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Billionaire NBA owner says he did 45,000 workers a 'favor' by laying them off quickly

'I'm holding up pretty damn good'

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta waves to the crowd after the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center on Oct. 26, 2019, in Houston. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Tilman Fertitta, a billionaire who owns the NBA's Houston Rockets as well as a variety of restaurants and casinos, framed his swift laying off of tens of thousands of workers as a "favor" to them during a Fox News interview.

Who is Tilman Fertitta? Fertitta, 62, is the owner and CEO of Landry's Inc., which owns about 600 restaurants in 35 states; casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Louisiana; hotels throughout Texas; as well as aquariums, amusement parks, and a cruise line. In 2017, Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets franchise for $2.2 billion.

What did he say? "I'm holding up pretty damn good, but we've got about 45,000 employees out there that we've had to furlough, which is so tremendously unfortunate, who we've got to get back to work as soon as we can," Fertitta said.

Fertitta was asked about the difficulty of the decision to lay off his employees, and he said he came to the decision based on past experience.

"I went through the '87 crisis, the 2000, the 2008, and it's kind of something that you realize is, you're doing your people a favor if you get them furloughed first, because you have them first to the unemployment line after the severance that you give them," Fertitta said. "It's a trick that I learned many years ago, and that's why so many people are having a hard time now."

Fertitta pointed out that business owners are paying "yesterday's bills with today's money," so when everything abruptly shut down, he had to fund payroll and severance at roughly $100 million dollars. Even with that done, he said, he's burning $2 million in cash per day to keep things afloat.

"We've got to get all these people back to work," Fertitta said.

Unemployment crisis: Nearly 17 million people have filed new unemployment claims over the past three weeks, and with the economy set to be shut down for at least the next three weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the worst could be yet to come. J.P. Morgan projects 20% unemployment and 25 million lost jobs on the April jobs report.

(H/T: New York Post)

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