Following my recent post on Goldline, a precious metals coin dealer and sponsor of conservative gasbag Glenn Beck, I decided to poke around a bit in the company’s history, which is pretty fascinating.
As I wrote earlier, Goldline is drawing heat from its bait-and-switch pratices of selling rare gold coins like the 20 Swiss Franc. Beck is definitely taking notice of the attention he is bringing to Goldline following reports by ABC News and Media Matters:
It turns out that the company known today as Goldline has been a source of intrigue and controversy for years.
It was founded a half-century ago by Nicholas Deak, a spy-turned-banker, whom Time magazine called “the James Bond of the world of money.”
Born to a family of Transylvanian bankers, Deak joined the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and later became a senior intelligence officer in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. After the war, he helped launch an exchange firm that grew to 70 offices worldwide. By the late 1970s, Deak & Co. was handling 20 percent of all U.S. retail gold sales.
But there were persistent rumors that Deak’s work had a more sinister aspect. In his study of the infamous Nugan Hand bank of Australia, The Crimes of Patriots, journalist Jonathan Kwitny wrote:
For years, it was whispered that Deak had a close working relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency. Certainly the CIA would have been derelict not to try to keep tabs on Deak. And there would have been a lot for Deak to gain by trading off with the world’s biggest spy agency, because much of the company’s business involved speculation about the relative future value of the world’s currencies.
Deak & Co. had a hand in shady deals with shadowy figures, including its role as the conduit of Lockheed Corporation’s bribes to Japanese officials.
Federal prosecutors charged Deak & Co. of California with Bank Secrecy Act violations in 1977 for failing to report $11 million two Filipinos sent to the United States.
Ron Pulger-Frame, a courier who worked for both Deak and Nugan Hand, told the official bankruptcy receiver’s office in Hong Kong in 1981, “Deak’s had a system which was devised by me to circumvent Australian exchange regulations.”
President Reagan’s Commission on Organized Crime charged in 1984 that Deak & Co. had been involved in a multi-million dollar laundering operation for Colombian cocaine traffickers. Nearly $100 million was laundered through Deak by a single criminal. The company filed for bankruptcy before the year ended.
In 1985, a homeless woman from Seattle entered Deak’s Wall Street offices and opened fire with a .38-caliber revolver, killing the 80-year-old financier and a receptionist. (Time magazine on Deak’s slaying )
The Thomas Cook Group, best known for its brand of traveler’s checks, bought the company in 1988 and sold it three years later to A-Mark Precious Metals of Santa Monica, the largest private precious metals dealer in the United States and one of only a handful of companies authorized to purchase gold bullion coins directly from the U.S. Mint.
A-Mark was started in the 1960s by a California teenage coin buff named Steven C. Markoff, whose politics are the polar opposite of Glenn Beck’s. Markoff is a supporter of the ACLU, an avowed critic of U.S. marijuana policy, and a movie producer (all of which would make him a Hollywood leftist, in Beck’s view).
In 2005, Markoff sold A-Mark Precious Metals to its current owner, Irvine, California-based Spectrum Group International for $20 million cash.
The corporate history then gets very murky. In 2006, H.I.G. Capital in Miami, bought Goldline’s parent company, Goldline Holdings Inc., according to this Federal Trade Commission filing. This deal, as far as I can tell, received no other public announcement.
Goldline changed hands again in January 2009 when management and CIVC Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm, acquired the firm in a transaction worth over $50 million. At the time, Goldline’s revenues were in excess of $300 million.
It’s the infusion of capital from CIVC that has apparently helped Goldline expand its presence through endorsements from conservative commentators and personalities like Glenn Beck and others.