The Redemption of a Scoundrel

12. November 2012 by Joachim Goldberg

Zigarre

It is obvious why people seem to enjoy seeing a hero fall: it is all about changing the reference point. For example, when a beacon of morality – a sporting hero, an outspoken priest, a clean-cut politician, a decorated general – is dragged into the mire of sleaze and shame, it lowers the bar for our own patchy integrity. Without having to do anything, we are instantly able to see ourselves as more honest. Quite why anyone would like to see someone’s tainted image redeemed is perhaps counter-intuitive, but we like that too.

This rule even applies to Florian Homm, one of Germany’s most unscrupulous investors. After being on the run from financial regulators and bounty hunters for the past five years, Homm granted the Financial Times Deutschland an exclusive interview. In it, he shared his decision to turn over a new leaf – a transformation from hedge-fund rogue to mild-mannered philanthropist. You read it right. The cigar-happy executioner of the Bremer-Vulkan shipyard, the one-time major shareholder in Borussia Dortmund Football Club, and Liberia’s Cultural Attaché in Paris, wants to start anew. I once had the opportunity to hear him speak at conference. I remember how, after having extinguished his over-sized cigar in a glass of water, he enraptured an audience of wide-eyed, open-mouthed admirers. That was, of course, before Homm fled from the authorities, clients and former friends, and vanished with the money.

Now he is back, miraculously morphed from baddie to goodie. Just like one of those stars of American wrestling who formerly battered his opponents with folding chairs and iron bars when the referee had his back turned, to one who lifts little kids onto his shoulders and implores them to ‘pray and take their vitamins’[1]. Homm’s turn of phrase was a little more biblical; he spoke of a transformation from Saul to Paul. Homm also revealed his need to attend church at least twice-weekly otherwise he doesn’t feel well (the Bible verse about rich men, camels and needle eyes came to mind when I read that part). All money has gone, claimed Homm with regret; from a supposed sum of $400 million, hardly anything remains. But he does have a new charity called Maximum Impact Medicine that promises to save one human life for each dollar donated.

Yet the FTD readership undoubtedly loved it. The editor of another newspaper even thought the prodigal’s return worthy of a full-page spread in the business section. We cherish these tales of redemption probably because they satisfy our need for the appearance of fairness, and because they restore our belief that, ultimately, good will always prevail over evil.



[1] The ‘Demandments‘ of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.

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vposted on 12. November 2012 at 6:49 am

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