The Curious Case of Dan Gilbert

It’s been three whole days since Dan Gilbert won the…

Wait, I’m sorry.

It’s been three whole days since the team that Dan Gilbert owns, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have won the NBA Finals; and in quite a historic fashion might I add. I’m almost sure that he’s somewhere in downtown Cleveland, obviously still rich as fuck, and finalizing the ticker tape parade preparations for today’s city-wide celebration. However, I would prefer to imagine that the life size troll that is Daniel Gilbert is somewhere pissing fire over the fact that not one player has thanked him publicly for signing the checks that made the team possible.

I mean he’s the real architect right? At the end of it all, with one of the team payrolls in NBA history at over $115 million, isn’t he the one who made it all possible?

Or maybe this may be the result of a small yet effectively annoying chicken coming home to roost.

In 1985, Gilbert, his younger brother and two friends started Rock Financial, an independent mortgage lending company. By the mid 1990’s, the company grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the country and in in 1999 they were purchased by software company Intuit Inc for $532 million. Quicken Loans was born and began to positioned themselves at the forefront of lending directly to consumers over the internet with Gilbert still at CEO. In 2002, with the help of a small group of private investors, he was able to purchase the Quicken Loans subsidiary back from Intuit for $64M and base operations in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

Now lets take a closer loot at this mortgage lending behemoth.

In the wake of 2007’s historical housing market crash, Quicken Loans and Gilbert boasted they were free of the predatory practices of crooked mortgage lending. However, in the years following the disaster many feel it’s been business as usual.

Based off of thousands of complaints from consumers, and inside information of former employees, Quicken Loans have found themselves in hot water with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  This past April, they filed a lawsuit alleging that from 2007-2011, Quicken knowingly submitted improperly written loans, encouraged employees to forego FHA rules and all but demanded property appraisals be inflated. As a result, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) paid millions of dollars in unnecessary insurance claims.

“Quicken issued hundreds of defective mortgage loans, and left HUD — and the taxpayer — to pay for the loans that defaulted. Quicken’s alleged fraudulent conduct affected communities nationwide. This case is the latest step in our commitment to hold accountable mortgage lenders who profit by taking advantage of HUD insurance and issuing defective loans that do not meet HUD’s standards.”-U.S. Attorney John Walsh

*If you have the time, feel free to brush up on the entire lawsuit here.

That being said, we’ve established Quicken and Dan Gilbert operate out of Detroit. So is it safe to say that he’s contributed to some of the economic despair the city has faced in recent times ?

Well, yes and no.

Dan Gilbert has been lauded as one of Detroit’s greatest sons, contributing $1 billion dollars to the revitalization of the city, but we all know what that means. If you need an example, look no further than New Orleans. In the years following the devastation that hurricane Katrina dealt, developers have moved out a significant portion of the poor demographic to develop land. We’ve seen it before and according to many in Detroit, it’s happening again with them.

Detroit is a city which has an African American population of over 80%, and the predatory practices of Gilbert and Quicken have hit that demographic hard. Over the last decade, Detroit had the fifth highest number of mortgages that ended in foreclosure. Furthermore, more than half of all bank foreclosed homes in Detroit are blighted or deteriorated. A whopping 52% of the properties that had actual Quicken mortgages are now blighted, demolished, or have been seized. In total, more than 1 in 3 homes have been foreclosed in 10 years in Detroit. That’s the equivalent of every single house in Buffalo, New York.
So how is it that a man behind such scandal was granted the opportunity to reinvent himself in a completely unrelated industry? Money of course, and a shit ton of it.
Back in 2005, while crippling a completely different city’s home ownership market, Gilbert purchased majority ownership of the losing Cavs from Gordon Gund, and also inherited the services of a once in a generation talent in LeBron James. He gave the team a complete managerial and coaching overhaul and began to build a real core around his budding superstar for their uphill climb. To say it would be highly unlikely to make one of the perennial basement dwellers in the NBA relevant would be fair. Molding that core into a team who could contend for a championship would damn near be impossible.
Imagine if that same vigor and zest for winning existed before his companies exploitative lending procedures helped to keep Detroit in ruin, but I digress.

In 2010, the Cavs were able to reach The Finals on the back of it’s franchise player and all seem right with the world. Cleveland, best known for suffering more than it’s fair share of crippling sports defeats, finally seemed primed to end their curse and finally have a winner of their own. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite their time yet and they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals, but by that point LeBron James had enough and wanted out.

Following that season, James was naturally pursued by every team in the league and finally let the world know during the now infamous, live broadcasted “Decision”. James informed us all that he’d be “taking his talents to South Beach” to play for the Miami Heat and also with good friend, Dwayne Wade. Thing is, he didn’t let anyone in the Cavs organization know, like nobody. He didn’t give a heads up to teammates, ownership, coaching staff, hell, he didn’t tell anyone in Cleveland itself.

To say Dan Gilbert was excluded is an understatement.

What followed was written out character assassination and honestly one of the saddest displays of emotion by a man who essentially just signed a guys check. Following LeBron’s decision, Gilbert wrote these gems in open letter to Cavs fans on the teams website:

“…As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment. Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us…You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal… I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”…I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our “motivation” to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels…Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there…This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown “chosen one” sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become…The self-declared former “King” will be taking the curse with him down south. And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James…will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”

*For full effect you can read the entire letter here.

This guy had no problem with sounding like a scorned ex-girlfriend, and that petty, pathetic, unprofessional shit was kept up on the official team website for 4 fucking years. Hilariously, it was only taken down once his man crush LeBron expressed interest in rejoining the Cavaliers after winning 2 championships in 4 years with the Heat. That’s when people really started to ask what could motivate a man to such extremes. They began to look a little further into Gilbert’s other dealings, mostly his involvement in the deterioration of Detroit thru dirty business practices.

So once the Cavaliers won their historic game 7 against the Golden State Warriors, eyes turned immediately to the nights hero in James, and to the man who looked like he was just itching for some props in Gilbert. Surely the men he paid would name him first on their list of thanks. Alas, that gratitude never happened.

The man who’s grimy business procedures assisted in the homelessness of countless citizens of Detroit ironically finally found himself in a similar position.

Left out in the cold.

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