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JewishJournal.com

November 24, 2007

It’s not about ethics, it’s business

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/its_not_about_ethics_its_business/


Everyone’s favorite Jewish ice cream entrepreneurs, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—yes, that Ben and Jerry—are currently locked up in a bitter battle with soured franchisees.

No religion angle here, except the shirt shopowner Alan Sherman is wearing in Newsweeks photo (right). But this reminds me of a story I wrote last year about accusations that Thomas Kinkade, the self-styled “Painter of Light,” had used his Christian faith to defraud investors.

Controversy has surrounded Kinkade for the past four years, after stock of the company he took public (Media Arts Group) plummeted from a high of $23 a share to less than $3. In 2004, he bought the company back at about $4 a share. Kinkade is now the sole owner.

His paintings are known for their vibrant colors and idyllic settings, their country cottages, chilly creeks, and glowing clouds. “The critics may not endorse me,” the artist told CT in 2000. “But I own the hearts of the people.”

Individual investors run some 500 Kinkade galleries worldwide, with the overwhelming majority in the United States. Signature Galleries, which sell only Kinkade art, cost upwards of $50,000 to open. Media Arts Group required that new owners attend a training conference called “Thomas Kinkade University.” Yatooma said this is where his clients drank “the Kinkade Kool-Aid.”

“Thomas Kinkade University had a revival-like atmosphere. They would close in prayer and join together in worship. Everybody would leave with their head spinning—now sign the dotted line,” Yatooma said. “They thought they were going to make money by sharing the light.”

Other investors told me that was nonsense, “comical” even, because they opened Kinkade galleries to make money, not spread the gospel. Which reminds me of that Mafioso axiom: It’s not personal, it’s business.

Two side notes:

According to my friends at Reel Intelligence, Kinkade’s inspirations may soon be, ehem, gracing, the big screen. Or, because the movie is “Thomas Kinkade’s Home for Christmas” and a release date has yet to be set, maybe they won’t.

Anyway, my favorite flavor is far and away Half Baked.

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