Stadium financing is a scam no matter where it happens, but it’s particularly appalling when a bankrupt city like Detroit is conned into gifting $285 million to Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch so that he can build a new hockey arena. It gets worse: One of the men who negotiated with Ilitch on behalf of the city now works for Ilitch.
George Jackson is the former president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a non-profit organization that the city of Detroit contracted to conduct negotiations on the Red Wings stadium deal. Jackson resigned from the DEGC in 2014, and went on to start his own real estate consulting firm. This past November, Jackson’s firm was contracted by Ilitch’s arena development company to help with the $627-million stadium and real estate deal.
According to Jackson, this is all no big deal. From the Detroit Free Press:
In a written statement, Jackson emphasized that he fulfilled all of his professional obligations after resigning from the DEGC and said there was never any suggestion of impropriety concerning his role in the arena deal negotiations.
“I left public service well over a year before my firm accepted a private client,” he said in the written statement. “Why should I be denied the opportunity to earn a living in my hometown, when I have skills, experience and knowledge that can be put to good use — and will create jobs and opportunities for other Detroiters?”
Maybe Jackson is being honest, and this is all above-board, but there’s something inherently shitty about him going into business with Ilitch. A public employee who negotiated a sweetheart deal for a very rich man suddenly jumping to the private sector and then scoring a lucrative contract from that same very rich man is about as shady as it gets.