||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (October 2012)|
|Founder||David A. Siegel|
|Headquarters||Orlando, United States|
Westgate Resorts is a Florida based timeshare resort firm founded by David A. Siegel in 1982.
The company first expanded from Central Florida to Miami and Daytona Beach, then outside the State of Florida. Today, Westgate comprises 28 resorts in destinations throughout the United States such as Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Park City, Utah; Williamsburg, Virginia; Miami, Florida; Branson, Missouri; Mesa, Arizona; and Tunica, Mississippi. On July 1, 2014, Westgate announced the acquisition of the LVH – Las Vegas Hotel & Casino as the newest addition to its portfolio of resorts. Westgate also recently purchased the Cocoa Beach Pier, a historic landmark on the Space Coast built in 1962, and the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League.
Most Westgate Resorts locations feature a variety of unique restaurant, retail and spa concepts, including Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, Westgate Smokehouse Grill, Edge Steakhouse, Westgate Marketplace & Deli and Serenity Spa by Westgate. In December 2014, Westgate Resorts broke ground on Westgate Lakes Retail Village., a new $11 million, mixed-use retail development at Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa in Orlando, Florida, that will feature specialty stores, as well as Edge Steakhouse, Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, Joe’s Marketplace & Deli, arcade, 32,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space, and a more than 450-space parking garage.
- 1 History
- 2 Philanthropy
- 3 The Queen of Versailles
- 4 Lawsuits
- 5 Political controversy
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Founded in 1982, Westgate Resorts operates as a subsidiary of Central Florida Investments, Inc. (CFI), which employs 6,500 people and has evolved into the largest privately held corporation in the Central Florida area. Starting with its original 16-unit resort at Westgate Vacation Villas, Westgate Resorts now encompasses more than 10,000 guestrooms at 28 full-service resorts. Siegel was recognized as a CEO of the Year honoree by the Orlando Business Journal in 2014.
Westgate Resorts operates the Westgate Resorts Foundation, which was started in 2001 and gives out more than $2 million annually to charities and causes in communities where Westgate Resorts employees live and work. In addition, for five consecutive years, Westgate Resorts has given away 1,500 free vacations to military families each November.
The Queen of Versailles
In 2012, filmmaker Lauren Greenfield released a documentary entitled The Queen of Versailles, based on a series of interviews with Siegel, his wife Jackie Siegel, and their attempt to build a 90,000 square foot mansion, Versailles house, modeled after the famous French original. In the film, David Siegel is shown struggling (and ultimately failing) to secure funding for Westgate's Las Vegas high-rise resort, the Ph Towers Westgate. Siegel's son and senior Westgate executive, Richard, is quoted as saying that David Siegel's determination not to lose the Ph Tower was a major source of the company's financial troubles in 2009-11. On November 22, 2011, a controlling interest in the property was sold to Resort Finance America LLC.
Legal dispute with building contractor
Westgate Resorts was sued in a federal court in Las Vegas for failure to pay bills relating to the pH Towers and building work allegedly carried out to a poor standard. On February 27, 2013 Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ordered Westgate Resorts to pay the plaintiff, Tutor-Saliba Corp., $9 million in unpaid bills, and awarded $2.6m to Westgate for various shoddy building works including a cracked concrete swimming pool.
Class action lawsuit
Westgate Resorts was sued by 300 former sales employees in 2010 for unpaid sales commissions. They won the lawsuit and Westgate Resorts were ordered to pay $600,000. Despite paying $50,000 initially, Westgate stopped payment and the matter went back to the courts for another three years. The matter was finally settled under Judge Michael Baxley, and Westgate agreed to pay $500,000, $100,000 less than the original judgement required.
In January 2014, Westgate Resorts filed dozens of new lawsuits against many of its former employees who were involved with this class action lawsuit, claiming that it deserves to recover previously paid sales commissions. According to the Orlando Sentinel, many of those included in these new lawsuits feel that these new legal actions are "...retaliation for the award granted to the defendant in a class action lawsuit," and one of the lawyers representing the former Westgate employees is quoted as saying that the action is "unconscionable".
United States of America versus Westgate Resorts Ltd
On January 20, 2009 Westgate Resorts Ltd. was found guilty and had to settle with the US Government for its violations of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“Rule”), 16 C.F.R. Part 310, including the National Do Not Call Registry provisions. As part of its settlement with the US Government, it had to pay a $900,000 fine.
Sexual harassment lawsuit
In 2004 Central Florida Investments and David Siegel were sued by former Westgate employee Dawn Myers. In 2008 they were found liable for battery after a trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The jury awarded $5,378,863.14 but the judge reduced the award to $610,469.84: $103,622.09 in compensatory damages and $506,847.75 in punitive damages. This award arose from Myers's claim of battery under state law, but her claims of sexual harassment were found to be time-barred. In January 2010, The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dismissed an appeal and cross-appeal, affirming the district court's verdict.
Lawsuit against the Sundance Institute and the The Queen of Versailles filmmakers
On January 10, 2012, David Siegel and Westgate Resorts, Ltd filed a lawsuit in Florida against the Sundance Institute and the filmmakers of The Queen of Versailles, claiming that Sundance's published film description was defamatory. On January 23, 2013, the United States District Court Judge Conway of the Middle District of Florida, ordered a stay of the lawsuit pending arbitration. In her order, Judge Conway called the testimony previously offered by Mr. Siegel during court hearings, "inconsistent and incredible and thus lacking weight".
The matter was subsequently heard before an arbitrator for the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) in June 2013. On March 13, 2014, the arbitrator awarded in favor of the filmmakers, Lauren Greenfield and Frank Evers, including an order that David Siegel and Westgate Resort pay $750,000 to the filmmakers.
The arbitrator wrote in the award, "Having viewed the supposedly egregious portions of the Motion Picture numerous times, [the Arbitrator] simply does not find that any of the content of the Motion Picture was false." The arbitrator also wrote that Westgate had failed to show how it was damaged from the documentary. Finally, the arbitrator wrote that Westgate "did not remotely establish the type of malice required for a defamation claim on behalf of a public figure."
CEO David Siegel, a Republican, sent an email in the fall of 2012 to all of his employees suggesting that he might "reduce the size of this company" if Obama were to win the 2012 presidential election. The email was widely interpreted by the media as a threat to the employees about possible layoffs if Barack Obama were to be re-elected.
Siegel admitted in the documentary The Queen of Versailles as to possibly illegal activities in Florida during the 2000 United States elections, which he claims were singularly responsible for getting George W. Bush into the White House.
Interviewer: "How were you personally responsible for the re-election [sic] of George Bush?" Siegel: "I'd rather not say because it may not necessarily have been legal." (9 minutes 20 seconds into the documentary).
In an August 2012 interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Siegel elaborated on his claims, and it turned out his fears were groundless:
"Whenever I saw a negative article about [Al] Gore, I put it in with the paychecks of my 8,000 employees. I had my managers do a survey on every employee. If they liked Bush, we made them register to vote. But not if they liked Gore. The week before [the election] we made 80,000 phone calls through my call center—they were robo-calls. On Election Day, we made sure everyone who was voting for Bush got to the polls. I didn’t know he would win by 527 votes. Afterward, we did a survey among the employees to find out who voted who wouldn’t have otherwise. One thousand of them said so."
- "Westgate Resorts breaks ground on new $11M retail center". Orlando Business Journal.
- "Meet 2014 CEO of the Year honoree David Siegel". Orlando Business Journal.
- Ph Towers has new owner
- "General contractor comes out ahead in timeshare dispute". Las Vegas Review Journal.
- "300 former Myrtle Beach employees sue 'Timeshare King". WMBF News. Jan 2013.
- "Westgate Resorts owner David Siegel proposes settlement in Myrtle Beach timeshare lawsuit". Global Financial Network.
- "Westgate sues workers who battled company in wage action".
- Westgate pays fine to US Government for violating Telemarketing Sales Rules and Do Not Call provisions
- "Orlando Sentinel 2004 "Ex-employee Claims Siegel Harassed Her"".
- "Dawn Georgette Myers v. Central Florida Investments, Inc., David Siegel, et al." (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "Mr. Big". Orlando Magazine. June 2009. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Eriq Gardner (2013-01-25). "'Queen of Versailles' Filmmaker Wins Key Ruling in Defamation Fight". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
- "Westgate Resorts, Ltd. v. Lauren Greenfield, Frank Evers and Greenfield/Evers LLC" (PDF). 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
- Deshayla Strachan (2013-01-29). "'Queen of Versailles' Spat Heads to Arbitration". Entertainment Law Digest. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
- Eriq Gardner (2014-03-13). "'Queen of Versailles' Filmmaker Beats Westgate's Defamation Claim (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter.
- Adam Benzine (2014-03-17). "IFTA backs filmmakers over "Queens of Versailles" complaint". Hollywood Reporter.
- "IFTA Award by Roy Rifkin in matter of Westgate Resort Ltd versus Frank Evers, Lauren Greenfield, and Greenfield/Evers LLC".
- "Full letter: Westgate CEO David Siegel to employees". WESH Orlando. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- MCT (October 10, 2012). "'Queen of Versailles' David Siegel: Mitt Romney crucial to saving employees' jobs". Newsday. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
- Goldberg, Adam (2012-07-31). "David Siegel, Florida Real Estate Mogul, Claims To Be 'Personally Responsible' For George W. Bush's 2000 Victory". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Berfield, Susan. "Why Time-Share King David Siegel Thinks He Got Bush Elected". Business Week. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- Nolan, Hamilton (9 October 2012). "The CEO Who Built Himself America's Largest House Just Threatened to Fire His Employees if Obama's Elected". Gawker. Retrieved 11 October 2012.