Financial Folly

Oriental Trading Company

Almost everybody gets the Oriental Trading company catalog.  It is a catalog of party favors and trinkets.   The company was founded in 1932 by Harry Watanbe in Omaha, NE.  His son, Terrance, inherited the business in 1977 and continued to grow the company until he sold it for an undisclosed sum in 2000.  After the sale, Terrance was expecting to devote his time and efforts to philanthropy. Within a few years he started gambling at Harrah’s casino in Council Bluffs.  By 2005 Terrance was a high roller in Las Vegas.  By 2007 he had managed to lose $204 million, in addition, he had borrowed another $14.7 million from the casinos and lost that also.  It has been called the biggest losing streak in Las Vegas history.  Court battles ensued and eventually Terrance was cleared of his gambling loans.  After Terrance sold Oriental Trading Company it went on to file for bankruptcy.  A buyout firm, KKR, brought the company out of bankruptcy in 2011 and recently it was sold for $500 million to Berkshire Hathaway.  How ironic would it be if Warren Buffett hired Terrance to run the company again?