Funny money Is Twins suitor Donald Watkins really worth $1.5 billion?
Did you see Donald Watkins' response to Jim Souhan's Star Tribune article raising questions about his wealth? Two paragraphs addressed the issue of whether he is worth $1.5 billion. I'd like to go through some of that section. Interpretation and development - that's what I'm after. Let's start here: "An intelligent discussion of [my assets]… starts with a comprehensive understanding of a complex global energy industry. "
So almost nobody reading this can ever possibly hope to comprehend his wealth. Then: "Energy executives and public leaders from around the world gather annually at the Montreux Energy Roundtable in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the future of energy investments."
To me that's an odd leap. In combination with the first line, he seems to be implying, without ever quite saying so, that almost everybody who has any understanding of his wealth attends the Montreux Energy Roundtable.
The Montreux Energy Roundtable is in Montreux, by the way, not Geneva -- Montreux is 50 miles away, at the other end of Lac Leman. In the context of Switzerland, which is tiny -- and there's no shame in that -- that's a long way. It's 20 percent of the country. It's like Milwaukee versus Cleveland.
I wouldn't bring it up, except as a point for Mr. Watkins himself: haughty imprecision makes people sense nonsense, and have a good time looking for it. It leads to the sort of cheap crack I'm not making here - like, I might question whether Mr. Watkins has attended the conference himself, and if not, does he even understand his own wealth.
"The sources Souhan used in his article to comment on my energy assets have probably never heard of the Montreux Energy Roundtable."
Again with the Roundtable! Anyway, I went to the web site. It has a huge Steering Committee, which makes for great reading. There are consultants from places like Riyadh. There is the (or a) Secretary-General of OPEC. There is a "Dr. James Bond," of the World Bank.
How big a deal is this Montreux Energy Roundtable? They've held annual conferences for a dozen years, they charge $1800 a pop -- which doesn't cover transportation -- it's invitation only and the press isn't allowed in. It sounds just as impressive as heck.
But there may be a lot of these kinds of events. It may be just one among dozens of deductible getaways available to the energy industry, except this one offers as a venue the Montreux Palace Hotel, which sits pink in the sunlight on the shores of Lac Leman (there's a picture on the site) and is where Vladimir Nabokov spent the last years of his life.
Watkins also discusses his investments in the Masada Resource Group:
"Masada is well respected and widely recognized for its solid record of business achievements globally, its innovative technology and value in providing solutions to tomorrow's energy needs. Masada knows its way to the Montreux Energy Roundtable, and what to do when it gets there."
As long it didn't get directions from Mr. Watkins, Masada knows its way. In any event, he has said his investments in Masada turned out to be his "jackpot." Masada is a serious company. Its main project is a process that turns municipal waste into ethanol in the form of burnable pellets. They've been working since 1996 to build their first actual facility, in Middletown, New York. It would serve many communities. It is a huge and somewhat controversial project.
I talked to Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano. He's a project champion, and it will probably happen. There is a chance that Masada's process will become The Thing, or one of them. They are an early entrant. They're playing that international agenda-setter game. But there are real questions, environmental and nitty-gritty market-type things, and even if the process is spot on, Masada may strategize wrong and lose out.
Is Donald Watkins virtually guaranteed $1.5 billion? It doesn't seem like it, especially since we don't know how much of an investor he is. He's not one of the originators. And when he says he could cash out now, what he's saying is that there are a lot of stupid capitalists out there. In that he may have a point.
Maybe he owns garbage rights around the world. Maybe that's what he's talking about with "international energy rights." Seriously. I should look into that.
I want Watkins to have answers to these things. It would be great if he bought the team and built the stadium. I suspect he probably can arrange financing to buy the team. But I'm almost sure he can't build a stadium. And he was caught talking a few days ago about how much better the DC market is for a team. I'll also bet it would make a much better spot for a museum about the Negro Leagues, like he wants to build.