Archive for March, 2007

Mark Cuban Disappointed Me Today

March 26, 2007

Today, I’m not as big of a fan of Mark Cuban as I was yesterday. I just watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room which was produced by 2929 entertainment, a Cuban-financed company. Mark Cuban also is named as a producer in the credits. Given Cuban’s desire to emerge as a leader in media on a grand scale, I’m quite sure he had plenty of input about the studio’s decisions regarding the film.

Admittedly, I am a big fan of Mark Cuban. But I was very disappointed with the timing of his film release. I am not a fan of his releasing of a very biased documentary about Enron before the trials of former CEO Jeff Skilling and the late Chairman Ken Lay were held. The film was released on April 22, 2005 and the trials began January 30, 2006, over nine months later.

I am not an apologist for wrongdoings that most likely occurred within Enron.

Common sense would suggest, however, that Enron’s demise was more than partially caused by an overall collapse of the market. Enron was doing complicated things and innovating in many ways. They were engaged in what turned out to be very risky behavior. I don’t know enough about that behavior to know if it was unethical or morally wrong. If I had to guess, boundaries were crossed.* Irrelevant.

My disappointment comes from the fact that Mark Cuban was well aware that this film is incendiary and could impact any jury trial, let alone one as spectacular as this one was. Regardless of whether the defendants weren’t going to get a fair trial anyway, 2929 should not have further tainted the process.

I would have preferred 2929 shot a more bias-neutral film, but it is true documentaries these days need to be biased (toward the popular belief) to get people to pay to watch them.** I’m ok with that, even though it’s a little ironic considering Cuban is a very prominent businessman. Even if he is squeaky clean, I’m sure he knows that the complexities of almost any significant corporation’s business can be manhandled by an aggressive prosecution in the courthouse. I honestly wonder if Cuban believes in his own product in this case.

Cuban made out to profit from the lynch mob against Skilling and Lay. The least he could do was wait until after a jury convicted them.

*In the film, phone conversations of many traders laughing at the California energy crisis were included. I realize there was plenty of bad behavior inside the company. I don’t think you can equate that to damning the company overall or the principal executives specifically. If you can, you can probably damn almost any large company in existence that employs a sales force, a trade desk of any size, or any other environment where people interact in a very competitive environment.

** If Cuban really had to release the movie before the trial (to get the film maximum exposure), he could have produced a balanced film and been MORE entertaining, not less. It would have been hard and would have been more innovative. Why not produce two ‘riveting’ 45 minute pieces to the movie with a bias to each side of the story and maybe a final 20 minute neutral ending. Contrary to simple thinking, it’s possible to have a neutral ending be riveting. Many of the best films leave us with unanswered questions, instead of pushing a conclusion a 3rd grader could draw. I would have preferred that he waited, but this would have been a more palpable alternative.