City Desk

Dan Snyder Bragged That His Wealth Came From Diabetes and Cancer Victims?

CEOexchange

SB Nation DC was among those reporting last week about the DVD release of "Major League Entrepreneurs," what it called a "new documentary" about Dan Snyder's business successes. Far as I can tell, the video is really just a repackaging of an old PBS show that Snyder appeared in.

"Major League Entrepreneurs" was the title of the first episode of Season 1 of PBS's program called "CEO Exchange." Most of the footage came from a Q&A Snyder and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did with Jeff Greenfield on Sept. 20, 2000 in front of a roomful of students from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University outside Chicago. (Rather hilariously, the official PBS program guide for "CEO Exchange" lists him as "Daniel Synder" — "Synder" being the nickname hardcore Snyder bashers have been typing for years.)

Much of Snyder's performance is available online through a Japanese web site.

I've watched it a lot. It'll make you giggle. You'll feel sorry for Snyder. And then he'll scare the bejeezus out of you.

Given what we've learned in the decade since it was shot, the PBS program should have been rereleased with a laugh track. The intro has clips of Snyder, only a year into his ownership of the team, sitting around smoking a cigar with Vinny Cerrato at training camp, as Deion Sanders and Jeff George lolly gag nearby and a voice-over says "One thing that does come naturally to Snyder is winning!" (This was taped, again, during the 2000 season; the Redskins under Snyder have gone 70-90 since.)

But Snyder was hot at the time; the Skins had just been named the most valuable sports franchise by Forbes. His cockiness gets him in some trouble here. You could cue the "Jaws" music at about the 13 minute mark, when Greenfield, who had earlier introduced Snyder with a speech about "the shy kid in the back of the room in high school, the kid nobody notices... while the quarterback and the basketball captain gets the cheers and the dates," eggs on the Redskins owner to divulge the secret behind his making money as a marketer. Snyder replies that at Snyder Communications, they had "weekly meetings" to come up with a list of what groups to market goods and services to.

"We'd make jokes, each niche would be a $5 million niche, and we'd go after each one," Snyder says.

Greenfield asks for examples of his targeting decisions.

"We were looking at trend lines," Snyder says. "We saw that the aging baby boomer demographics were coming on strong. That meant there's going to be a lot more diabetic patients, a lot more cancer patients, etc. How do we capture those market segments?"

The first 20 times or so that I saw the clip, I had pretty much the same reaction: "Uhhhh....Did Dan Snyder just brag to a crowd of college kids that he looks at folks on the business end of diabetes and cancer as a target market? As members of '$5 million niche?'"

And then I'd rewind the clip. And, dang if Snyder wouldn't say it all over again!

So let me type it again: "That meant there's going to be a lot more diabetic patients, a lot more cancer patients, etc." Snyder says. "How do we capture those market segments?"

Repeat after me: Yucky! I mean, sure, big business is a cold realm. But it takes a special kind of guy to boast about exploiting the downtrodden in front of a roomful of young strangers and TV cameras.

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