To most fans, the Pistons’ next owner must pass one test.
Is he or she Karen Davidson? No? Perfect.
But that’s insufficient. We must scrutinize potential purchasers with a stronger lens. Thankfully, when it comes to Tom Gores, someone has already done a lot of the legwork.
When Gores’ Platinum Equity bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2009, Matt Potter of the San Diego Reader investigated Gores. He produced an article subtitled, “Billionaire Tom Gores and his family: Sexual affairs, lawsuits, Palestinian ties, Business hardball,” and it doesn’t disappoint.
I have to believe the NBA does substantial background checks of prospective owners. I don’t know how that process works, but after reading this piece, the league will probably have its hands full examining Gores, whose given first name is Tewfiq.
Much of the article focuses on Tom Joubran, Gores’ uncle:
But there is more to the story of Tom Gores and his large, extended family.
He was mentored through childhood, adolescence, and college by Tom Joubran, who became a grocer after arriving in this country and battled years of ethnic bias and criminal charges that he attributes to jealousy and discrimination because he came from the Middle East.
It was Joubran who sponsored the 1969 immigration of the Gores family, including his sister Marie, from Nazareth to Flint, where many members of the Joubran family live.
“I’m so glad I brought them in here,” Joubran said last week. “I provided them a house to live. They worked for me, and I paid them money.”
“Tom [Joubran] was kind of the trailblazer for the family,” recalls his nephew Brian Joubran in a recent telephone interview. “He became very successful in Michigan, and he is a very family-oriented person. He helped out the family a lot in Michigan, which meant that if we needed work and we needed help getting some type of income, Tom would hire us or we would go to Tom and ask him if we could work in one of his grocery stores and he would help us out, and he was very accommodating.
“I think that’s why Tom and Alec [Gores] attribute most of their success to Tom Joubran, because there was a lot of teaching and learning that was being exchanged from family member to family member.”
In 2002, the two Gores brothers, by then living in California, gave $250,000 to their alma mater, Genesee High, to replace the old cinder track with one surfaced with asphalt and rubber. The contribution was recognized with a plaque honoring Tom Joubran and his wife Julia on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.
But there is another side of Tom Joubran.
He has endured decades of controversy: In 1980, during testimony before a United States Senate subcommittee, the executive director of the Saginaw Valley Crime Commission listed him as a “person of interest,” purportedly involved in “organized criminal activities” in the Flint, Michigan area.
Joubran has long maintained that he was a victim of prejudice against Arabs, as well as a vengeful county prosecutor with his own unsavory ties, an integral part of the rough-and-tumble criminal underworld that thrived in Flint and the surrounding Saginaw Valley.
His nemesis was Genesee County prosecutor Arthur Busch, who grew up in a blue-collar household near Flint and counts among his high school friends Michael Moore, the film director who began his career publishing the Flint Voice,an alternative newspaper.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s a gangster, and I don’t care if you print it,” Busch, now in private law practice, said of Joubran during a recent telephone interview. Over the years, Busch accused Joubran of a litany of crimes. One case involved a charge of felonious assault brought by Busch against Joubran in 1995. It was described in a November 2003 Michigan Court of Appeals document.
“The charge arose from a complaint that [Joubran] pointed a gun at a highway worker. [Joubran] entered a no contest plea to the charge of attempted felonious assault and was sentenced to a term of three years’ probation, two hundred hours of community service and costs.”
During that case, a former Joubran employee, Wayne Atwell, testified under oath that Joubran had told him he could have Busch and his family killed, according to an August 1995 Flint Journal account. Joubran denied the allegation. In court, Atwell said that he had four felony convictions and had been sent back to jail after Joubran accused him of taking $1700, the article said. Joubran said he was forced to plead nolo contendere to the gun charges because he didn’t want to risk a prison sentence for the three felony counts originally filed against him, according to a January 1996 Flint Journal report. He was sentenced to a term of three years’ probation, 200 hours of community service, and costs, according to Michigan court records.
In an interview last week, Joubran said he pled no contest because he feared he couldn’t get a fair trial in Flint.
During Busch’s investigation of Joubran, Parish told authorities that when she was a teenager, she had a sexual relationship with Joubran. She later recanted her testimony, claiming that Busch coerced her to make false statements against Joubran.
“In her deposition taken pursuant to the subpoena, Parish testified to sexual conduct with [Joubran] when she was fifteen years old,” according to the court record. “[Joubran] has submitted an affidavit from Parish in conjunction with the present suit, in which she alleged that a member of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department approached her at her home and attempted to force her to provide testimony regarding [Joubran].
It’s unfair to denounce Joubran for crimes he was never convicted of, and it’s even more unfair to assume Gores shares the suggested ethical leanings of his uncle. But Potter uncovered an incident directly involving Gores and his brother, Alec Gores:
Sometime in 2000, Alec’s wife Lisa and his brother Tom began having an affair. Alec suspected something was amiss and retained the services of Pellicano, known for his ability to dig up dirt by using illegal wiretaps and an extensive network of police officers on the take.
During Pellicano’s 2008 trial, Lisa testified that she had called Tom after an early-evening rendezvous at the Beverly Hills Hotel to warn him that she thought they had been followed. One of Pellicano’s illegal wiretaps picked up the 25-minute conversation; the FBI subsequently obtained the tape and played it at the trial.
“Worst case, he had someone following me. So I went to a hotel — big deal,” Lisa was heard saying on the tape. “I’m not going to ever say anything unless I’m confronted. I’ll just deny everything forever.” She continued, “This is the bottom line, Tommy, no one saw inside the room. End of story.” Said Tom, “I don’t want you to have pressure on you.”
Later, Alec testified that he had paid Pellicano a total of $240,000 for his efforts. He also paid for a trip to Hawaii for Pellicano and his family because the private eye “was doing a good job.”
After Pellicano confirmed Alec’s suspicions, Alec confronted Lisa at a family meeting he called with her and his two brothers, Tom and Sam. “I told her at one time I had listened to conversations,” he testified. Lisa and Alec later divorced, but Tom has remained married to his wife Holly, to whom he has been married since their days in Michigan.
I’ve already excerpted a ton from this amazingly reported article, and I don’t want to overstep fair use. You should really read it. There’s a lot more about Gores and his family that I haven’t mentioned here. But I want to leave you with one more snippet from Joubran talking about his run-ins with Busch:
But Joubran said he was reluctant to discuss the matter further because his nephew Tom Gores didn’t want him to rehash the family’s past troubles.
“I don’t have to mention anything about that because my nephew don’t like this kind of stuff, okay? You can’t dredge up Arthur Busch. Leave Arthur Busch out of the picture. We don’t know him, we don’t like him, we don’t want anything to do with him. He’s the nastiest prosecutor we ever had.
“My nephews are doing big, God bless their heart. They came into this country, I sponsored them, and look at today where they are.
Where one of them is: on the verge of buying the Pistons. It’s time we start seriously questioning whether that’s a good thing.