Jordan Belfort, aka The Wolf Of Wall Street, is set to give the keynote speech at the annual Digital Dealer Conference & Exposition. For an industry that is trying to shake their slick salesmen and ripoff artist image, some dealers are questioning the choice of speaker.


Given the success of the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, it is no surprise that the real Belfort is tapped to give speaking engagements all over the world. However, we hear time and time again how the dealerships are not the same as they were and that the "stealerships" are really the exceptions and not the rule. Even still, having an industry organisation like Dealer Communications hire someone who essentially made millions through deceptive business practices and was convicted of money laundering and securities fraud doesn't seem like the best PR move.

There are several dealership owners, and auto sales representatives that are not happy about Digital Dealer's speaker:

To me, this really shows how out of touch this Digital Dealer is with the state of the automotive retail business today. An industry with over 16,000 independent business owners is sure to have a few ethically challenged people, but as someone who grew up in this industry, who's father still works (on his 45th year) in retail and has spend over two decades in auto retail myself, I've seen real change. Transparency is no longer a new concept to dealers. The array of automotive conferences available to dealers now is a testament to the fact that dealers are hungry for change and learning new best practices.

That one of the largest conferences in the sector would think it advisable to hire such a spectacularly notorious sales criminal to an educational environment suggests that they believe dealers are crooks and need to be taught how not to cheat people. Whats more, what does it say about the character of the dealers that are drawn to the glamorization of Mr. Belfort's bad behavior. I wonder how would they feel if their local newspaper or TV news reporter publicized their choice to receive training from this criminal?

Conference training is an investment in your business. If your consumers would respond negatively to the news that you had received training from the wolf of wallstreet, then what kind of investment is really being made?

- Timothy Martell (President & Founder of Wikimotive)

Maybe this isn't so bad. In a 2013 interview with Buisnessweek, Belfort talks about how he is deeply hurt when people see him as nothing more than a "criminal" and that he uses these speaking arrangements to not only tell his story, but share his mistakes so that others can avoid his fate.

"You can't change what you've done, you can only learn from it and try to be a better person for it and embrace it and grow. I'm not saying I'm Gandhi or I've discovered the cure for everything that ailed me emotionally or my insecurities. But, you know, I try really hard to be the best person I can be every single day."

Belfort certainly is a fascinating personality, as to whether or not the hungry sales people in the audience see him as an inspiration or a warning remains to be seen.

(H/T to 505Turbeux)

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