Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony

It’s a very small world. While reading a Wall Street Journal article about Martha Stewart and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), I was reminded of what I see as a very similar situation here in Ithaca with Jason Fane and his Ithaca Renting Company.

Martha Stewart. I’d always admired Martha Stewart’s business acumen and ambition. In her role as professional domestic doyenne (goddess is overused, and a bit too worshipful for my taste), she has created an empire. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 10, 2012), Martha Stewart controls almost 90 percent of the voting rights in MSLO.

The stock prices have plummeted, however, and her brand has become less popular (MSLO is shutting down Whole Living after unsuccesfully trying to sell the magazine), and Stewart herself is, in my opinion, motivated by a disingenuous id-like state. The id operates on the “pleasure principle.” The id has merging and conflicting forces that happen simultaneously. In other words, the id’s destructive instinct is as strong as its creative instinct. Reality is not on its list of priorities.

Stewart’s board of directors has members who seem to have replaced directors capable of telling her “no.” Since a board’s main responsibility to the organization is its fiduciary duty (fiscal fitness), it seems ill-advised (at best) to increase salary and/or perks when you’re laying off employees, shutting down operations and witnessing lessening returns. I was disappointed when I read the latest reports on Stewart and MSLO.

Jason Fane. I have only ever heard poor remarks about Jason Fane, and Ithaca Renting Company. Translated, that means poor brand management. Of course, since he owns so much property, and is quite well off financially, it is often said, so he can afford to wait for people to pay the rather exhorbitant rents the company charges. While he’s waiting, storefronts stand empty. Our local economy suffers, perhaps in part, because of that attitude.

Businesses on the Commons are in a constant state of flux. Many storefronts stand empty for a long time. Others change names frequently. Now, we have several long-term businesses going out of business because of retirements. These were our constants. Will their leaving begin a more precipitous downslide in tenancy? Is there no heart for creating a vibrant commercial “district” downtown? Has Jason Fane, and through him, Ithaca Renting Company, become so wealthy, big and powerful, that all must bow to what is, even in the case of greed, what I see as an exhorbitant need for more, more and still more? That id’s floating around again, like a specter.

I read Mr. Fane couldn’t say what the rents would be in his new units by the Ithaca Police Department (three three-story 12-unit buildings). In light of his many current properties, property development and years of experience, it seems disingenous to plead ignorance on the subject, but what the hell, money is power, right? It reminds me, ruefully, of a refrain that continuously floated through my thoughts during our recent election season . . . “The wrong people are wealthy.”

Martha Stewart, when questioned about the brand issue, is reported to have said, “I should be paid twice what I’m being paid and the stock should be at $20. I am this company.” You’d think that would serve as a clue. “Yes, you are the brand. Doesn’t that suggest you should be taking better care of it?” Or is it only the money which matters? No worries, it’s just a thought.


Lockert Anthony is a local writer, teacher, and business owner. She consults and coaches.

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