David Siegel, the timeshare and resort mogul who owns the Westgate Park City Resort and Spa in Park City, has told his employees that if President Barack Obama is re-elected and raises his taxes he will have to lay off employees and maybe even shut down his sprawling Florida-based empire that includes resorts in at least eight other states.
"If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company," Siegel wrote earlier this week to his 7,000 employees.
"Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. ... My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired and with no employees to worry about," Siegel said in his 1,600-plus-word letter.
He was unavailable for comment Wednesday. A secretary in his corporate office said the letter was authentic.
Siegel started his company 42 years ago in his garage. In 2000, Westgate Resorts began construction of the Park City property at the base on the Canyons resort. In 2006, Westgate added a 192-unit condominium unit called The Lodge at Westgate Park City Resort and Spa.
He and his wife, Jackie, came into the public’s eye in 2004 when they started construction in Florida of "Versailles," at 90,000 square feet, reportedly the biggest new house ever built in the U.S. Their story was first chronicled in a book, "The High-Beta Rich," by Robert Frank, and later in film director Lauren Greenfield’s documentary, "The Queen of Versailles," which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
But, as Siegel writes in the letter to his employees, after the economy tanked in 2007, he has had to stop building his dream house, cut back on all of his expenses and take his children out of private schools "simply to keep this company strong and to keep you employed."
Siegel never mentions Obama by name, nor does he explicitly instruct the employees to vote for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. In fact, Siegel encourages them to vote for the candidate who they think will serve their interests best.
"The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job, however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration," he wrote.
Much of the letter is devoted to defending the super-rich, who Siegel says are unfairly maligned by the Obama administration and the media who believe they don’t pay enough taxes.
"They want you to believe that we live in a class system where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. They label us the ‘1%’ and imply that we are somehow immune to the challenges that face our country. This could not be further from the truth," Siegel wrote.
The truth, he said, is that, unlike many of his friends who worked at regular jobs for 40 hours a week and "spent every dime they earned," Siegel plowed all of his earnings back into the company, drove a used car and stayed home on weekends.
"They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put all my time, my money, and my life into this business — with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford to buy whatever I wanted," Siegel wrote.
"Now," he said, "the economy is falling apart, and people who like me made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced [with tax increases] to bail out all the people who didn’t."
It’s unclear how many Westgate employees work in Park City. A call to general manager Brian Waltrip wasn’t returned.
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