“The Jelly Belly Empire: There’s Gold in Them There Beans!”

What if you and a partner owned a gold mine back in 1980? Can you imagine? You own one of the largest, richest gold mine in the whole world! Awesome thought huh? Think of what you could do, the life you could live, the  impact you could have!  But what if there was one major drawback, what if you didn’t have the capitol to work your mine to its fullest potential? What if you were capable of tapping only 5 or 10% of its actually worth and were barely making it?  What would you do, take on another  partner or partners? Sell stocks in your gold mine? Sell out? How could you gain the biggest benefit from your gold mine without compromising your interests or losing control?

Tough spot to be in huh? You’ve got it all, it’s right there, it’s all yours but you don’t have the ability to get to it or get the most from it. You stand to lose it all if you can’t get a handle on things and quickly. What do you do?  What if the owner of another gold mine who is working his mine to its fullest potential and has assisted you in the past comes along and makes you a promising offer. What if this person guarantees you and your partner $10,000 a month for twenty years for the rights to your gold mine? Hmm, that’s $120,000.00 a year, $2.4 million each over twenty years. Sounds good, so what do you do?

Well in the case of candy distributor David Klien and his partner, they weighed their options and decided to take the cash. But then it was 1980 and the guaranteed income sounded like quite a bit of cash. Unfortunately it wasn’t such a good choice. Not long after signing away their rights, the gold produced by their mine was endorsed by then president Reagan at his inauguration  and took off from there! Their product? Jelly Belly jelly beans! Who would of thought that the $2.4 million they received was peanuts in comparison to  the whopping $193 million Jelly Bellies would go on to bring in annually for their new owner, The Jelly Belly Candy Company. Klien had virtually given his product away. Sad but true. David Klien is still kicking himself in the ass on that one! Especially since his monthly income stopped coming in back in 2000 and Jelly Belly sales are still through the roof!

Bad timing? Poor business sense? A lapse of judgement? You wouldn’t think a guy who studied economics at UCLA wouldn’t have made such a dumb decision, but he figured that if he didn’t take the deal the other company would simple come out with a rival jelly bean to compete with his, and the Jelly Belly war would be on. The classic David and Goliath battle. (Klien must have forgotten how that one turned out.) Although he initially refused the offer, on the urging of his partner who wanted to retire,and his dour financial condition and took what appeared to be a sure thing.

Thirty years later the candy man is still bitter. He believes that the Jelly Belly Candy Company ruined his life. At 64 he is still a brainstorming, idea man and has some candy projects in the works. With recent financial backing, Klien is confident one of his new candy ideas will take off and leave JB’s in its wake.

And what of the Jelly Belly Candy Company, well they continue to thrive, making money hand over fist from a little product called the Jelly Belly. Sadly, they don’t even give credit where credit is due, recently they released a 30 year anniversary fact book and there is no mention of Klien or his contributions. On their website there is only a vague reference to an early relationship with an unnamed candy distributor. Chalk another one up for big business, they managed to swallowed up another little fish and get richer in the process.

One can only hope that Klien can mount a comeback of sorts and has success with one of his new ideas. We are always routing for the underdog. Hopefully he’ll be successful enough that he is again approached about selling out to the big boys, something I’m sure he wouldn’t even consider. Or would he?  He’s older now and wiser, he might be open to a little negotiating, guess we’ll have to wait and see.      For now Klien has his fingers crossed, but cant help thinking about how he let his Jelly Bellies get away all those years ago…

Just a Thought…

J S


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