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.
Want to read the whole issue? Download and read this issue and others on Magzter.

Add your comment:

 

Guides & Resources

Fall Getaways

Fall is finally on its way and now is the perfect time to plan your getaway. Check out some of these great deals and special destinations just a short drive from Orlando.

Real Estate's Hot 100

Whether you’re trying to buy or sell real estate, getting the best deal means finding an agent who possesses savvy and know-how and gets results. This list showcases some Central Florida agents who have demonstrated those skills.

Spotlight on Plastic Surgeons 2014

This special advertising section highlights the accomplishments of plastic surgeons, who tell about their commitment to helping people look their best.

Orlando's Best Lawyers of 2014

Get informed with our annual list of more than 400 Orlando-area attorneys, compiled by Best Lawyers in America. The annual selection features lawyers in 78 areas of practice.

Spotlight on Lawyers 2014

Our special advertising section featuring profiles on local lawyers.

Premier Doctors

This special advertising section highlights the professionalism, backgrounds and achievements of dozens of doctors.

MoreRecent Blog Posts

Pickling recipes from Chef Chris Brown, executive chef at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes hotel.

Hinge Launches in Orlando Today

Florida, rejoice! Dating app Hinge has launched in Orlando, Tampa, and Miami to-day.

For the Dogs

Bark Box delivers all-natural treats and fun-loving pup products.

Handmade Home: Stoneware

This centuries old pottery style gets a modern upgrade with new and useful items for the home.