Burn, Burkle, Burn?

A mostly political Weblog.
April 22 2006 8:14 PM

Burn, Burkle, Burn!

Did the NYT get scammed by a PR-worthy anecdote?

New York TimesScammed by Clinton-Burkle Spin? The NYT's John Broder and Patrick Healy describe the origins of the life-giving friendship between Bill Clinton and Ron Burkle  with a PR-perfect paragraph that should have set off the BS-meter:

The two men first met when Mr. Clinton was running for president in 1992 and touring neighborhoods in Los Angeles that had been torched during riots after the acquittal of several police officers charged with beating Rodney King. Mr. Clinton noticed that some supermarkets were still open, and asked why, his aides recalled. He was told that those stores were not burned because the owner, Mr. Burkle, treated his customers and employees fairly. Mr. Clinton asked to meet him.

Hmm. Too good to check? Not if you have NEXIS!  At the time of the riots, Burkle owned a chain of markets called Food 4 Less. (He apparently didn't acquire Ralph's markets until 1994.) Here's the lede paragraph of a June 1, 1992 story in the Orange County Business Journal:

Ron Burkle was in the middle of a meeting in a downtown Los Angeles hotel room when the Rodney King verdict came in last month. As word of the ensuing riots spread, television sets in the room were turned on. Burkle, chairman of La Habra-based Food 4 Less Supermarkets Inc., soon found himself watching intently. Buildings were burning. His buildings.

When the smoke finally cleared, Food 4 Less tallied its losses. The operator of the Boys' Markets, Viva and Alpha Beta stores that provide inner city residents with most of their groceries had sustained some $ 25 million to $ 30 million in riot-related damage. At the height of the riots, 44 of its stores had been shut down. A handful were burned to the ground. Another dozen were so badly damaged that it would take from a month to several months to make them operational once more.

Burkle says he never once considered turning his back on his turf.

"When you watch your stores burn and watch the looting, you can get upset by events," he says. "It would probably be easier to just abandon (the inner city). But we're not going to do that." [Emphasis added]

Is NEXIS too expensive for the NYT? Let's all chip in and buy them a subscription. ...

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P.S.: What other Burkle-related BS is the gullible NYT buying into?

P.P.S.: For a ... skeptical, non-Timesian view of Cliinton/Burkle's investments--including a claim that they aren't doing so well--here's a January  NY Post op-ed by Peter Schweizer.** ("The funds' real emphasis, in short, seems to be Democratic cronyism.") Schweizer's piece backs up one of the more contrarian Burkle conspiracy theories: That he wants to keep his divorce records secret not because they'll reveal how rich he is, but because they'll reveal that (thanks to his investments' poor performance) he's not as rich as everyone thinks. How rich could you get investing in Al Gore's cable channel?

P.P.P.S.: "Since 1986" A March letter  to the Post from a "spokesperson" for Burkle's company responded to Schweizer's piece, claiming:

Since 1986, Yucaipa's returns have averaged over 40 percent annually, and in the last two years alone, investments have saved or created over 40,000 jobs.

That doesn't exactly answer the charge that Burkle's recent investments, funded by state pension funds and advised by Clinton, haven't produced such good returns.

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