Dick Clark, the iconic host of American Bandstand died today at age 82. As people rightfully applaud him for his huge contribution to American pop culture, it should also be noted that Dick Clark was a first-class prick to do business with. How do I know this? He stiffed me for over $20 thousand.
From 1990-2003 I owned a company that sold tools and equipment to cable TV companies. Dick Clark owned a small cable system in the Bakersfield, California area.
Although I never personally dealt with Dick Clark, I was happy to do business with a company that he owned.
At first everything was fine. We'd ship them equipment, send them an invoice, and in thirty days, give or take a few, we'd get a check in the mail.
After building up a good credit rating with us they started placing much larger orders. That's when the trouble began. That's when the checks stopped coming in.
When I started legal proceedings to collect the debt I found out that Dick Clark had a dark side. He had a reputation for "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and eventually stopping payments altogether. I was told that this pattern was pervasive and many of his businesses simply didn't pay their bills.
His cable TV company remained in business while vendors like me were left holding the bag. He could always find a new supplier. Everyone liked and trusted Dick Clark, right? I did.
My company went out of business in 2003 and Dick Clark contributed heavily to my demise.
I'm not a bitter person and I don't hold grudges. I haven't even thought about Dick Clark in years... until today.
Am I glad that Dick Clark is dead? No. Do I hope he rots in hell? No. (Partly because that would mean that there actually is a hell).
Do I think that he was an unethical businessman who traded on his impeccable reputation only to leave people like me in his dirty wake? Yes.
I hope that before he died Mr. Clark had a moment of clarity about an extraordinarily successful and dishonest life.