Amway co-founder: We didn't run Alterra

Analysis

The story is based upon an interview with Richard DeVos when asked by the GR Press about the claims Gov. Granholm made in the debate on October 2. DeVos was speaking at Cornerstone University and was asked to react to the claims made in the debate. Richard DeVos and business associate Jerry Tubergen were the only sources cited in this story, both defending what gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos said about the claims from the Democrats. Why did the Press not seek out a Democrat response to the comments from DeVos or Tubergen? Does this story seem biased?

Article Text

GRAND RAPIDS — Amway co-founder Richard DeVos said Wednesday his son, Dick, and the rest of the family were given only a short briefing about problems at the former Alterra Healthcare Corp. nursing home chain.

RDV Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jerry Tubergen, who was chairman of Alterra’s board, also said Republican candidate for governor Dick DeVos had no hand in running the company, which was cited for patient abuse and mistreatment. RDV is the DeVos family investments office, charged with overseeing its portfolio.

Richard DeVos said Tubergen talked to the RDV Corp. board about Alterra and told the family he would “take care of it.”

“I really delegate, and I leave it alone and we move on,” he said in an interview following a speech Wednesday at Cornerstone University.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm raised the DeVos family’s involvement with Milwaukee-based Alterra from the mid 1990s through 2003 during Monday’s gubernatorial debate in East Lansing. She said Dick DeVos and his family had a controlling interest in the company and should have done something to avert sexual and other physical abuse of the elderly at some of Alterra’s operations.

The elder DeVos reiterated his son’s earlier statements, saying he and his family were only passive investors in the company and never had controlling interest despite investing more than $170 million in the company.

Alterra filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection in 2003 and its assets were later sold.

Securities and Exchange Commission filings indicate the DeVos family did control the company, though the DeVos’ campaign said the family only had the option to take a controlling interest that it never exercised.

Tubergen’s involvement as chairman of the Alterra board also raised questions about how much Dick DeVos and his family might have known about Alterra’s troubles. Tubergen is one of the family’s closest associates.

Tubergen said neither Dick DeVos nor any family members had any operational involvement in Alterra.

RDV invests in a variety of companies, Tubergen said.

“Sometimes our investments get to be significant dollar amounts, but they’re always passive investments,” he said. “Certainly in that case, and almost in every instance, it would be a passive investment.

“We’re not running companies. We’re not buying companies to run. That’s just not what we do.”

Tubergen said many senior living facilities have similar problems.

“This is not unusual,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, for sure, but it certainly isn’t something that hit our radar screen.

“Sad to say it, but it is part and parcel of that industry. These are elderly people. They have 20,000 of them in that organization, thousands and thousands of residents at any point and time.”

Tubergen said it is a “wholly inappropriate” issue for the campaign.

“I think they know that,” he said of the Democrats. “That’s the part that is very bothersome. I think they know better. But it certainly does make a nice sound bite.”

Richard DeVos also lashed out at Democrats for linking Amway’s growth in Asia and job cuts in Ada.

“It’s not an issue, really. It’s a non-issue. We have a plant in China, we make things there, we sell things there,” he said. “We never shipped any jobs. She’s trying to confuse that. Because the U.S. volume was down, we downsized the company.”

DeVos said Granholm is “hard up for issues.”

“The only thing she can think of, since she can’t talk about her record, is to badmouth Dick or us. So she’s decided to badmouth the family, badmouth Amway and to badmouth Dick,” he said.

DeVos said issues brought up by the Granholm campaign are issues “Dick has to deal with.”

“Dick’s got to get a little more aggressive and blow back at her a little bit,” he said. “There are things (being brought up) that are irrelevant to running for governor.”

The rough-and-tumble campaign is taking its toll on the elder DeVos, he said.

“Oh, it hurts, yeah,” Richard DeVos said when asked if charges against his son had an emotional impact. “I dream up the answers. I dream up what I would say and how I would counter, but you know, Dick’s not me and I don’t get in Dick’s way.

“This has got to be his campaign. His father has been sort of his mentor in the business. But this is different. When he becomes governor, he’s the governor, so not by the grace of his old man who did something to help him other than support him. But he’s the guy who’s got to do this job and he will.

“He’ll be a good governor.”

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org