Welcome to another edition of our regular Letter from America, today we welcome another contribution from our very own Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes. In his article, he explores and gives his insights into Apollo Global Management and the buyout of Diamond Resorts in 2016. Inside Timeshare ran a series of articles on this subject at the time but Pete has a better understanding of this and explains it in a very simple and easy manner.
A Tiger can Change his Diet – from Junk Bonds to Timeshares
A junk bond has some value, but Diamond points have no resale value
New York-based Apollo was founded by veterans of junk-bond pioneer Drexel Burnham Lambert. The firm is known for its willingness to make aggressive, sometimes contrarian, bets. April 20, 2018
By a Pete Gibbes, MBA, CFA
August 2, 2019
Over a year ago, I filed a complaint against a Diamond Resort sales agent. Buying Diamond points has caused our family considerable anguish. We have lost about $60,000 we can’t afford to lose. The public must be made aware that anything a timeshare sales agent says must be verified to be believed.
I have 20 years’ experience in the investment industry. I worked as a portfolio manager for a firm that caters to high net worth individuals, foundations, endowments and retirement plans. The firm I worked for currently has $2.9 billion under management. I have an MBA, a CFP (inactive) and a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst).
Thinking about how timeshare has evolved from a hard asset to ethereal points, I wondered why Apollo Global Management, the third-largest equity firm, would be so interested in timeshare. Venture capital is typically associated with fast-growing companies and start-ups, like high tech or biotechnology, rather than a mature industry like timeshare. Apollo acquired Diamond in 2016.
One need not look for the answer any further than Wikipedia. History provides the answer. Apollo’s predecessor company was Drexel Burnham Lambert. DBL filed for bankruptcy in the 80s after incurring a $650 million fine over a junk bond scandal that sent Michael Milken to jail for securities fraud. Apollo probably isn’t allowed to deal in junk bonds anymore.
Apollo simply reinvented their lending by switching to timeshare. Timeshares provide an even better return (to private equity and stock investors) due to the fact Diamond points are worth nothing on resale. A junk bond is a lower-rated bond, and, like a sub-prime mortgage, has some value. When Diamond takes points back, the turnaround to resell is quick since foreclosure is non-judicial. It takes less time to foreclose on points than it would on a hard asset like a house or a fixed week timeshare that is defined as real estate. Diamond points are not deeded.
After taking Diamond private in 2016, an Initial Public Offering was planned for 2018. For some reason, the IPO did not materialize. The IPO was expected to generate over a billion dollars of profit for Apollo.
From the Wall Street Journal:
By Maureen Farrell (from the article linked above)
Updated April 20, 2018 10:11 a.m. ET
Private-equity firm Apollo Global Management APO -0.58% LLC is preparing to take Diamond Resorts public in the coming months, according to people familiar with the process.
The timeshare resort company has filed confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is expected to start trading in June or July (2018), these people said. Apollo could seek a valuation for Diamond Resorts of around $4 billion and aim to raise in excess of $500 million in the offering, though price expectations are moving around, according to people familiar with the process.
If Apollo moves forward with a listing this summer, it would come less than two years after the firm closed its $2.2 billion purchase of Diamond Resorts in September 2016. That would mark the latest quick move by Apollo to put one of its recently purchased companies back into public markets.
Our oral representations:
The only proof we have is the “S3” and “G2” our Virginia sales agent noted on the illustration below. We owned 11,500 Diamond points prior to our downfall. Mark said that if we became ‘Silver’ Loyalty members at 15,000 points, we would have the OPTION to SELL 15,000 points back to Diamond after three years (December 2019) for an estimated $108,000. If we increased our points up to ‘Gold’ loyalty level, we would be able to exercise this type of option after two years. Mark wrote $108,000 on a separate piece of paper.
Diamond’s Clarity™ Promise
While other companies make promises, we deliver. This is Diamond RESPECT:
- We will provide clear, concise and consistent information at our presentations so you can easily decide whether committing to vacation ownership is the right decision for you and your family.
I was sceptical when Mark presented this because I had not heard of a buy-back program. I asked Mark, “How in the world can Diamond offer to buy back our points for more than the total amount of all shares purchased? “Oh, it’s because Diamond makes a lot of profit on points sold to you, as well as maintenance fees over the years. Plus, they can recycle the points,” Mark explained. This made sense. Mark explained the program in astonishing detail.
While we are stuck, both disabled, with points we bought to make a small profit, Apollo will rake in over $1 billion if the IPO comes to fruition.
A timeshare sales agent can earn over $2 million a year selling timeshare points that have no value on the secondary market. If deceived, a timeshare company can dismiss oral misrepresentations with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what sales agents say.” Some state regulators second the dismissal. This equates to no regulation. The buyer is stuck with a perpetual contract and no secondary market. A viable secondary market is mentioned as a risk to stock investors.
What can we do? Continue to reach out to lawmakers, the media, regulators, hoping someone, someday, will shed light on the unfairness of the oral representation clause.
Join our efforts to promote our clear, concise message.
A buyer cannot rely on a word a timeshare sales agent says
Without recording the sales presentation, you have no proof. This assures sales agents that they can continue without reprisal.
Our Diamond self-advocacy Facebook, launched by an economics professor, has over 3,300 members.
We seek to provide timeshare members with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.
Free at Last Facebook
Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide
Gold Key Facebook
Inside Timeshare Facebook
“On June 26, 2016, the Diamond Resorts board voted in favor of the company’s sale to Apollo. But Cloobeck abstained from that vote. In not one, but two board meetings, Cloobeck said that he was abstaining because mismanagement of Diamond Resorts had negatively affected the sale price and it was therefore not the right time to sell the company.
Diamond failed to inform the stockholders of the reason for Cloobeck’s abstention:
Highlight the link above right click and select go to.
Thank you Pete for all your hard work on behalf of all our US readers including the coordinating of the Secret Shopper program.
If you would like any information on becoming a Secret Shopper contact Inside Timeshare using our contact page and we will pas it on to Pete. This is a very important program as it helps to spread the word and warn others of what to be aware of and how to avoid the pitfalls of “UPDATE MEETING”.
Have a great weekend and join us again next week.