Matty Moroun turns 87

The Detroit Billionaire Likability Index.

While we may not be effusively wishing him a happy birthday, we note today that rich-as-Croesus transport tycoon Manuel "Matty" Moroun marks his 87th birthday today, cause for celebration for the dozens of people who like the man.

Unfortunately, for many of the people of metro Detroit, Moroun has become a symbol of the transgressions of wealth, flouting agreements with the state, letting derelict properties in the city rot, and attempting to stymie efforts to build a new bridge. This causes many to hate him, but Moroun is forever struggling to find some way to get what he wants. His best-known tactic is to simply attempt to buy the representatives of the people, their constituents be damned. So far, it has resulted in a stalemate: No new span has been built, by either Moroun or the governments of the United States and Canada.

And yet, it's somewhat unfair to damn Moroun. After all, Detroit's billionaires have all been playing games of one sort or another. Take a look at Hantz's "woodlands," a deal that gives him rights to lots of vacant property that may well become worth much more in the future. Or examine Ilitch's stadium deal, how much he'll pay in taxes compared to how much the public has funded him. Even Dan Gilbert, largely seen as a capitalist-philanthropist, benefits from tens of millions of dollars in tax abatements, representing a transfer of wealth from the very poorest to the very richest. And yet locals routinely genuflect at the altar of Gilbert. Yet, for Moroun, he is largely viewed like this:

Let's face it: Businessmen don't make billions by kissing babies and hugging victims. They are often ruthless fortune-seekers determined to cut any corner, use any advantage, to get what they want. And you truly have to stand in awe of the way Moroun has deployed lawyers, political donations, and played the court system like his personal grand piano to get what he wants. You may not love him, you may hate him, but we tip our hat to the man on this, his 87th birthday.