By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
Kittell starts by telling how, as a student-athlete, he missed two consecutive field goals in front of a crowd of 50,000. It's an effective opener, and throughout his talk he styles himself self-deprecatingly as the blue-collar kid who did well for himself in sports. He even looks the part, down to the slightly crooked nose (football injury?), and though he never comes close to explaining how he got rich, there are references to his worldly success throughout.
His patter is about how great it would be to "get a clue" — and how, coincidentally, there are tools online that can help even the least savvy of investors do just that. Apparently, with a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks, you can figure out whether the big shots are buying or selling — and whether you should, too.
As if to head off the inevitable question ("If this guy's so rich, why's he shilling as a no-name motivational speaker?"), Kittell diverges from his sermon to suggest that he now has so much time on his hands, he needs to get out of the house, lest he get stuck playing host to his teenage son's posse.
"First of all, they pay me pretty well to be here," he says. "Second of all, I tried it myself. And I have been so blessed that I wake up every day and do what I like to do. And I need the rest! I like going on the road once in a while." He mimics his son's friends: "'We know you don't work.'"
Kittell has a pretty expansive definition of "not working." Even though his official website contains no links to a company called Investools, newspaper accounts suggest he has been hawking its products at road shows like this one for at least eight years. A 2003 press release, still available on Nexis, suggests that he works full-time for Investools, managing its "preview speakers and seminar director/preview sales support teams." (A decade earlier a story in the Columbus Dispatch references Kittell "touting a fax service that provides information about distressed merchandise at bargain-basement prices.")
And while Kittell at first claims that all the tricks he's demonstrating are simply ways that people can make money on the stock market from the comfort of their home, it quickly becomes clear that he's promoting a very specific product: the Investor Toolbox.
Also known as Investools.
Kittell is one of only a few Scottrade speakers to trot out a PowerPoint presentation. As he talks, he shows slides highlighting various features of the Investools system, many of which bear the logo of Wealth Magazine. As Kittell proceeds to describe the setup, however, it becomes clear that Wealth Magazine isn't a publication like, say, Forbes or Inc., but something else entirely.
It turns out Wealth Magazine offers workshops where participants learn how to "use the tools the big boys have been using." These two-day sessions, Kittell says, normally cost $1,929. But not today!
"Get Motivated! went to Wealth Magazine," Kittell tells the crowd. "They said, 'We've got to make it affordable for everyone, and we have thousands of people in the arena to justify the reduced price.'"
For anyone who signs up today at Scottrade, he announces, "Get Motivated! arranged for you to go for just $99! Let's hear it for Get Motivated!"
What Kittell does not mention is that Get Motivated! is owned by a Florida couple named Tamara and Peter Lowe — and that Peter Lowe also owns Wealth Magazine, which isn't much of a magazine at all. Notwithstanding the Forbes-sounding name, Wealth Magazine is available only online; a recent issue featured a few fluffy profiles and tips about traveling to Cabo San Lucas.
The point of Lowe's venture, Wealth Magazine Investor Education LLC, hardly seems to be journalism. Instead, it seems to exist to host workshops that tout Investools. Both Get Motivated! and Wealth Magazine Investor Education LLC are operated out of suites in the same Tampa office complex, according to the Florida Secretary of State. Internet registration documents reveal that the websites for Get Motivated! and wealthmagazine.com are managed by the same company — which Peter Lowe also owns.
Neither Kittell nor Get Motivated! responded to requests seeking comment for this story. After an initially warm e-mail, Get Motivated! did not respond to repeated requests for a press credential for the Scottrade event.
Nor does Kittell mention that Get Motivated! has been the marketing arm for Investools for years. In fact, when Rudy Giuliani was running for president and had to curtail his Get Motivated! speaking appearances, profits at Investools took a hit, as its CEO conceded in a 2007 conference call with investors.
Surprising though it may be, Wealth Magazine was not Peter Lowe's first foray into the sounds-like-publishing-but-isn't field. Success Magazine, a predecessor of Wealth, also hosted motivational seminars. But that venture went belly-up in 2001 and did so in what the St. Petersburg Times called "a very public fashion."
"Event attendees claimed Lowe failed to deliver the promised famous guests," the newspaper reported. "Creditors said they weren't paid, and Lowe said that's true, but blamed it on his former corporate parent." Others told USA Today that wasn't the case — that Lowe was responsible for day-to-day operations.