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In Defense of David Siegel

 

Mike Boslet
Mike Boslet
The cover story we ran on timeshare resort tycoon David Siegel in June certainly stirred some emotions, and many were as raw as steak tartare. Judging from the e-mails and phone calls I received, Siegel won’t be making our annual Best of Orlando list until we add a category titled “Person Who Most Exemplifies Wretched Excess.”

OK, I admit that he would be a shoo-in for that distinction. He does deserve a big and dirty carbon footprint planted on his keister for building a 90,000-square-foot-home. But other than the mega-mansion project, which he halted because the recession jammed up his cash flow, don’t blame Siegel for living large. He is only doing what just about any multimillionaire does with his wealth—spending it on things that the other 99.9 percent of the world can’t really afford.    

Like a super-sized family, for example. Siegel, 74, and his wife, Jacqueline, 44, have seven children, all under 13. That little tidbit in the 3,300-word story by contributing writer Jim Leusner and myself seemed to rile a few people. Some readers expressed outrage over the Siegels’ prodigious procreation, and one reader complained about the abundance of gifts the kids received for Christmas. (The story mentioned that as of mid-April there were still piles of presents the kids hadn’t gotten to.)
     
The enlightening comments I received helped dispel my belief that only poor people faced ridicule for having lots of kids. And, as I found out, rich parents who have nearly as many nannies as they do children can really tick off some folks. Perhaps George and Winifred Banks, he a well-to-do banker and she a stay-at-home mom,
endured scorn for hiring Mary Poppins to take care of their two ill-mannered children. 

Then there were a few low blows thrown at Siegel for, in the view of some readers, flaunting his wealth in these troubled times. Siegel, one reader phoned to say, should be ashamed of himself for having so many amenities (luxury vehicles, a private jet, big houses) while so many people are losing their homes and jobs.

For the record, Siegel didn’t come across in interviews as one to flaunt his wealth or brag about it. Leusner and I asked him about some of his personal possessions, such as the Rolls-Royce parked in the portico of his Isleworth home. (It was a gift to him from an employee.)
 
While he certainly doesn’t need all that he owns, I don’t think Siegel should feel ashamed of being able to buy what he wants. At least he can afford his excesses, which can’t be said of all those people who cashed out their home equity to pay for vacations and luxury items their salaries couldn’t cover. 
 
Siegel, plain and simple, is an American success story, a good old-fashioned example of how anyone can make it big in this country. He went from running his own TV-repair shop in Miami to owning the largest privately held timeshare resort business in the world because he took risks and correctly anticipated his market. Of course he trampled on a few people on his way to the top; that’s the American way, too. But Siegel is not ruthless in the “Gordon Gekko” manner of making nothing but money. He provides a product that millions of consumers want. His timeshare resorts form a vital cog in Central Florida’s economic wheel.

Finally, Siegel’s marriage to a much younger woman who happens to be a former beauty queen is nothing to get worked up about—yet a couple of readers did. Older men with money marry gorgeous younger women. The two go together like Donald Trump and Melania Knauss. Get over it.

Siegel has a lot to show for his success, which I suspect has made quite a few people jealous—including me.

Old to new | New to old
Nov 14, 2009 12:52 am
 Posted by  jeden

you seem pretty jealous... keep up the publicity! its nice to see you have nothing else better to talk about. he has helped a LOT more people than he has EVER tried to hurt. you should also see how much he loves his babies. he's 74, they keep him going. let the man live his american dream, he also gives other people hope. i believe all timeshare companies have hundreds or thousands of complaints. stuff happens. you cant always please everyone. especially when you have over 2 million owners.
are you perfect?

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Dec 13, 2009 06:25 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

As a longtime condo owner,at Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort, in Haines City Florida, I would like some HELP in this relentless economy. When I put an ad in the paper a few years ago, to rent my "B Unit", some of the people interested called me to say it wasn't as I described it. You see when my daughter and I lived there in 2001, it was beautiful. We had a restaurant, large swimming pool, gigantic hot tub, golf course, and tennis courts. It was heavenly and I taught school down in Haines City. Now, in 2009, I turned it over to a Realtor and told her the sliding glass door opened out to the golf course. She said "What golf course?" David Siegel has let it grow over to be ugly and unrecognizable, making it hard to sell or rent. Maintenance fees are close to $400 a quarter and I have not had a renter in over a year. Mr. Siegel........we know this economy is not hurting you.........can't you be considerate and understanding when we know you could help all of us at Grenelefe.

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Dec 21, 2011 12:21 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

My wife and I have had nothing but heartache and grief since we became involved with Westgate Resorts in Branson. The lie after lie that we have been told is unbelievable. I find it hard to believe after researching the company and David Siegel that anyone could defend him on any grounds. What he has done to Americans around the country is shameless.

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Jan 4, 2013 05:49 am
 Posted by  LittleLu

I currently have a time share with west gate resorts in the smokey mountains and have for the last 10 years. I have had problems at a couple of the resorts that i have visited but when they were brought to managements attention they were resolved. yes, it costs money to own a time share, but it is an investment. it also gives us something to leave to our children. After the initial cost is paid all that is owed is taxes and maintenance each year. There is no way that I could afford a condo on the beach with a full kitchen and laundry for as little as I pay in my maintenance and taxes. We just stayed in a beautiful condo in Vegas. One night at a hotel room there costs as much as we paid for our entire week. so, i have no complaints about his business at all.
What I do not understand is people griping about how others live their lives. They have the money to support all those children than God bless them. Everyone makes mistakes. I am sure they have, and will, both in business and personal life. So what!! You can find fault in anyone if you put them under a microscope.

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