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"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness"

-Timothy 6:10

Pat Robertson's Business Practices

Pat Robertson is a wealthy man. An extremely wealthy man-some estimates put his net worth at 140 million. He lives on the top of a Virginia mountain, in a huge mansion with a private airstrip. He owns the Ice Capades, a small hotel, diamond mines, and until recently, International Family Entertainment, parent company of the Family Channel. How does a televangelist, who is supposedly involved in non-profit work, manage to create such a fortune for himself? Apparently, between dealing with murderous dictators and ripping off senior citizens, its not that hard.

Pat the Media Mogul

The Pat Robertson success story starts with the Family Channel. He started it in 1977, using money donated to his Christian Broadcasting Network, in order to increase viewership potential of the 700 Club, and filled the rest of the time with cheesy old TV shows. The popularity of the channel soon grew, and it began to turn large profits by 1989, meaning that it could no longer legally be a part of the non-profit CBN. So what does Robertson decide to do? He partners up with TCI, and arranges for CBN to sell the Family Channel to himself and his son (Tim Robertson) for next to nothing. He then took the company public in 1992, with the stock sales making him a wealthy man, to the tune of 90 million dollars. In other words, he took money that people had donated to CBN for the purpose of spreading Christianity, and used it to build himself a media empire. Recently, Pat sold off the Family Channel to Mr.-Anti-Family-Values himself, Rupert Murdoch, the man behind "Melrose Place" and "Married...With Children." Of course, this sale increased his fortune even more. Is all of this legal? Barely. Ethical? Hardly. Something you would expect from a true man of God? Most definitely not. Pat could have sold the Family Channel to someone else, and returned the profits to CBN, seeing as it was CBN donor money that started it in the first place, but he chose the road to massive personal gain.

Pat the Scam Artist

With his ill-gained fortune now in place, Pat experimented with a number of new businesses, the most interesting among them being American Benefits Plus/Kalo Vita. This was a multi-level marketing scheme along the lines of Amway and Avon. Here, Robertson recruited people across the country (starting in '91-'92), as many as 20,000 people (many of them retirees) to sell coupon books. He told them in training seminars that his program was backed by the Bible, and that they could earn $15,000-$20,000 a month. Things didn't go that well with the coupon books, though, and Pat suddenly decide to change the company into Kalo Vita, and sell vitamins. Problem was, this left people with coupon books unsold, and when they tried to send the books back to AFB/Kalo Vita, they found out that they would not be refunded their money. One 76 year-old woman in in Indianapolis was stuck with $7,000 worth of unsold coupon books, and had to refinance her home. During the subsequent investigation, it was found that CBN had "loaned" money to AFB during its founding, almost 3 million dollars.

Diamond Pat

Another one of Robertson's more notorious business deals is the recently exposed diamond mine case. In this ingenious venture, Robertson saw an opportunity in the country formerly named Zaire (now the Congo) for diamond mines. The former Zaire is a country rich in natural resources, including diamonds, but these resources were thus far being plundered by its (former) dictator, the brutal Mobuto Sese Seko. Mobuto (who recently died of cancer) was one of the world's richest men, while his people lived in grinding poverty. It was often noted that he could have cured all of his country's ills by writing a personal check. Mobuto had been trying to come to the US to try to improve relations, but the State Department refused to grant him a visa, due to his lengthy human rights violations (see the Pat's Dictator Friends page for more info). In all of this, the clever Pat Robertson saw an opportunity. The two became close associates, and Mobuto allowed Pat to open diamond mines in Zaire, under the name of the African Development Company, while Pat tried to persuade the State Department to allow Mobuto entry into the US. Ultimately, it was found out that Pat had been using CBN money and equipment to aid his diamond mining operation in Zaire (see the News page for more details). A good deal for Pat, seeing as he employed people in Zaire for ridiculously low wages, and managed to use CBN's infrastructure to cut costs even more.

Ultimately, one is struck by the constant use of non-profit, donor money used to fund Pat's schemes, and the total lack of ethics that this man has. Anyone thinking about sending money to CBN to "promote the gospel" should definitely take note; chances are that your money will end up being used to increase the fortune of one Marion "Pat" Robertson instead. For even more information on Pat's business practices, I encourage you to check out Rob Boston's book entitled "The Most Dangerous Man in America? Pat Robertson and the Rise of the Christian Coalition," from which some of my information comes.