US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The founder of the world’s largest hosting company GoDaddy returned to the US government $ 8 million, which he provided as material assistance. Now he is trying to help tenants of their shopping centers survive the crisis by arranging film screenings in the parking lot.
After quarantine was introduced in March, 69-year-old billionaire Bob Parsons had to lay off 25 employees of his Scottsdale Golf Club and apply for government support as part of a business lending program under the Paycheck Protection Program.
On April 13, Parsons received $ 8 million from the state to support the work of its 16 enterprises. However, last week the founder of the hosting provider GoDaddy changed his mind and returned the money to the government.
“Many other enterprises need them much more than we do. Therefore, we decided that the only right option would be to return the money, ”the billionaire admits. – I had to think a lot about where without it, but I always tried to do the right thing. And that turned out to be the right decision.”
Initially, in March, the businessman planned to reduce not 25, but more than 900 of his employees “on all fronts”. By that time, the value of assets in his own private fund, YAM Investments, had fallen by $ 700 million. According to Parsons, he was able to pay the laid-off employees a six-week severance pay. Despite the fact that the pandemic has affected almost all of the enterprises in its extensive portfolio, including the largest Harley-Davidson dealer in North America and the manufacturer of equipment for golf clubs Parsons Xtreme Golf, the entrepreneur claims that since then he has not had to fire employees nor send them on unpaid leave.
Was he worried about a potential flurry of criticism that would fall upon him as a billionaire asking for help from the state? Parsons admits this idea, but insists that he was prompted by another to return the money to the government: “It may seem like we have a lot of money in our hands, but it is not. Formally, we are rich when stocks are expensive – and then you can borrow funds under a hedge fund guarantee. But when the papers fall, as it is now, it is unlikely that anyone will want to take loans, otherwise you can lose everything.”
A businessman knows firsthand what it is like to have nothing. He grew up “poor as a church mouse” in a dysfunctional Baltimore area and failed a school exam in fifth grade. After another failure in the twelfth grade, young Parsons went to serve in the Marine Corps and ended up in Vietnam at the very height of the war. During his service, he was awarded three medals, including Purple Heart.
Be that as it may, Parsons’s times of need are far behind. Upon returning from Vietnam, he entered the University of Baltimore, graduated with honors, becoming a certified accountant, and got a job at Control Data, a computer manufacturing company. By 1984, he had created his own software developer called Parsons Technology, and ten years later he sold it for $ 64 million to Intuit, an accounting software firm.
In 1997, a businessman, actively seeking new opportunities, founded the web design studio Jomax Technologies. A few years later, he changed his name to GoDaddy and began selling domain names. By 2011, GoDaddy managed to become famous for its commercials for the Super Bowl, often sexist and on the verge of decency.
That year, Parsons sold a controlling stake in the company to private investors. According to Forbes, the deal could amount to about $ 900 million. In 2015, the company entered the stock market, and in 2018, Parsons sold its latest shares of GoDaddy. Over the years, the entrepreneur has initiated dozens of other business projects. For example, in Arizona, he invested approximately $ 600 million in commercial real estate. In addition to the golf club, he also owns shopping centers, Harley-Davidson dealerships, an advertising agency,
Parsons estimates the total damage of his enterprises from quarantine at $ 500 million, although he does not lose heart much.
“These are the things for today. But as the country returns to its usual life, I expect things to go very vigorously, because almost a couple of trillion dollars has been pumped into the economy, ”the businessman notes, speaking about measures of state support. “I’m absolutely sure this will help.”
In fact, Parsons says, his hedge fund began to recover in March, and now its assets are already below the pre-crisis level by $ 400 million, not $ 700 million. To the entrepreneur’s surprise, many of his retail tenants were able to pay the rent. Now he plans to hire 20 new employees at the Scottsdale Golf Club: “I believe that in June, July or August I will return to the level I was before quarantine, if not better. I don’t need to feel sorry, I will be back in service soon.”
Parsons claims to be doing everything possible to protect his subordinates. Like many other businessmen, he allowed his employees to work from home. And for those who can’t, he hired medical personnel who stand at the entrances to the main offices and measure the body temperature of each incoming person. Moreover, the businessman redesigned the Spooky Fast motorcycle workshop in Scottsdale into an antiseptic plant for his employees.
Sometimes a businessman himself comes to the local office to help the backbone of the working staff: “We don’t like dancing in a Catholic school, where the distance between people is measured with a ruler. But we keep a distance of 2 meters, wear masks, and everywhere there is a sanitizer.”
Perhaps more than the rest of Parsons’s quarantine assets, YAM Properties, a commercial real estate company, has suffered. Among the tenants of its multi-purpose buildings in Arizona are Chase Bank, Bed Bath & Beyond home improvement stores, and the AMC Theaters cinema chain. According to the billionaire, many others pay rent with difficulty.
“We do our best to enter everyone’s position and believe that people are above everything else,” says the entrepreneur. “We meet them as soon as possible.” We ask how much they can pay and when, rather than threatening to close everything. We don’t do that. ” Parsons even helps to raise the business (and at the same time morale) of its tenants by arranging evening film screenings in the parking lots of its two shopping centers.
The businessman instructed one company to install giant screens in the parking lots of shopping malls. Visitors pay $ 15-20 per car and can listen to sound through an unused wave of the FM band. Guests are invited to order food and drinks from establishments renting space in the mall. Moreover, if visitors spend more on orders than the cost of the “ticket”, then it will be returned to them. Parsons clarifies that over the past week and a half in one of these car theaters in the Sonora Village shopping center, he managed to sell 1,772 tickets and earn $ 17,300 – much less than he spent on organizing the events themselves.
Another area of Parsons activity that has been affected by the coronavirus is the Bob and Rene Parsons Charitable Foundation, which provides funding for education, healthcare, and veteran projects. Since 2012, spouses have donated more than $ 180 million to charity. In 2013, they took the “Oath of Gift” and pledged to allocate at least half of their fortune to charity initiatives.
This fund, whose assets were estimated at $ 30 million as of 2018, transfers about $ 1 million to various projects every two weeks. The businessman says that this year it will not be easy. However, Parsons remains committed to fulfilling its commitment to the initiatives it has signed up to.
Being a fighter by nature, the entrepreneur does not believe that the coronavirus is as deadly as it is portrayed by the media, and considers the number of deaths to be overpriced. “Getting COVID-19 and dying from something else is not the same as dying from COVID-19,” he argues. “But many people were counted among those who died precisely from COVID-19, although I do not consider them as such.” Many experts, including the director of the National Institute for the Study of Allergic and Infectious Diseases of the United States, Anthony Fauci, will not agree with him.
The billionaire is pleased with how the Arizona governor Doug Dewey cope with the pandemic. The head of state allowed beauty salons and hairdressers to return to work on May 8, and restaurants and coffee shops on May 11, subject to compliance with physical distance measures. Parsons stresses that “the whole country should be open.”
He is looking forward to a return to normal. The billionaire wants to meet with friends and freely go to baseball games, without worrying about any means of protection.
“Everyone wears masks,” the businessman concludes. “Now every day is like Halloween, only without sweets.”
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