Tuesday, August 12, 2003

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Whiffing at Arnold Schwarzenegger

I was waiting for someone to raise the Planet Hollywood debacle in discussing Schwarzenegger, and Daniel Gross finally got around to it in Slate. The key theme Gross wants you to remember:

Republicans must hope Schwarzenegger's campaign is more durable than Planet Hollywood. The company raised $196 million in its IPO and plowed the proceeds into expansion. But its celebrity cachet dissipated once outlets opened in London's Gatwick Airport and Edmonton, Alberta. In October 1999 the chain, which peaked at 95 restaurants, filed for Chapter 11. Schwarzenegger severed his ties with the company in 2000. Planet Hollywood exited bankruptcy in 2000 but then earned membership in the Chapter 22 club by going bust again.

So far, the recall campaign has been very much like a meal at Planet Hollywood. There's plenty of ruckus and shouting and fake smiles. A lot of celebrities are hanging around—for no apparent reason. The fare is insipid. And when the experience is over and the bill comes, nausea may follow.

Having eaten once -- and only once -- at the restaurant, I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea that Schwarzenegger couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag, and this should count against him in his gubenatorial bid.

However, by the time I got to the, conclusion, Gross' article actually convinced me this episode doesn't matter all that much. The reason is that Schwarzenegger wasn't as involved in the management of the restaurant chain:

Planet Hollywood's capital was provided by [Keith] Barish and [Robert] Earl, and by the not-so-fabulous Singapore billionaire Ong Beng Seng. Schwarzenegger and fellow A-listers like Sylvester Stallone were regarded as "founding celebrities," but the only equity they provided was their Actors' Equity card. They made noisy public appearances on Planet Hollywood's behalf. In exchange, options representing 20 percent of the company's stock were set aside for "celebrity investors."

In other words, Scharzenegger's role was to generate publicity for the restaurant, and even Gross acknowledges he accomplished this goal and then some.

One can argue that Arnold should not have associated his name with overpriced hamburgers. However, one can't accuse him of poor business acumen (since he put none of his own money into the venture), which would have been a much more damaging fact to associate with Schwrzenegger.

Let me close here by pointing out that, like Virginia Postrel, I don't really know whether Schwarzenegger would make a good governor. And, like Postrel, if he doesn't start talking policy, he'll lose me.

However, Gross' story actually removes what I thought would be a chink in Arnold's armor.

posted by Dan on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM


So what other evidence is there of the "business acumen" I've been hearing touted for the man? I'm being serious, not facetious. What, other than manage his own money, has he actually done in the way of business? Inquiring minds and all...

posted by: John on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Some news reports allude to some shrewd real state deals he has made over the years but never provide any details. I couldn't be bothered to dig any deeper than that.

posted by: Javier on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

That didn't take long. Matt Welch linked to this article on Arnold's business acumen


posted by: Javier on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

Arnold has always been a shrewd businessman. He was a self-made millionaire before he started acting, having built up a chain of gyms. He made himself the highest-paid actor in Hollywood despite a strong accent through shrewd dealings. He's definitely a smart guy.

posted by: pj on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

I wanted to pass this link along.

After years of denials by both parties, Arnold Schwarzenegger's longtime mistress Gigi Goyette finally admitted to the adulterous affair on British television -- an affair that began as statutory rape when she was 16 .

This confirms rumors that were previously published in the National Enquirer in 2001.

posted by: Mark Kraft on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

I don't know about business skills, but he has the acting part down. He's already using the Hans and Franz "girlie man" phrase in the political arena.

Arnold Schwarzenegger ----> Get the latest Governator news

posted by: Scarlett on 08.12.03 at 10:56 AM [permalink]

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