Thursday, December 11, 2003

Candidates as pack of cards



By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

DOWNTOWN - In a matter of months, two Cincinnati entrepreneurs have become national players in the world of political satire.

David Krikorian and Eric Burdette, who have experience in accounting and financial analysis, channeled their frustration with fraudulent corporate accounting practices into a profitable enterprise.

In April, the two formed Parody Productions Inc. and launched their first product: a deck of playing cards featuring executives of companies under investigation for bilking investors and accounting firms that covered up the shady financial dealings of their clients.

"Following on the heels of the Iraqi 'Most Wanted' deck, which sold several million copies, we thought it would be a good medium," Krikorian said. "We thought there were a lot of people out there that would be interested in a deck that poked fun at all kinds of bad behavior."

"Wall Street Most Wanted" features the major figures in scandal-plagued firms such as Arthur Andersen, Adelphia Communications, Enron, Vivendi Universal and Worldcom. Also included are several financial analysts who misrepresented stocks. Former ImClone CEO Sam Waksal is the king of hearts; Martha Stewart is the queen of hearts. Alan Greenspan and Dick Grasso are the deck's jokers. There's one hero card, which features Eliot Spitzer, the crusading attorney general of New York state.

"The message is 'Why aren't we taking care of people who are doing some bad stuff?' " Krikorian explained. "This is about big business in Washington, on both sides of the aisle."

Parody Productions marketed its new cards on the Internet, making sure Wall Street Most Wanted was linked to popular search engines such as Google. In tracking the way people found their site, the partners noticed an interesting phenomenon.

"Many of our customers were also browsing the Web sites of Democratic presidential candidates," Burdette said. "And the candidate that was getting the most attention from them was Howard Dean."

So the two, who describe themselves as traditional Republicans, began familiarizing themselves with Dean's campaign and philosophy. They then developed the Dean Deck, a set of playing cards that features the candidate, opponents of all stripes, media figures and political heavyweights. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are the jokers.

Graphic artist Kelley Hensing created the caricatures used on both decks of cards, translating the two owners' satirical take on their subjects into visual form, whether it's Ken Lay in convict garb or Trent Lott wielding a shotgun and backed by the Confederate flag.

"Dean is in front (of the field of Democratic candidates) because he represents 'outsider' to both sides of the aisle," Krikorian said. "The Dean Deck makes a lot of predictions, and ultimately has Dean winning the Democratic nomination."

Parody emphasizes that its Dean Deck has no connection with the Howard Dean for President campaign, although the product has found many fans among the candidate's camp.

"They like it for what it's intended to be: a political trinket in a very political year," Krikorian said.

With Internet sales growing steadily, Parody Productions began placing its cards in bookstores five weeks ago.

The cards are manufactured for Parody by Carta Mundi and sell for $9.99 to $11.95 a deck.

"What's cool is that they're very playable. They're constantly being used, and the message reinforced," Krikorian said.

Parody also is preparing to release Wall Street Most Wanted II, a deck that features central figures in the current mutual fund scandals. The playing cards are available locally at Joseph Beth Booksellers or online at www.wallstreetmostwanted.com or www.deandeck.com. Information: (513) 929-0019.

E-mail jcallison@zoomtown.com



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