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But there is another side of Tom Joubran.

He has endured decades of controversy: In 1980, during testimony before a United States Senate subcommittee, the executive director of the Saginaw Valley Crime Commission listed him as a “person of interest,” purportedly involved in “organized criminal activities” in the Flint, Michigan area.

Further evidence of Joubran’s notoriety is found in a lawsuit that two teenagers in his extended family filed in January 2000 in Flint federal court against Damon McCord, their tenth-grade teacher, and the Kearsley Community School District. Jamil Joseph Joubran and Ryan James Anderson charged that McCord, their English teacher at Kearsley High, had made “false, disparaging and/or defamatory comments” about their great-uncle.

According to the complaint, McCord told his American literature class that “Tom Joubran is a crooked son-of-a-bitch”; “Tom Joubran rips people off”; “Tom Joubran is an arsonist”; and “Tom Joubran burns down buildings.” McCord denied making the remarks, and in August 2001 the case was dismissed in favor of the defendants, court records show.

But Joubran has defenders in the Flint area, among them Hani Bawardi, an Arab-American scholar whose master’s thesis at the University of Michigan–Flint was titled “Arab Immigrants in Flint, Michigan: The Case of the Merchants in the Inner City.” He has been a lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern and Asian Studies at Wayne State University, where he recently received a Ph.D. As part of his research, he conducted an interview of Joubran.

“Tom Joubran was subjected to a great deal of discrimination. That is something I’m certain of as a researcher,” said Bawardi during a recent telephone interview. “Most of the immigrant merchants faced severe discrimination and sometimes maltreatment.

“If they make a lot of money but they work in neighborhoods where nobody else is willing to work in, they are viewed with suspicion by the police. Tom Joubran probably is the largest property-tax payer in Genesee County, but he never got any respect from the township.

“When it comes to Arabs, they are defenseless. They don’t raise any noise. And there is no public sentiment in their favor whatsoever. The Arab-Israeli conflict took its toll, meaning they became pariahs. I can give you a million examples from the media. Dan Rather used to go after Arab merchants all the time, exceedingly racist, and nobody ever lifted a finger.”

Bawardi says the frequency of weapons charges brought by Flint-area police against Arab-American businessmen is a case in point. “Having been in the country some 40 years, Tom Joubran was accused of carrying a concealed weapon, which he can obtain legally if he wanted to. He was arrested for that once.

“Just to give you an idea, in my research I encountered many of the merchants who faced the same charge, carrying a concealed weapon. It was a very common charge. A lot of them keep weapons in their businesses. These are not illegal weapons — they are for protection, and those weapons serve against them.

“It became like a rash. The customer would claim the merchant pulled a gun on them, and the merchants would be carted off to jail on a charge, and they invariably pled guilty to a lesser charge. They very rarely fight these things. It’s very dangerous for them.”

Tom Joubran’s brother, Ibrahim, was a merchant in New Hudson, Michigan, south of Flint. On the night of November 17, 1985, according to records of the Oakland County medical examiner, an assailant entered his store, the Country Stop Market, and fired a shotgun into his abdomen. Ibrahim, 59 at the time, died shortly afterwards.

Ibrahim’s son Brian, who moved to California in 1989 and now lives in Escondido, was eight years old the night his father was killed. “It was a robbery. I wasn’t there to experience it, but I experienced the aftermath, which was very traumatizing for an eight-year-old kid.

“The story I heard was that he was robbed in the middle of the night. I think they were open until like eight or nine o’clock at night. A burglar came in with a sawed-off shotgun. The cashier left while my father was in the back room stocking some products, and he came out not knowing what was going on, confronted the man, and the man shot him in the groin, and he died on the way to the hospital.

“I don’t know the exact details. That’s all I know. As far as I know, I don’t think they ever caught the guy. There was no one to give a positive identification of the man. He was African American, and that’s all I know.”

One law-enforcement source in the Flint area — who says he is familiar with the circumstances of the killing but declined to be identified because the case remains open — maintains that there is more to the story.

“There were times when we felt that we were onto stuff about the mystery of this guy dying and who did it and why they did it,” the source says. “They set it up like it was a robbery, but it wasn’t a very good set-up job. The police’s theory was that he was bumped off. The suspected mastermind was somebody from another country. The feds didn’t want to pick up any of those loose ends. I don’t know why.”

The source made it clear that Tom Joubran was never regarded as a suspect in the slaying.

Joubran says that the case represents just another example of the hardships that Arab-American merchants face in Flint.

“My brother was shot and was robbed,” he said in a recent phone interview. “They robbed him, and he only had 25 cents, and they shot him. So that’s what happened. Most of my brothers died already. All I have left is my sister, which is Tommy and Alec’s mother, and my brother, Edmund. That’s all we have left right now. And now they shot my other nephew, just about six months ago, also robbed him in the store, two bullets in his chest and two bullets in the back, and thanks to God he’s still alive. So, he’s okay now.”

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 May 13, 2009 @ 10:53 p.m.

I bet the paper will post huge profits next year and then sold to the highest bidder.

By Johnny

I'll take that action with a C-note.

And let me know if you want to raise that bet.

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monaghan May 13, 2009 @ 8:36 p.m.

Wow. The Union-Tribune as a Palestinian mouthpiece. Will editorial page editor Bob Kittle replace his bow tie with a chequered scarf as he goes about his chores? The mind races to think about the possibilities....What an amazing story about the new owners of America's Finest City's only newspaper. Nice job, Matt Potter.

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Ponzi May 13, 2009 @ 8:59 p.m.

They say there is a crime behind every fortune. These dudes didn't make billions without one. This story has a big gap between the time they worked in a little hometown market making nothing to bidding on billion dollar high tech companies. Exactly how did they get from Point A to Point B?

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Johnny May 13, 2009 @ 9:55 p.m.

I think you all have it wrong this is a total business transaction. Does anyone know the terms of the sale? How much did they buy the paper for? I don't think Mr. Gores has a political agenda. If you look at past Gores transactions the companies he has purchased have been made profitable and then sold for huge profits. I bet the paper will post huge profits next year and then sold to the highest bidder.

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Ponzi May 14, 2009 @ 11:18 a.m.

The partnership includes an operator of The Honolulu Advertiser, a paper in Akron, Ohio and several papers in British Columbia. So they may be trying to build a news paper empire afterall. Only time will tell. At least the Copley era is over.

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Ponzi May 14, 2009 @ 2:30 p.m.

They can turn the newspaper around and increase ad revenue when...

The can compete with craigslist; free ads.

When they can get people paying to advertise yards sales and other items in their classified.

When people stop using Monster.com and other websites to look for jobs. When people stop using Autotrader and other sources to shop for cars. When people stop using all the online resources to find rentals and homes for sale.

The classifieds were a gold mine and it's pretty much gone. As the circulation declines, the ad rate they can get for display ads falls also.

Basically when they can offer free ads and make money. So that is going to be some magic to perform. They have their work cut out for them.

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SurfPuppy619 May 14, 2009 @ 5:17 p.m.

When they can get people paying to advertise yards sales and other items in their classified.

They really raped people on the classified advertising.

I had to use it to sell some Southwest Airline vouchers and it was like $25-$30 for a three line ad.

Man, just thinking about that rip oiff still gets me upset-I'm glad the classifieds are history. One less scam from Big Business.

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violadace May 15, 2009 @ 2:34 p.m.

I would LOVE to subscribe to a hometown paper. There's so much I miss about the city by not having a local news source. Voiceofsandiego.com is too amateurish and "Let's Make a Paper!" gee-whiz. The READER is only big story. I refused to support the U-T because it had been a prime player in San Diego's stupidity and corruption for the last 80 years. Maybe now the Copleys are gone, I'll hafta subscribe to the new U-T. . .

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Flintexpats May 17, 2009 @ 10:29 a.m.

Tom Joubran's Mikatam was a Flint legend for a lot of reasons. Here's a link to a post on Flint Expatriates about the bar. The comment section reveals a lot about the Joubrans, Flint, and this locally famous bar:

http://www.flintexpats.com/2009/01/mikatam.html

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PeterCavanaugh May 31, 2009 @ 3:51 p.m.

Matt Potter's May 13th feature article on Tom Joubran and his Gores nephews was quite encompassing, understandably only scratching the surface in recounting highlights in the life of a Great American. Observing several subsequent comments on much of the information being "hearsay", might I offer the following "eyewitness" testimony from "Local DJ", published in 2002 and now optioned as a film project by MIchael Moore and Kathleen Glynn?

From "Local DJ"--Page 298

“The Mikatam” in Genesee was owned and operated by Tom Joubran, a Palestinian immigrant and self-made millionaire. Tom couldn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t getting rich in America. He also was amazed that no one else could seize opportunities as he did and profit accordingly. Tom would say, "Look at me! I rode a goat to the boat!" The truth was that few people could work twenty hours-a-day with the energy and drive that Tom considered a matter of normal routine. Sleep? What’s that??

Tom owned laundromats, apartment buildings, pizza parlors, grocery stores and lots else. His first love, however, was show business. He proved to be a gracious host and extraordinary client. He brought a number of relatives over from the old country and there were a few confusions from time to time. I was visiting Tom one night at "The Mighty Mikatam" when we both noticed everyone being turned away from the door by a young nephew who had been instructed to check for I.D.s. He was demanding passports."

End of excerpt.

With best wishes,

Peter Cavanaugh Oakhurst, California WildWednesday.com

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happilyretired May 31, 2009 @ 7:14 p.m.

I worked with Alec at Executive Business Systems in the 80's and it turned out to be a fabulous experience. All of us who worked with him knew he was special and would be a very rich man someday. He was a very smart, ambitious, fair and generous business owner. Alec had about 25 employees when I started and about 125+ when Contel purchased his business. His ego was not out of control and he could be trusted. He worked very hard and was quite inventive. He really deserves his success and I wish him the best. He had my respect then and I respect him today. I would like to know how what has happened to Marie, Samira, Susie and Linda.

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Neal April 15, 2011 @ 8:52 a.m.

When Platinum Equity purchased the fastening division from Textron, Mr. Gores’ senior leadership guys approved a plan that effectively got rid of the (2) only Iraqi Americans who worked so hard for many years.

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