Question: Can you recall a particularly challenging moment in your career and how you navigated through it?
“So you know, I recall it’s really obvious, ‘a particularly challenging moment,’ there’s been several, but I schedule my day, every day, most to least. So if I look at the most ‘particularly’ challenging, it would have to be the attorney general. The subprime hit the mobile home business way before ’08, it was actually 2000, just at the end of 2001. At that time, a lot of the captive finance companies for mobile homes went belly up: Green Point, Green Tree Associates. So really, that was in the heyday, though, of the mortgage business. The mortgage business was hot.
So the way to get a mobile home financed, you lost the captive finance companies, Green Point, Green Tree Associates, etc., because they went down in ’01 and ’02. Well, then you had a six-year period where the mortgage industry was fueling up for ’08 when that crash came nationally. What ended up happening is during that six-year period, the mortgage industry got hot, and they were making mortgages at 500 credit scores. It was just a crazy, crazy time. Option ARM’s (Adjustable Rate Mortgages), stated incomes, and option ARM’s basically were just creative options. Betting on the future, and stated incomes meant you didn’t have to prove any income, just say what it was, and they took your word, and down to 500 credit score.
There was an onslaught of people wanting to buy mobile homes and put them on land. That became a ‘fad’ thing to do. So I had salespeople, and it was on me. I’ve explained a lot of times in an analogous situation. It’s kind of like a university that gets sanctioned by the NCAA because of a lack of institutional control. Well, I’m the institution, in that regard, so I’m to blame because it was a lack of control by me, a lack of institutional control. I just had a lot of salespeople that just took deposits from folks that didn’t qualify and never would. It was just like it was like a gold rush. It was just amazing.
What ended up happening is there were a lot of disgruntled people because that money was spent out for appraisals. Those appraisals really shouldn’t have ever been bought, shouldn’t have ever been paid for, and so a lot of people paid for things that they didn’t have a chance at getting a loan for. And again, I didn’t control it very well; it was under my watch.
So I had just a heck of a time getting out of that situation. Jay Nixon was the Attorney General at that point, and unfortunately, it was an election year and I was a prime target. We had been the number one dealer in the state for years. And again, that was just a politically perfect scenario for him. I was within 15 miles of Jeff City, easily to get on their radar, rightfully so because of the whole appraisal thing and people spending money on things that they shouldn’t have. I was able to maneuver through that and come out on the other side, but it was a challenge. It was a really trying time.
At that same time, my stepson, my wife’s only son, died in a car accident. Our business was family-owned. My wife, Kelly, my stepson, my daughter, and Kelly’s brother all worked for me. Whenever that tragedy happened, he died in a car accident in ’01. That was just the perfect storm for everything, and it was hard for me to keep my focus, but I made it through it, and life goes on.”