WE’RE BACK!!! Welcome (back) to Zero Sum Empire, the podcast that’s taking a critical census of the mostly-anonymous American billionaire class. Sorry we’ve been gone for so long. Joe was on paternity leave. Please like, subscribe and share.
In the News: Vinod Khosla is back with some new lawsuits to keep those pesky surfers off of the public beach he thinks he owns. That leads us into a discussion of his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince MBS and Peter Thiel. Then that leads us into the absolutely crazy story about Jeff Bezos’ dick pics, the National Enquirer, Saudi state propaganda in Wal-Mart, Thiel’s Palantir data analytics company.
Billionaire #1: Fisk Johnson
1/10 on the David Koch Memorial Asset Liquidation Index
Fisk Johnson is CEO of S.C. Johnson, the cleaning products company that makes Glade, Windex, Drano, Ziploc, Saran, Pledge, Method, and a bunch of other products you’ve probably used. Fisk Johnson is our first “1” on the D.K.M.A.L.I. That does not mean his assets should not be liquidated. It just means it’s somewhat less urgent to take his money than most others we’ve covered. For a cleaning products company that deals with a lot of chemicals, S.C. Johnson’s environmental record is sparkling. They also seem to have relatively sane labor practices. In truth, because it’s a privately held company, there’s a lot about them that we simply don’t know. Chad talks about the company’s “welfare capitalist” model and why any apparent positive outcomes of this model are not sustainable or replicable for most companies.
Billionaire #2: Joseph Liemandt
5/10 on the David Koch Memorial Asset Liquidation Index
Joseph Liemandt started Trilogy Software and ESW Capital, an investment company that buys software companies. While that might be incredibly boring, Liemandt makes up for it by being a party boy when he’s off the clock. Details are scant, but he was a subject of Emily Chang’s Brotopia, and according to her he “wrote the bro code” that created a hostile environment for women in Silicon Valley tech (link to article below). After creating a software company that mostly produced toxic masculinity, he went on to start a “Global Software Sweatshop” that employs a truly dystopian employee surveillance technology called WorkSmart, “a FitBit for how you work.”
Liemandt: “How A Mysterious Tech Billionaire Created Two Fortunes—And A Global Software Sweatshop: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2018/11/19/how-a-mysterious-tech-billionaire-created-two-fortunesand-a-global-software-sweatshop/#655dbd846cff
National Enquirer and Saudi Royal Family: https://apnews.com/d293d282a9ec4d0c83fe0a25ff5f285c
References on S.C. Johnson and welfare capitalism:
Sanford Jacoby’s Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism Since the New Deal
Stuart Brandes’ American Welfare Capitalism, 1880-1940