2010 Newsmakers: In his own words: Rich IottWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: The full Newsmakers top 10 feature story package will be posted Dec. 30.
In preparation for the 2010 Newsmakers issue, I e-mailed Rich Iott and asked if he would meet me for an interview. I offered to publish a straight question-and-answer transcript to preclude any concerns that I would edit his answers or interject any opinion into the story.
Iott responded with a curt “No, thank you,” for which none of his many supporters will blame him. “Why should Iott talk to someone who, in the height and heat of his campaign against Rep. Marcy Kaptur, called for him to drop out of the race?” they will say. I would point out that for Iott’s supporters to criticize Kaptur for avoiding critics, such as those at WSPD and the Children of Liberty, and then cheer him on for avoiding me is hypocritical and indicative of their emotions trumping their intellects.
I had dual motivations for asking for Iott’s time. First, I once liked Iott. I admired his self-financed entry into politics and his lack of polish. I respected that he spoke his mind without qualifiers and buzzwords. When Toledo Free Press Publisher Tom Pounds and I left our endorsement interview with Iott, there was little question we planned to endorse him for the office.
Then, the wheels came off.
The weekend of Oct. 9, The Atlantic website released photos of Iott in a Nazi uniform, during what Iott called a “historical re-enactment.”
Between that moment and Iott’s November defeat, nearly every major news organization on the planet reported on the Nazi photos. The vast majority of the reporting and attendant commentary was incredulous; how could a U.S. congressional candidate not know how damaging such photos would be? How could he not display an iota of contrition or offer any semblance of apology?
Iott and his campaign mishandled the controversy in epic fashion, allowing the political newbie to swim with national TV sharks, which resulted in exactly the bloody-red waters anyone else would have predicted and prevented. When we learned that Iott had an apparent problem remembering his occupation on campaign finance forms and that those forms mostly detail contributions to some of the most left-leaning Democrats who breathe Lucas County’s Maumee River-tainted oxygen, it was clear Iott was not going to be our next congressman.
On Oct. 14, I published an opinion column, “Iott should exit, stage Reich,” which in summary said the region was suffering enough embarrassment from the Nazi uniform controversy and that the only way Iott could salvage his dignity and legacy was to bow out.
Hundreds of calls, e-mails, snail mails, threats and delivery cancellation requests accompanied the scores of feedback messages in agreement. As late as Dec. 28, WSPD “Eye on Toledo” host Fritz Wenzel and his callers were still bemoaning the stance I took. I understood then, and am more convinced now, that the column provided people who had placed great hope in Iott with an outlet for their frustration at his sudden — unquestionably Democrat-engineered — implosion.
The second reason I wanted to give Iott a forum to voice his thoughts was that while I maintain I was right in suggesting he bow out, I agree with the people who say he got a raw deal, from media and the Republican machinery. In early November, Iott began commenting on Toledo Free Press website stories, seeking to clarify what he felt were many misconceptions about his past and his campaign.
Here are those unedited comments, so Toledo Free Press 2010 Newsmaker of the Year Rich Iott can have the last word.
Posted by “Kathy,” Nov. 12, 2010 at 1:55 p.m.:
Mr. Iott and his son Rich were the majority share holders after the sale and son Iott was on the board of directors. He in fact ran Food Town into the ground along side the other members of the board after he cashed out.Iott casts himself as a job creator. Also false. Until he has created the thousands of jobs he destroyed he cannot make that claim.His weekend hobby was not the issue, it was his remarks subsequent. Admiring the individual Nazi soldiers was his downfall.this is not a man who should walk in the halls of congress.
Posted by Rich Iott, Nov. 14, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.:
Kathy, I was going to call you a moron but I will, instead, refer to you as part of the unfortunately misguided and uninformed masses whose opinion is shaped by the media or unions and who never bother to do objective research for themselves.
Fact: In each of the years that I was president and CEO of Food Town our sales an profits increased (per the TOLEDO BLADE study).
Fact: The year prior to the merger with Spartan Stores was the most profitable in the company’s history (per the TOLEDO BLADE study).
Fact: Food Town was a publicly held company. The merger with Spartan could only happen with the approval of the Board of Directors first, and then the approval of the shareholders.
Fact: Percent of ownership had no bearing on the Board’s vote. Each director has one vote. If it was a bad idea it could have easily been defeated.
Fact: Food Town was not sold. It merged with Spartan. If it had been sold, there would have been a lot of money change hands and the future of Food Town would have had no effect on my pocketbook. That was not the case. I — like every stockholder — received one share of Spartan stock plus five dollars cash for every share of Food Town stock surrendered. That was it; no buy out, no golden parachutes.
Fact: Unlike most Food Town shareholders who could bail out if the deal went badly, as an officer of the company I could not sell any shares for three years. When things began to go south, shareholders sold out. I could not. I rode the stock down from $16 a share to $0.99 a share. I ended up selling most of it for between $8 and $13 a share. I lost millions on the deal that other shareholders did not.
Fact: Food Town was destined to fail because changing market conditions. The Board and I saw that coming. The regional supermarket chains destroyed the local grocers in the 50s and 60s. Now the mega-chains (and non-union chains like WalMart) have destroyed the regional chains.
Fact: My father was still Chairman of the Board and the largest single shareholder (but not the majority shareholder) at the time of the merger. He founded the company. If he hadn’t agreed with the merger and thought it was in the best interest of the company, it would not have happened.
Fact: My Congressional opponent chided me for ‘selling’ a profitable business. She displayed her total ignorance of real business: one sells a business when times are good! Who wants to buy a failing business? Democrats, I guess…
Fact: The nearly 5,000 Food Town employees are not unemployed. Spartan sold many of the stores to independent operators who kept the employees on (in a non-union status, of course, which I guess menas that they are “unemployed”….). Rite-Aid acquired all The Pharm stores as well as the employees.
Fact: I served on the Spartan board for three years following the merger and I argued against operational decisions which I thought were wrong. By the time I was proven right (and we had sacked the Chairman of the Board who was the root of the problem) it was too late.
Fact: It was the right decision at the right time; the successor failed to continue to do the right things.
Lastly, I do NOT admire individual Nazi soldiers. I am enough of a student of history to admire the military accomplishments of a single country which took the combined efforts of the entire free world to defeat. For your information, WWII German tactics are a large part of required study of every major military force in the world today — including the US. And these were NOT Nazis — in fact, it was against German army regulations to belong to an active political party — they were German soldiers serving a Nazi Government. But they didn’t have a lot of options. I do not condone or support the objectives of that government, but I recognize the fact that the war DID happen and that ordinary people served on both sides. That is the same approach I have taken to the American Civil War or WWI where I have reenacted both sides. And most of my WWII reenacting has been as an American. Hmmm.. wonder why my opponent didn’t want to talk about that?
I forgot one thing. Our polling showed that ten days after the Kaptur campaign’s release of the “Nazi bomb”, I was 1/2 point HIGHER in the polls than before. People got it. They understand reenacting for what it is and they understand politics for what it is. It had no effect on the election.
I find it humorous now that the most senior woman in the House who “sits right next to the gavel” has not even been considered for any Minority leadership positions. Yep, NW Ohio is going to be proud of its representation….
Posted by “Kathy,” Nov. 15, 2010 at 5:35 p.m.:
I’ve seen all your “facts” in your ads throughout the campaign ad nauseum. I would describe them more as splitting hairs than factual. FACT: The SEC warned you about “merging” with Spartan. FACT: the Kaptur campaign did not release your Nazi “bomb”, nor did she hold a gun to your head forcing you to pose for the photo op. I stand by my remarks. As to your added comment regarding Rep. Kaptur’s leadership consideration, you simply don’t understand Congress or politics. You must recognize the NUMBERS, both in the districts and the House of Representatives … That little act during the TFP/FOX debate where you turned to her claiming your years of friendship and how she knew you as though you two had dinner once a week was quite a show. I found you and your campaign’s attacks on that hard working, respected member of congress and good woman terribly offensive.
Be well Mr. Iott.
Posted by Rich Iott, Nov. 15, 2010 at 11:58 p.m.:
Well Miss Kapturite, please note the following:
Fact: The Lucas County Democratic Party set up the “Rich Iott Nazi” web site in March of 2010 but did not release it until October.
Fact: The Atlantic reporter was a “plausible denial” setup. He called to “talk about the campaign” and then dropped the ‘Nazi bomb”. I did not deny having worn a German uniform on occasion but explained my 30 years of reenacting in mostly various American, sometimes Confederate, sometimes German, uniforms. I sent him dozens of photos; he printed only one. And he talked about only one aspect of the whole sphere of historical reenacting.
Fact: While Kaptur denied any responsibility or knowledge, the Ohio Democratic Party Chairman on the Wednesday before the release revealed to the Ohio Republican Party Chairman that they “had the goods” to “bury your boy in the 9th district”. Curiously, Kaptur’s ad campaign suddenly switched three days before the release to her talking to WWII veterans. Coincidence, eh?
My “act” on Fox? Kaptur praised Food Town for being one of the largest employers in the region. If she was such a good representative, why had she never met the president and CEO of such a significant company in her region? She actualy asked me to serve on her Military Academy Selection Board in the 80s… but I guess she never met me, eh? And she said she knew little about the OHMR… but in fact, she visited its Annual Training, was briefed by the Commanding General, and was made an honorary captain in the OHMR. And I was the liaison officer who set it all up!. I have several of photos from the event if you’d like to see them. Would yo like to see the newsletter articles about it?
She consistently lied to make her point. End of discussion. Maybe I was foolish for not making them public; but I was trying to stick to the issues: her voting record and my positions. She was trying to deflect any and all attention for those two points. After all, that is the Democratic way, right?
Saved myself some money? Hell, no! The money I spent was an INVESTMENT in America. You see, I BELIEVE in this country and I am willing to up my money where my mouth is. I don’t spend union or PAC money to get my message out there; I believe in this country. Look at the FEC reports. Tell me how much Washington PAC money Kaptur raises versus money from the real people. Most of her funding comes from out-of-state. And so who really owns her?
Lastly, your comments about the SEC warnings are laughable. If you have ever read any merger document (how many have you read?) you would know that is simply boilerplate legal nonsense that is put in there by lawyers on both sides as a CYA. It has nothing to de with the actual deal being made. But then, you have probably never managed the merger of two multi-million dollar companies, have you? So I guess your ignorance is to be expected. :-)
I shall be well, thank you. My other businesses will continue to thrive. We have provided a large number of (union) construction jobs in the area when no one is building anything. And we are about to start on Phase II. My movie production business is thriving (we just won at the Toronto International Film Festival and are closing worldwide distribution deals). It is the people of NW Ohio that will suffer from two more years of Kapturism.