Thomas Shannon, Strike Holdings C.E.O., at press conference last week at Bowlmor
Arafat money rolls a gutter ball at Bowlmor Lanes
By Hemmy So
Despite conducting major damage control after the recent revelation that late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat invested money in New York-based Strike Holdings, owner of Bowlmor Lanes in Greenwich Village, the popular bowling alley has not seen a decline in business.
Weve seen a tremendous amount of positive support from the community, said Thomas Shannon, Strike Holdings C.E.O. Weve gotten a number of really supportive e-mails from around the country.
For a venue that hosts a steady stream of bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah parties during the year in addition to various corporate events, Bowlmor had a major reputation to protect. Shannon said that Strike Holdings quick decision to return the $1.3 million investment and sever all ties with those investors has been applauded by community members.
We had a lady call on Friday who said, What you guys did was really right, Ill be there to show my support, Shannon said. Id say thats very, very typical of the response weve gotten. Its unanimous everyone thinks we did the right thing. We sort of took a stand to do the right thing, and it wasnt cheap to do the right thing. Its not easy to raise that much money.
Strike Holdings posted a statement from Michael S. Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, on its Web site. We are pleased with the position and actions set forth in the statement issued today by New York-based Strike Holdings LLC and we hope that this disturbing incident will raise awareness for the need to increase the transparency of these kinds of investments in American companies, Miller said in the statement.
Rabbi Niles Goldstein from The New Shul in the West Village, who along with the congregations youth group has bowled at Bowlmor, echoed Millers sentiments. I think theyre doing the right thing by taking the steps theyve taken so far and through the statements theyve made, he said. I think that clearly Strike Holdings as well as any corporation should redouble their efforts to be diligent about where their money is coming from. I wouldnt say Id never bowl [at Bowlmor] again. Their parent company certainly should take whatever blows come to them with humility because they were not diligent.
At a Dec. 23 press conference held at Bowlmor, Shannon expressed shock and outrage at the fact that the Palestine Commercial Services Company had invested $1.3 million in his company. The funds made their way to Strike Holdings through Onyx Funds, a holding company created by SilverHaze Partners LLC, a private equity fund based in McLean, Va., on behalf of Arafats Palestinian Investment Fund.
SilverHaze managing partner Zeid Masri was Shannons classmate in business school. But Shannon quickly moved to sever his relationship with Masri and SilverHaze Partners as soon as he discovered the Arafat investment through an article in Bloomberg Markets Magazine.
Strike was always led to believe that these monies came from wealthy families. At no time was Strike informed that any of the monies being invested came from the P.C.S.C., Shannon said at the press conference.
According to Shannon, the $1.3 million investment represented less than 2 percent of Strike Holdings equity, and Onyx never saw any money from the investment.
Shannon cited Bowlmors good reputation as a major factor in keeping up business. People gave us the benefit of the doubt, he said. When we made a public statement, it was a big relief to a lot of people who didnt want to assume the worst about it.
Rabbi Goldstein commented on the often confusing trickle-down effect of investments and the complexities of determining whether money or even everyday goods come from a corrupt or undesirable source. Though he holds its parent company to a higher standard, Goldstein believes Bowlmor spokespeople who assured the public they knew nothing of the Arafat investments. Im taking their comments at their word, he said.