By Donald V. Watkins ©Copyrighted and Published on June 15, 2019
On May 31, 2019, I published an article about Kyle Whitmire’s effort to write an unauthorized biography about my life. Whitmire is a Birmingham, Alabama-based reporter with the Alabama Media Group, which owns The Birmingham News and the website AL.com. Whitmire covered my criminal trial on wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy charges in February and March 2019. Whitmire’s slanted coverage of the trial fed a steady stream of negative news articles to Google and local TV news outlets.
Thursday night, I learned that Glynn Wilson is also researching my life for a possible book deal. Wilson publishes articles on a website called the New American Journal. He is a former reporter for several daily newspapers.
In 2005, Wilson went independent on the web and started blogging with the publication of the Locust Fork News-Journal. In 2014, Wilson developed and launched the New American Journal as a national news site from Washington, D.C.
I do not know Glynn personally, but he reached out to me in July 2006 and again in February 2016 to hustle money from me for both of these financially struggling media ventures. I declined his requests for money on each occasion.
On March 10, 2019, Wilson wrote a scathing article about my business dealings titled, “ The Cautionary Tale of Donald Watkins and the Icarus Complex.” This article represents a radical departure from the truth about me and my business dealings.
For example, Wilson claims Voter News Network, which was an Internet-based news service I founded in 2001 for independent voters, took in millions of dollars which I used for my personal benefit. In truth, this entity never sought or received any money for publishing news. However, it did award 32 college scholarships to deserving high school students, which I funded out of my own pocket.
Wilson also says I am “clearly a little unhinged, making one bad investment after another, a children’s book company, an airline, at one point entering into an agreement with the government of Namibia to mine and sell uranium.”
For starters, I have never had a children’s book business. I did operate The Children’s Bank for several years. This entity provided seed funding ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to deserving young entrepreneurs 16-years old and younger. This venture was a huge success for the recipients of its loans/grants.
Next, the airline Wilson referenced was named TradeWinds Airlines. It was purchased by me in 2008. Wilson conveniently leaves out two critical facts about this transaction. First, I secured a February 15, 2008 offer letter from Federal Express to fly its cargo between the U.S. and the Caribbean on TradeWinds’ cargo jets. Second, two Detroit pension funds provided the business loan used for this transaction. Shortly after the TradeWinds purchase transaction was closed, several key trustees pressured me to pay them kickbacks for their support of the deal. I refused to do so. As a result, the pension funds manufactured events of "default" and prematurely called the loan.
I voluntarily reported the trustees' kickback requests to a federal grand jury. These individuals, including the general counsel of the pension funds, were eventually indicted, tried, and convicted on unrelated bribery charges. I lost the airline to public corruption but I preserved my integrity in business in the process. Wilson left all of this pertinent information out of his article.
Next, Wilson discussed an energy services company I formed in 2011. On March 27, 2012, this company was awarded a uranium concession by Epangelo Mining Company (Pty) Ltd., which is the Republic of Namibia’s national mining company. The Namibian government lifted a national moratorium on uranium concessions for nuclear fuels so that my company could compete for this concession against Iran’s state-owned Iranian Foreign Investment Company and others. My company worked closely with the U.S. State Department to make sure that we had the best chance of winning this uranium concession and keeping this strategic asset out of the hands of the Iranians, who were desperately trying to develop a nuclear weapons program at the time.
Two months later, my energy services company won a concession from the Namibian government for an offshore oil block. In October 2015, independent and highly qualified geotechnical oil and gas experts concluded their data interpretation on the 2D seismic geotechnical work program for the company’s oil block. A report authored by a world-class, Texas-based geophysics firm confirmed the presence of 522 million barrels of oil and 583 billion cubic feet of carbane methane gas within our oil block. In July 2018, we renewed our oil block license for another two years.
Despite these remarkable achievements for an Alabama-based business, Wilson cites this Namibian business venture as evidence of a “bad investment.”
Wilson, Whitmire View My Businesses in a Negative Light
Like Kyle Whitmire, Glynn Wilson views my businesses in a negative light. In contrast, respected European and African media outlets view them in a positive light. For example, on January 16, 2015, Upstream magazine featured an article about the completion of our company’s 2D geotechnical work program for its Namibian oil block. Upstream is a UK-based trade magazine for subscribers in the global oil and gas industry. Nobody in the industry thought our small company could get this expensive 2D seismic work done without outside financing, but we proved them wrong.
Our energy services company is now preparing for its 3D stage of petroleum development activities, followed by the drilling of test wells. We are the only private, African/African-American-owned oil company that is developing a confirmed “unrisked” oil resource in the Walvis Basin. Upstream called us a “minnow.” Yet, we are working in the Basin alongside Exxon Mobile, French-based oil conglomerates Total and Maurel Prom, Madrid-based Repsol, and other well-known publicly traded international oil companies.
Glynn Wilson’s articled also criticized my leadership as CEO of Masada Resource Group. Masada is a recognized global leader in the waste-to-energy industry. In 2015, Masada was one of the recipients of the Governor’s Trade Excellence Award, which recognizes Alabama companies for excellence in exporting goods or services. In 2012, Masada executed a Polyfuels licensing and distribution deal with Sustainable Technologies & Environmental Projects Pvt. Ltd. (“STEPS”) in Mumbai, India. This deal enabled Masada to beat out the Birmingham-based Drummond Company and win the Alabama International Business Alliance's 2012 International Deal of the Year (Large Deal Category) Award.
Masada’s waste-to-energy work in Sub-Saharan Africa was featured in the July 2014 edition of the London-based International Finance and Legal Review, a prestigious subscription publication for European and African business leaders, and in a February 9, 2012 guest appearance on CNBC for Africa.
Yet, Glynn Wilson, Kyle Whitmire, and other U.S. journalists of their ilk tend to omit these pertinent facts because outstanding business achievements of this kind undermine the negative racial stereotypes they spew on a regular basis.
Wilson says I am a “taker, not a giver.” Yet, he failed to mention in his article that I have never taken a dime of the $7,500 per month salary (per market location in 47 international markets) that Masada authorized for the CEO position prior to my assumption of the job 13 years ago. Furthermore, my real estate company has never taken a penny of the $17,000 a month in office rent that Masada was obligated to pay me on a 10-year office lease signed by my predecessor. My deferral of this money (a) allowed Masada to survive the Great Recession of 2008 that tanked over 100 of our global competitors and (b) facilitated the company’s growth as a global leader.
Like Kyle Whitmire, Glynn Wilson wants to commercialize my life story in a book deal for his personal financial benefit. Wilson's article demonstrates that it is far easier for me to succeed in the global energy marketplace than it is for me to conquer negative racial stereotypes at home.
Maybe Glynn Wilson and Kyle Whitmire can team up with each other and co-author a bestseller titled, “The Donald Watkins Story: Hopelessly Trapped in Negative Racial Stereotypes in the Deep South.”
When I finish climbing the mountain of life, I will tell my own story in my own words.
PHOTO: Glynn Wilson is trying to commercialize my life story in a book deal for his personal financial benefit.