If I did own shares of stock in AFA and Cloud City had figures graded, it would be about as much of a conflict of interest as me owning shares of stock in IBM and Cloud City buying an IBM laptop computer.
<font size="2" face="arial">Tom:
Whether you will believe this or not, and whether you care or not, I have nothing but respect for you and your operation, and what I'm about to say is by no means intended as an attempt to impugn your widely-regarded integrity. I also don't think that your potentially having a minority ownership interest in AFA would necessarily create a worrysome conflict of interest, because as both a partial owner and a primary customer whose revenues are impacted by AFA to a seemingly increasing extent, you would have every incentive to avoid doing anything that could jeopardize the public perception of the integrity of AFA's grading process.
That said, your analogy, which I have quoted above, is really pretty specious. You are equating ownership in and lone stockholder influence over a huge, multinational, publicly-held corporation (IBM) with ownership in and influence over a private/closely-held, rather small operation (AFA). This is really an inapt comparison. In most closely-held corporations, lone stockholders can theoretically exert a level of influence over company operations that simply can't be had in large public companies. Moreover, I doubt even the largest shareholders of a company like IBM are major customers of IBM, whereas I'm betting CC is AFA's largest annual customer (or at least one of the largest two or three). Also, buying an IBM computer as a shareholder of IBM is not the same as CC purchasing AFA's grading services, unless the IBM buyer/shareholder is in the business of reselling those computers, as CC is in the business of reselling products run through the AFA grading process.
I understand why people are asking these questions, but I also understand why you're reluctant to confirm that information publicly. Rightly or wrongly, I gather from your post that you are, in fact, an AFA shareholder, or you likely would have just denied that. Personally, I don't really care either way, but I understand why this might have at least the appearance of a conflict of interest to some. I think most people in the hobby will gloss over this b/c of the high regard in which you are generally held--in other words, most people will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt b/c they fundamentally trust you and like you. I guess I'm in that camp as well.
But I dare observe that if another major dealer was in such a position (other than, perhaps, Kathy at The Earth), he or she would likely get skewered in the court of hobby opinion. (Can anyone imagine what would be said if this were Semling, instead of Tom?)
In any event, I don't think your analogy holds water. Beyond that, I can appreciate your perspective on the matter.
[ 09-08-2003, 03:09 PM: Message edited by: The Twisted Sithster ]