOWNWARD SPIRAL AND THE NEXT FOUR YEARS UNDER THE SAME DO-NOTHING ADMINISTRATION IS GOING TO BE EVEN WORSE. I'M JUST INFORMING MY EMPLOYEES THAT AN OBAMA ADMINISTRATION -- THERE'S A GOOD POSSIBILITY WE'LL HAVE TO DOWNSIZE AGAIN AND THAT THEIR FUTURES MIGHT BE JEOPARDIZE.

GRIFFETH: OKAY. ROBERT, YOU GOT A QUESTION?

FRANK: ONE OF THE REASONS THIS E-MAIL HAS HIT SUCH A NERVE IS BECAUSE PEOPLE KNOW YOU AS THE GUY WHO BUILT THE LARGEST HOME IN AMERICA. YOU KNOW, THEY KNOW YOU FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE AS THE GUY WITH ONE OF THE BIGGEST LIFESTYLES THAT'S BEEN ON THE BIG SCREEN RECENTLY. THEY HAVE A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING HOW YOU COULD COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR SITUATION, YOUR COMPANY'S SITUATION, OR THE EFFECT ON YOUR EMPLOYEES WHEN YOU'RE DOING QUITE WELL RIGHT NOW. YOU MENTIONED YOUR COMPANY'S VERY PROFITABLE. YOU'VE PAID OFF ALL YOUR BIG DEBTS. HOW DO YOU ANSWER THOSE FOLKS WHO RAISE THAT QUESTION?

SIEGEL: I AM NOT WORRYING ABOUT MYSELF. I'M WORRYING ABOUT MY EMPLOYEES AND THEIR FUTURE. WHEN THE COMPANY WAS IN NEED OF MONEY, I STOPPED CONSTRUCTION ON THE HOUSE. I PUT ALL THE MONEY INTO THE COMPANY. I WORK 24/7 RUNNING THIS COMPANY, AND THE LAST FOUR YEARS HAVE NOT BEEN VERY PLEASANT. IF I HAVE ANOTHER FOUR YEARS LIKE THE LAST ONE, I WILL SERIOUSLY THINK ABOUT RETIRING, AND THAT WOULD FURTHER DOWNSIZE THE COMPANY.

GRIFFETH: CARLY, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS SITUATION? LAST TIME YOU AND I SPOKE ON THIS PROGRAM, YOU DID ADMIT THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS TO WORRY AS ABOUT A CEO OF A COMPANY. THE FISCAL CLIFF JUST BEING ONE OF THEM. GLOBAL SLOWDOWN AS WELL. IN THIS CASE, THOUGH, BY SENDING AN E-MAIL LIKE THIS TO EMPLOYEES, IN YOUR VIEW, IS THIS FEAR MONGERING ON THE PART OF A CEO, OR IS IT A REALISTIC ATTEMPT TO JUST SET THEM UP TO UNDERSTAND WHAT COULD COME DEPENDING ON THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTION?

FIORINA: FIRST OF ALL, LET'S REMEMBER THAT MR. SIEGEL IS THE FOUNDER OF THIS COMPANY. IT IS HE WHO TOOK THE RISK TO FORM THIS COMPANY. IT IS HE WHO HAS TAKEN THE RISKS TO KEEP THIS PRIVATE COMPANY GOING. SO I THINK HE IS IN A VERY DIFFERENT POSITION THAN I WAS, FOR EXAMPLE, AS A HIRED HAND, IF YOU WILL, OF A PUBLIC COMPANY. SECONDLY, I THINK WE CAN QUARREL WITH HIS USE OF WORDS, PERHAPS, BUT MY GUESS IS HIS EMPLOYEES KNOW HIM PRETTY WELL. HE OBVIOUSLY HAS EVERY RIGHT TO EXPRESS HIS OPINION. THIRD, I THINK HE'S RAISING A SERIOUS POINT. YOU KNOW, HE MAY HAVE DONE IT IN A MORE COLORFUL WAY, BUT THERE IS A REASON THAT THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESSES SAYS THAT SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS' CONFIDENCE CONTINUES TO DETERIORATE. THAT'S BECAUSE SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS LOOK TO THE FUTURE AND SAY, I DON'T KNOW HOW I'M GOING TO CONTINUE TO MANAGE SUCCESSFULLY IF I HAVE TO DEAL WITH MORE TAXES AND MORE REGULATION AND POTENTIALLY CONTINUED TIGHTENING OF MONEY. I THINK HE'S RAISING GOOD ISSUES. NOW, YOU KNOW, THE LAST THING I GUESS I WOULD SAY IS I'M REALLY TROUBLED WHEN WE CONFLATE THE SIZE OF SOMEONE'S HOUSE IS WITH THEIR ABILITY TO EXPRESS THEIR OPINION. I THINK THE SIZE OF HIS HOUSE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. WHETHER WE LIKE ALL HIS WORDS OR NOT, HE EXPRESSED A POINT OF VIEW TO HIS EMPLOYEES.

CARUSO-CABRERA: WE SHOULD POINT OUT, CARLY, YOU ARE A ROMNEY SUPPORTER. WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE SPIRIT OF HIS COMPLAINT IS ACTUALLY ABOUT HIS INABILITY TO ACCESS CREDIT? DO YOU THINK A FUTURE PRESIDENT ROMNEY COULD SOMEHOW MAGICALLY CHANGE A DELEVERAGING SOCIETY?

FIORINA: WELL, LOOK, I PUBLICLY, ON YOUR NETWORK AND OTHERS, SAID WHEN T.A.R.P. WAS OFFICIALLY PUT FORWARD BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, TO YOUR POINT, AND HANK PAULSON THAT T.A.R.P. WAS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED BECAUSE IT DIDN'T FORCE THE BANKS TO ACTUALLY LEND MONEY. WHAT IT DID WAS ENCOURAGE BANKS TO USE THAT MONEY TO STRENGTHEN THEIR OWN BALANCE SHEETS. I TOTALLY ACCEPT YOUR POINT THAT THE TIGHTENING OF CREDIT, PARTICULARLY TO SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZE BUSINESSES, IS PART OF THE FAILURE OF T.A.R.P. AND THAT'S A BIPARTISAN AFFLICTION, IF YOU WILL. IT'S NOT SIMPLY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION. NEVERTHELESS, I THINK IT'S UNDENIABLE THAT THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAS BEEN CRYSTAL CLEAR THAT THEY PLAN TO RAISE TAXES ON THE WEALTHY, THAT THEY PLAN TO RAISE TAXES THEREFORE ON A LOT OF SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, AND THAT THEY PLAN TO CONTINUE TO INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF REGULATION OUT THERE. THOSE ARE JUST FACTS. THOSE FACTS HURT SMALL BUSINESSES.

GRIFFETH: MR. SIEGEL, NOW THAT WE'VE HAD THIS VERY PUBLIC DISCUSSION AND THE WORLD KNOWS WHAT YOU WROTE IN THAT E-MAIL, DO YOU REGRET WRITING IT AT ALL?

SIEGEL: NO, I WANTED TO INFORM MY EMPLOYEES OF WHAT THEIR FUTURE WOULD HOLD IF THEY MAKE THE WRONG DECISION WHEN THEY VOTE. I WASN'T THREATENING ANY OF THE EMPLOYEES. IF THEY VOTE FOR OBAMA, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO LOSE THEIR JOB, BUT THEY HAVE THE POTENTIAL IN THE FUTURE IF THIS ECONOMY CONTINUES TO SPIRAL DOWNWARD IN TAXES AND OBAMACARE COMING INTO EFFECT. THEY DO HAVE THE POSSIBILITY THAT THE COMPANY WILL BE FURTHER DOWNSIZED. EVERY COMPANY WANTS TO GROW, WANTS TO INCREASE THE BENEFITS THEY GIVE THEIR EMPLOYEES, WANT TO HIRE MORE PEOPLE. I SEE THE FUTURE EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THAT IF WE DON'T CHANGE ADMINISTRATION.

GRIFFETH: MR. SIEGEL, APPRECIATE YOUR TIME. THANKS FOR JOINING US TODAY. APPRECIATE IT.

About CNBC:

With CNBC in the U.S., CNBC in Asia Pacific, CNBC in Europe, Middle East and Africa, CNBC World and CNBC HD+, CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news and provides real-time financial market coverage and business information to more than 395 million homes worldwide, including more than 100 million households in the United States and Canada. CNBC also provides daily business updates to 400 million households across China. The network's 16 live hours a day of business programming in North America (weekdays from 4:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET) is produced at CNBC's global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and includes reports from CNBC News bureaus worldwide.

CNBC also has a vast portfolio of digital products which deliver real-time financial market news and information across a variety of platforms. These include CNBC.com, the online destination for global business; CNBC PRO, the premium, integrated desktop/mobile service that provides real-time global market data and live access to CNBC global programming; and a suite of CNBC Mobile products including the CNBC Real-Time iPhone and iPad Apps.

Members of the media can receive more information about CNBC and its programming on the NBC Universal Media Village Web site at http://www.nbcumv.com/mediavillage/networks/cnbc/