Wires

Florida billionaire tells employees Obama a threat to their jobs

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla., Oct 10 (Reuters) - A Florida billionaire hastold his employees he could be forced to lay off some of them ifU.S. President Barack Obama wins a second term, calling hisadministration a threat to their jobs.

David Siegel, the owner of Orlando-based Westgate Resorts,the largest privately held time-share company in the world, saidin an email to the firm's 7,000 employees this week that he didnot want to influence how they voted.

But he warned that "if any new taxes are levied on me, or mycompany, as our current President plans, I will have no choicebut to reduce the size of this company."

"You see, I can longer support a system that penalizes theproductive and gives to the unproductive," he continued. "Mymotivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, andwith it, so will your opportunities."

Siegel, an outspoken businessman known for his flamboyantlifestyle, and his wife were the subjects of a recentdocumentary called "The Queen of Versailles" which documentedtheir efforts to build what would be the largest privately ownedhome in the United States - a $100 million, 90,000-square-footmansion just outside of Orlando.

Siegel confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that he sent thememo and said it appeared to have been leaked by an employee whodid not agree with his politics.

"This was a private memo just addressed to my employees," hesaid. "I care about their well-being. I just wanted them to knowbefore they go to vote that if Obama gets re-elected, with thenew taxes that he's going to impose ... the company most likelyis going to have to downsize."

Tax policy is a central issue in the presidential campaign.Republican candidate Mitt Romney wants to extend lower tax ratesset to expire on Dec. 31 for all income groups, while Obama hassaid he would extend the lower rates only for households earningup to $250,000.

Obama and Romney have both said the current 35 percentcorporate tax rate should be reduced but disagree on the extentof the cut and ways to replace the revenue.

Siegel told Reuters in July that Westgate was faring well.

He said in an interview his company had rebounded from therecession and was now the most profitable it had been in its30-year history. He said Westgate was hiring 1,500 new employeesthis year and fending off banks that "are throwing money at us."

Siegel told his employees in the memo that "the economydoesn't currently pose a threat to your job. What does threatenyour job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidentialadministration."

He described what he said were years of sacrifice to buildthe company.

"Even to this day, every dime I earn goes back into thecompany," he said. "Over the past four years I have had to stopbuilding my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, andtake my kids out of private schools simply to keep this companystrong and to keep you employed."

He added: "Yes, business ownership has its benefits, but theprice I've paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately,the costs of running a business have gotten out of control andlet me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and thegovernment thinks we don't pay enough."

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Jim Loney)

((kevin.gray@thomsonreuters.com)(+13058102688)(Reuters

Messaging: kevin.gray.reuters@reuters.net, On Twitter:@kevinmgray15))

Keywords: USA CAMPAIGN/FLORIDA SIEGEL