Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has temporarily put thousands of people out of work.
The billionaire told Bloomberg that he has furloughed 40,000 people who work for his restaurant and casino empire. Fertitta’s Landry Inc. restaurants include the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Morton’s Steakhouse and McCormick and Schmick’s, and he also owns a casino.
Per the article, the number of people furloughed at Fertitta’s companies represents 70 percent of the corporation’s workforce.
Fertitta, who has an estimated net worth of approximately $4.5 billion by Forbes, is one of the folks who wants to get back to limited business as soon as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he wanted to start getting things back to normal around Easter while health experts continue to caution that the pandemic’s health effects on the population will continue to get worse in the immediate future.
“I think what we are doing with the shut-down is good but in a few weeks people will need to be around people,” Fertitta told Bloomberg. “Otherwise you are going to go into an economic crisis that is going to take us years to dig ourselves out of.”
Over 50,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States through the limited testing available — approximately 1 in 1,000 people have been tested — and over 800 people have died from COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning.
Fertitta also told Bloomberg that he saw a great opportunity in buying back some of the casino’s debt after the pandemic was over. Would it be unfair to think that paying the thousands of workers furloughed throughout the pandemic would also be a good opportunity? Fertitta said that his businesses were going through “a few million dollars of cash” per day. But when you’re worth over $4 billion, $4 million represents less than a thousandth of that net worth.
Fertitta also tried to cut the salaries of workers at a hotel he owns earlier in March. He reversed that decision following backlash.
Fertitta purchased Rockets in 2017
Despite his massive net worth, Fertitta has penny-pinched with the Rockets in normal times. Fertitta has spoken numerous times about the team’s need to stay below the NBA’s luxury tax for player salaries and the Rockets’ transactions have seemed to be guided by that tax ceiling.
The CEO of the Rockets, Tad Brown, said two weeks ago that the franchise was putting together a plan to help the hourly workers at the Toyota Center who lost work because of the NBA’s hiatus.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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