The Haft Rivalry rides herd on the Internet!
Now it has extended to the Web in a very competitive Arena!
Yup, the "boys with the pompadour haircuts" are at it again. They used to play
"darts" in the form of Dart Group, their corporate battleground. That mess
ended up in the 90's wrecking the Dart Group and its subsidiary empire including:
Dart Drugstores, Crown Books, and the Trak Auto Parts supply stores! The
father and his "disowned, estranged" son are perpetually engaged in endless
one-upmanship tactics. Too bad, there was something wonderful that could have
happened big-time in terms of a father-son relationship. It could have been great,
their corporate talents could have led them to unbelievable prosperity and satisfaction!
Alas they choose to pull part for good, maybe due to Herbert's internal struggle with
his famously titanic ego! The beat goes on.. this time, the playing field is the huge wide
open cyberspaces of the www!! They are taking it to us online! Now I'll cut to the chase
and take you to their new worlds they have chosen to coexist in, although at a distance:
1. Mr. Robert Haft, aged 47, the "Son". His new
website is into "drugs and
medicine" making a pretty good income: presently forecast to reach $40 million!
His web home I'll call "exhibit 1": Vitamins.com. His approach? I like it.
Very friendly, forthright, committed, and a reasonably short, yet effective disclaimer
and copyright notice which is tucked nicely at the bottom of "about us" section of
his site! And this page has a photo even of his "team"! I vote that this site be the
"protagonist" side of the Haft Drama! More info on his side of the equation:
Mr Robert Haft took over the Phar-Mor company in 1995, and took it out of
a bankruptcy reorganization and has extended it to e-commerce as well.
Now that I've selected for you the protagonist, its time to meet the antagonist:
CNBC Photo Ron Coddington, KRT Photo/Caricature sample
2. Mr Herbert Haft, aged 78, who I will call the
"Poppa". His new website just
happens to show up right after the launch of the son's site, although "Poppa"
denies that he was copying his boy's strategy for web implementation. "Poppa"
Haft's site, which I will call exhibit #2: Healthquick.com Now things will get
interesting. "Poppa" Haft" really, really, really is trying to keep out of lawsuit
country with one of the biggest, "airtight" website legal mumbo-jumbo user
agreement notices and disclaimers I have seen: Check out this Disclaimer page!!
That's not all, look at
"Poppa" Haft's home page
once again. See where it says
"Never Never Undersold"??? and: "We undersell AARP, GNC, and all Online
and chain drugstores by up to 50%"!!!!!!! How can he do that and stay in business?
We are told that "Poppa" outsources all of his operations to a company called
Sales-Link, a unit of CMGI Inc. Also we are told no Rx work is done on the
Healthquick site due to the hassles and costs of doing this business. I'll tell you
what, the internet drug and medical fields are expanding tremendously!! I don't
give this player much odds under these conditions, given his "undersell" or "give
back 150% policy" made on his website. Time will tell!
Source: The Cleveland Plain Dealer, whose source in this
case was Mr James F. Peltz
of the LA Times. Stop by and check the "LA Times" out, they can point out
some really neat things in the news!
I've been watching this feud for a while;
This chapter of their feud as described above will be interesting :)
BTW, here's an interesting relevant definition:
haft , n.
1. a handle, esp. of a knife, sword, or dagger. v.t.
2. to furnish with a haft or handle; set in a haft.
*Herbert Haft [ b. 1920 ];
Dad's Empire *
By WALTER KIRN (NYT) 837 words
Late Edition - Final , Section 6 , Page 53 , Column 1
Business was war for Herbert Haft, but his flaw in the end was that he couldn't stop shooting, even after the battleground was his and the only targets for his cannons were his own victorious troops. When the pompadoured, cuff-linked, ballet-attending, tennis-playing, Popeye's-fried-chicken-loving founding father of American discount retailing lost his last skirmish in the fall at 84 -- his once vast holdings in stock and real estate reduced to two suburban Virginia shopping centers and his only ally a second wife whom he'd wed in a ''say I do'' mini-ceremony held in the hospital room where he lay dying -- he was indeed a lonely army of one.
Haft's was the sort of self-vanquishing career that fancy journalists like to call Shakespearean but that, with its all-American emphasis on underdog grit and up-from-nothing nerve, better resembles an Arthur Miller play. His empire started with a single drugstore, which he called Dart Drug, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington and a single, surprisingly controversial idea: sell the stuff everyone sells, but for less. Back in the middle of the last century, shopowners like Haft were at the mercy of national suppliers, who dictated retail prices for their products. Federal fair-trade laws protected this strong-arm practice, and merchandisers understood that fiddling with the price tags of brand-name goods meant losing the privilege to stock them.
But the prickly Haft wouldn't have it. He wouldn't bow -- even when goliaths like Revlon, Eli Lilly and Mars threatened to stomp his Dart Drug into the ground. Haft sued for his right to slash prices and finally won a judgment from the Supreme Court in 1960. The old, restrictive fair-trade laws fell. What replaced them was a freer, fiercer market for everything from aspirin to mascara that, as an unintended consequence, made America safe for Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
This first campaign won, Haft shared the bounty -- and much of the power and responsibility -- with his family. For Gloria, his wife, and Linda, Robert and Ronald, his children, it was a remarkably sweet deal. As the company expanded, adding auto-parts chains, groceries and commercial real estate to its holdings, the family members were awarded first-class voting stock unattainable by the public. They also enjoyed well-compensated seats on various company boards and unusually generous, unusually long 10-year employment contracts. Life was good. The family restyled itself as a clan of socialites, attending ritzy parties, buying mansions and patronizing the fine arts. Young Ronald, whose love of sunny California led him to buy two expensive houses there, established a reputation as a great playboy.
But prosperity didn't soften the old man; it toughened and emboldened him. Despite his chauffeured limo and private jet, which he used for Caribbean vacations, the stubborn, rebellious, short-in-stature Haft went on suing people and bullying rivals and playing the same litigious sharp-elbowed game that had served him so well when he was hungrier. Having pioneered low-price retailing, he joined his lawyers to explore a second unorthodox business frontier: the lucrative practice of greenmail. By threatening to take over more sizable, more solidly established companies whose stock he had already purchased in quantity, Haft forced the firms' managements to buy him off by acquiring his stock at hefty premiums. For all his sporty, artsy airs, Haft had only two pastimes that truly thrilled him: making deals and filing lawsuits.
Having gained the world through financial and legal fisticuffs, Haft turned around in 1993 and -- unwilling or perhaps unable to put down his bruised old dukes -- challenged his first son, Robert, to a brawl. He fired the boy from his lofty job at Dart and instigated what soon became an all-out internecine feud. Gloria and Linda took Robert's side, and the prodigal Ronald lined up with Dad. The attorneys rushed in like ants to a dropped ice-cream cone, crawling over everything and everyone and quietly, incrementally carrying off so much of their clients' wealth that the contest no longer had much of a point. Haft and Gloria wound up divorced, Robert and Linda walked away with cash and stock and Ronald, who had once seemed to be on the sidelines, was now welcomed back as his father's viceroy and took charge of Dart.
And then, not long afterward, Haft took Ronald to court, of course, further exhausting what was left of his empire and his energy. He had to do it, though. He had no choice. Because that was Haft's nature and the nature of the new business world that he'd helped build and shape: to slash away, to fight and go on fighting, no matter against whom, or over what.
Walter Kirn, a frequent contributor to the magazine, is the author, most recently, of ''Up in the Air,'' a novel.