Military airmen have an expression that is sometimes applied to business, political or journalistic efforts. ‘You don’t catch flak unless you are over the target.’
Andy Gedo’s LinkedIn profile lists him as a “Partner at ManageAmerica.” He has reportedly worked with that firm for over 18 years and his circle of contacts includes numbers of those involved in manufactured home land lease communities and who are Manufactured Housing Institute or other state trade group members. Additionally, per LinkedIn, Gedo’s higher education includes a Master’s degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of California at Los Angeles, plus a BS degree in Psychology from Brown University.
It is fair to say that Gedo is no intellectual lightweight. He clearly has a working knowledge of manufactured housing that spans numerous years.
On March 14, 2020 Gedo took exception to the post on this topic.
Hold that thought for later.
More recently, on April 17, 2020, Gedo weighed in on this topic linked below. It began a series of back and forth comments between MHProNews’ L. A. “Tony” Kovach, this writer and himself.
That “dialogue” can fairly be characterized as having the elements of a somewhat polite debate. It started out innocently enough. The entire discussion will be laid out for readers who are or aren’t engaged on LinkedIn to ponder, as it is a present MHI member debating the behaviors of key MHI firms and that association – Gedo – and a former MHI member questioning the behaviors of the MHI trade group and several of their key members.
Typos in what follows are in the original and the only edits have been to remove the words like “continued” or Part 1 of 3, which is necessary on LinkedIn, but not in an article like this. No change of the actual text of either commentary has occurred, as a comparison to the original thread of comments on LinkedIn will reflect. After the lively discussion, there will be an MHProNews commentary and analysis.
Partner at ManageAmerica:
The above link rates Judicial Watch a “Questionable Source” with the following reasoning: “Extreme Right, Conspiracy, Propaganda, Some Fake News.”
L. A. “Tony” Kovach,
Managing Member, LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC DBA: MHProNews/MHLivingNews, et al.
Andy, I respect the question/comments. First, let’s jump back in time. A few weeks ago, you did a similar ‘casting of doubt’ about our report on the possible origins of the Wuhan virus being that BL4 lab – The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Now, there is more evidence that it is a possible source of the outbreak. Do you think you might owe me a public word of retraction for your prior error?
Next, as to Judicial Watch, MHProNews clearly put disclaimers on this report. They self-label as conservative, and that means that those on the political left will think of them as an unreliable source. Perhaps – you tell me – you read more left-of-center media sources? If so, that’s fine, because we source across the left-right spectrum. That said, your comment missed the point of the report. It is less about JW than – as interesting as that is – than it was about their pattern of pushback and how that can pay off. Our industry needs a post-production association that does more than posture, and pose for photo ops, don’t you agree? Do tell, thanks.
I agree with your thesis that the MH industry needs devil’s advocates or contrarians. Any highly concentrated industry needs this. And you may have a point that since our industry lacks contrarians, it may be worthwhile to look to other industries for examples — but Judicial Watch is an inappropriate example, because they are trolls, not contrarians. Nick Russo explains this difference in his excellent blog, which I’ll link below but quote here: “The intent of a troll is to incite anger and spark controversy with outcomes that often align to some ulterior motive. A troll’s purpose is rooted in manipulation to convince people to think and act a certain way…. In your newly formed rage, the troll usually tries to sell you something, usually an idea about a product, yourself, or the world… A contrarian seeks to expand horizons through dialogue. They don’t tell you what to think, only what they think and why they think it. The best ones provide some explanation and examples behind their reasoning. Contrarians are often also trying to sell you something, like a new way of thinking or operating your business, but there isn’t a backdrop of dishonesty.”
Thanks for your clarification, because again to me the JW example is tangential. Thus no need for me to respond to that other than to note that there were questions I asked you beyond Judicial Watch that you opted not to answer. Please do.
That said, let me clarify your new comment from my perspective. “Any highly concentrated industry needs this, regardless of how one feels about the oligopolists who dominate it. And you may have a point that our industry lacks contrarians…”
First, there are current and prior Manufactured Housing Institute members that question MHI, plus others beyond us. Some examples are linked below, but there are others we’ve reported.
Second, and this is not meant to be disrespectful, I’ve stressed that we respect being questioned in an honorable fashion. There is more to MHVille’s woes than a mere need to be a devil’s advocate or contrarian. Manufactured housing has been underperforming for over 15 years. Why is that so? T
hat underperformance is outrageous during an affordable housing crisis. In sports or business, if you have a failing QB, coach, manager, they get replaced. Why isn’t that happening at MHI? Its called accountability, which is a valid function of media.
For those who may not know, MHProNews’ respects and cherishes the rights of private property, free enterprise, free speech, and other rights of free people in America. That noted, you wrote: “Any highly concentrated industry needs this, regardless of how one feels about the oligopolists who dominate it. And you may have a point that our industry lacks contrarians, so it may be worthwhile to look to other industries for examples…”
Google = “The Moat” “Warren Buffett” or “Castle and Moat” “Warren Buffett” = 3rd party media across left-right divide have covered issues that MHProNews also weighed in on. Putting the search query in quotes gives a more focused result.
Consumers and small businesses are being harmed by underperformance and purported market manipulation. Market manipulation would arguably harm investors – and also hurts firms like your’s Andy.
Is it revealing that after conflicts of interest have been exposed by apparent MHI insiders that MHI’s board hasn’t acted? Isn’t it revealing that they won’t publicly discuss or debate their own performance?
As tragic as COVID19 is, its an opportunity to create robust growth for manufactured housing. That won’t happen so long as the status quo remains unchanged.
Corrupt, inept, failed, manipulative – whatever you want to call it the powers that be? Feedback welcome.
Communities, Assoc Exposé – Whistleblower “Leaks” – Lesli Gooch Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) CEO and Sheila S. Dey, Executive Director Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA)
I have been in the MH business longer than most LinkedIn users have been alive, so I know its recent history and can answer your questions. The reason that MH sales have underperformed for 18 years is that 18 years ago, in 2002, we had a brutal day of reckoning when Conseco (the parent of the largest MH chattel lender) went bankrupt. This was not an isolated incident — it was the most prominent example of a parade of MH lenders who left the business starting in the early 2000’s.
The industry’s problems were worsened by a string of manufacturer bankruptcies, many of which had their roots in a rapid (and, in hindsight, tragically unwise) expansion by manufacturers into the MH street retailing business. Not only did the manufacturers open new retail locations which closed within a few years, but they also bought many of the well-established local retailers and eventually washed those locations down the drain as well. The manufacturer bankruptcies opened the door for the consolidators, first Clayton/Berkshire, soon followed by Champion and Cavco. But buying up unprofitable manufacturers was no panacea, as Champion eventually discovered; they declared bankruptcy in 2009. his was the inevitable result of nearly a decade of irresponsible and sometimes predatory lending by many MH chattel lenders. Many of their securitization deals were disasters and our residents/borrowers were not the only victims — so were the bond investors. So, six years before the conventional mortgage meltdown, MH chattel lending virtually disappeared for anyone with a flawed credit history.
Cavco survived, in part by focusing on park models, which appeal to a more affluent buyer profile. Clayton survived by creating its own chattel finance operations. Clayton’s finance capability is a barrier to entry (what you like to call a “moat”) that limits competition. Barriers to entry can sometimes be exploited through unfair competition to gain monopoly power in a market — a good recent example from another industry is the behavior of the Epi-Pen manufacturer. But that’s not what Clayton/Berkshire did. The resident owned community model (ROC and the like) has expanded rapidly in recent years, and there’s no structural impediment that prevents another manufacturer from staring a chattel operation, or some ambitious bond originator from creating a chattel loan securitization. I simply don’t see any evidence of unfair competition in what Clayton has done. Without Clayton’s financing power, commitment, and discipline, our industry would be far worse off — not better.
(last one, I promise): Now I have a question for you, Tony: If the “big 3” of Clayton, Cavco, and (new) Champion control so much of the market, isn’t it in their interest to increase MH sales and expand the market? Aren’t all the oars pulling in the same general direction? Why do I get the impression that you’re pushing some kind of conspiracy theory? Isn’t the simplest explanation the one most likely to be correct? Thanks for giving me a healthy weekend activity! Best regards, Andy Gedo
There is nothing quite like a good discussion that strives to use facts, and some of the facts you used have a measure of merit to them. First, you have still ducked some of my original questions, and I’m not going to let that go without mention. Please go back and answer those. Next, with all due respect, the words “conspiracy theory” frankly are an emotionally charged head-fake to readers who may not dig into ALL the facts. As the linked articles reflect, it is Champion and Skyline which have put IN WRITING in their OWN WORDS that their focus is CONSOLIDATION. That happens to fit what Kevin Clayton has also said on video in an interview that has that part of the text transcribed here.
Put differently, if you looked carefully and objectively at the report you posted
your comments on, they already answered your question.
Kindly answer those questions in the light of the EVIDENCE, not red herring distractions, presented in reports like those linked above and below.
Finally, for now as to Judicial Watch – and they are tangential to this discussion, so it is not my point to belabor the issue. There is not a person, media outlet or organization – ours included, there are no exceptions – that one can’t find examples of error. That said, merely smearing an organization by citing an opponent is just that, a smear tactic. Keep in mind that I sat on an MHI board, elected by my peers, and was praised by Tim Williams/21st Mortgage, Jim Clayton and others in the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington orbit precisely for our reliance on facts, evidence and reason. Care to argue with them about that, Andy?
Now, please answer the questions you have not yet addressed, including those in this part of the thread. Thanks, as this is useful to many.
Andy, one last thought for now as to your thesis. It arguably has several serious problems.
Are you going to tell the readers here that Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corp, Skyline-Champion, Cavco and MHI are so inept as to be unable to advance the manufactured housing industry during an affordable housing crisis?
Isn’t the far more logical conclusion the one we’ve proposed on MHProNews – using their various parties own words – that their current focus is consolidation – using the Warren Buffett Castle and Moat methodology?
“There are but two parties now: traitors and patriots. And I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party.” – Ulysses S. Grant.
Please, do tell, Andy. Thanks again for an interesting discussion.
I agree that Judicial Watch is largely irrelevant to the larger issues here. I encourage your readers to research JW independently and determine for themselves whether JW is an objective and unbiased source of information.
I respectfully decline to discuss statements that anyone from Clayton/21st/Berkshire, or MHI may or may not have said about you in the past. It’s obvious from your recent blog posts that you are not a big fan of either organization, so I prefer to stay out of the middle of your interactions with them.
Andy, you don’t have to comment on what Jim Clayton, Tim Williams or others have said to engage on the rest of the topics in order to address the other points in this discussion. I’m happy to have you skip that. However, the questions still stand, because evidence has been presented that you are for some reason not addressing. Please do so. Thanks.
I circled back and reviewed this whole thread, and based on the unlikely assumption that anyone besides the two of us is still reading this, I’ll try to restate and briefly answer each question I haven’t yet answered:
1) COVID-19 Origins: United States Intelligence investigators are including the “Chinese Bioweapon” theory as one of the possible COVID-19 origins that they are investigating. This is how professional intelligence analysts operate, they investigate all the possibilities, and they take particular pains to investigate the ones they consider unlikely, to avoid confirmation bias. This is a good thing, we’ll see which theory is supported by the evidence. But it’s irresponsible fear-mongering to suggest that this is the most likely theory.
2) Clayton statements about consolidation: Clayton has bought 9 homebuilders in the last 3 years but they’re all site-built homebuilders. So, sure, they remain focused on consolidation but they have escaped the shrinking MH pond and are now swimming in the vast site-built ocean, which swamps any dependence they may have on a barrier-to-entry moat.
3) MHI performance: With the benefit of hindsight, I will agree that industry leaders (including but not limited to MHI) could have done a better job of addressing regulatory overreach on chattel lending and of managing the industry’s brand. But it’s easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback, especially about something this complex. ManageAmerica is an MHI member and we regularly act as one of the sponsors at its events; I’ll let that speak for itself.
Tony, please restate any remaining questions I may have overlooked.
Andy, I respect someone willing to debate in public.
That said, it is unjust to say that “But it’s irresponsible fear-mongering to suggest that this is the most likely theory.” Never said that, did I? Please do not put words in my mouth, which is the old Straw Man argument technique.
The point made weeks ago and more recently in our publications are many, but included the notion that U.S. intelligence had to have some insights on this matter that we’ve in the general population have not heard about yet.
Since that point was raised on our site, for whatever reason, that is increasingly being raised in mainstream media too. Some are saying it is an accidental release of a studied pathogen, others that it was a bioweapon, etc. But that misses several points, doesn’t it?
Either way the key questions ought to be who knew what, when, why and how – and was it covered up? If it was covered up, who benefits from that cover up?
Next, while you somewhat addressed Clayton, you didn’t specifically address the quotations made by Kevin, or Skyline-Champion and Cavco – or Sun Communities leaders for that matter. Please go back to those linked reports and address the specifics. Don’t they in fact each say in their own words that they are building a moat, focused on consolidating, etc.?
The fact that Clayton is buying site builders arguably only muddies the waters with anti-trust regulators. Keep in mind that we have it on good authority that there are investigations by public officials into these matters. That too belies the cheap shot of ‘conspiracy theory.’ So, please do address all of those sources who have alleged – as MHProNews has – that Clayton et al are engaged in behavior that fits the definition of antitrust.
As to MHI performance. Sorry, but your comment – while a start – respectfully misses several marks.
What the focus of a good manufactured home trade association should be doing is to ENFORCE EXISTING LAWS that ALREADY favor manufactured housing. FYI, I’m not shouting, it is the only way to emphasize text on LinkedIn.
For example: it is mighty hard for MHI to enforce enhanced preemption when they don’t even use the words on their own website, isn’t it? Why did they do so years ago, but not since the Berkshire era began? See what Democratic lawmakers have said.
Then, what about MHI and the Duty to Serve manufactured home lending? Instead of promoting lending on ALL manufactured homes, why are they pushing for the arguably failed new class of manufactured homes dubbed CrossMod homes? See what was said at the FHFA Listening Sessions.
Furthermore, it is Tom Hardiman at the Modular Home Builders association that tagged them hard for the obvious. Hardiman said in his own words that MHI is running away from supporting their own industry’s products.
IMHO Andy, the problem isn’t that there is a “conspiracy theory,” as was previously demonstrated that there are numerous sources inside and outside of manufactured housing in respected publications that make the points that MHProNews has for years. Only we have pulled them together for thinkers to observe for themselves. Indeed, thanks to tips from insiders, we have documented what others have not done so.
Here is the link about state and federal investigations of Berkshire owned brands.
Do tell, thanks.
Going back to my day job Tony, thanks for the dialog!
Andy, your comment came in Sunday afternoon at 1 PM ET. Work day on your end?
You asked in your last series of messages to point out or raise issues in your responses. I did so in depth, citing research, facts and quotes in context. Your education suggests some debate experience, which I respect. But either way, did you decide to throw in the towel?
Given the significant evidence from the very parties in question, no one should blame you for not trying to do more to attempt to defend and/or deflect from the allegations about the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis, specifically MHI, some key members such as Clayton Homes, and their allies.
You gave it a good try. Too bad the principals involved at the various organization we mentioned in manufactured housing won’t try to do what you and I just did. My respect for your efforts, but the thesis advanced at
MHProNews at this point stands. Take care, stay healthy, best wishes.
MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
Gedo has previously tried to defend Clayton Homes with this writer on LinkedIn, but not to the same depth as above. It is an open question if Gedo was nudged into this public debate on LinkedIn, as sources indicate that Tim Williams with the Ohio Manufactured Homes Association was nudged into trying to verbally defend Lesli Gooch and MHI, or if Gedo acted on his own accord.
Either way, the outcome was the same. Perhaps Gedo or someone else will pick up the mantle of that thread, which is linked here. Views on LinkedIn of that post have roughly doubled since that largely polite exchange began. We would invite – indeed, encourage – someone from MHI, Clayton Homes, Cavco Industries, Skyline Champion or other MHI members to pick up where Gedo left off, and hopefully with a similar level of his intellectual effort and general respect.
Gedo frankly ought to have respected for his effort. But as the at this point closing comment by this writer notes, the thesis that Gedo attempted to disprove stands.
Informed sources at several of the various firms named indicate that they have been following the discussion. While hundreds have already seen it there, perhaps 10 or 20 times that number will see it this month on MHProNews, and thousands more will see it for some time in the months ahead. Topics like this tend to be ‘hot reads’ on MHProNews.
That fact – previously evidenced in several reports like the ones linked here and here – are part of the reason why MHProNews dominates all others in manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use.” © There is sadly no one else on that publishes or blogs in MHVille that dares take up a serious challenge of the powers that be in manufactured housing.
That said, one of several key comments made by Gedo merit highlighting. One of them is this.
Why does this discussion/debate with Gedo matter? Because the manufactured home industry is underperforming. It has been for years.
As was noted above, while Gedo is correct that the industry’s slide began before the Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway buyout of Clayton Homes and their associated lending, one might have logically thought that what Gedo suggested would be true. Namely, Gedo said this: “Tony: If the “big 3” of Clayton, Cavco, and (new) Champion control so much of the market, isn’t it in their interest to increase MH sales and expand the market? Aren’t all the oars pulling in the same general direction?”
That does indeed seem logical, but it is as MHProNews noted in our response to that contradicted by the very words and behaviors of documents and officials at those firms. The examples of quotes linked in the thread of responses to Gedo include these examples to document that point. They say themselves that consolidation or “M&A” are more important to them at this time that overall industry growth.
Put differently, the firms that tend to dominate the industry have said in their own words the very things that MHProNews has alleged. That has been confirmed in several ways by writers outside of manufactured housing too. While that isn’t the same as a courtroom conviction for antitrust or other possible market-rigging allegations, it is nevertheless the possible cornerstones of such legal or regulatory actions. It has been just over a year since this report was done by John Oliver, and our fact-check indicates that every company mentioned by Oliver for problematic behavior is an MHI member.
It was after Gedo had the opportunity to read those quotes for himself again that he ended the dialogue. Who could blame him, based on the evidence from key MHI members in their own words?
MHProNews will report to the industry if any executives at Clayton Homes, Cavco Industries, Skyline Champion, MHI staff or other members will attempt to engage on a similar discussion of their purported behaviors, lack of performance during an affordable housing crisis, problematic behaviors and dismal outcomes.
Last for now, the industry in this tragic post-COVID19 outbreak could be poised for serious growth. That won’t occur unless the status quo is shaken up. Gedo himself seemed to suggest that the industry needed “contrarians” because consolidation has given power to a handful of larger firms.
Can a moat be breached? It was in medieval times, and it can be in modern times too. Part of how that can be done is by exposing corrupt, conflicts of interest and other purportedly improper behaviors. MHProNews welcomes the tips, comments, documents and other items that can help root out the arguably corrupt and/or inept behavior by so-called ‘leaders’ that has kept manufactured housing underperforming in the Berkshire era.
Stay tuned for more from your #1 source for the most-read manufactured housing “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.