Putting his mouth where his money was, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson has evidently talked himself out of a lucrative business deal that might have earned tens of millions of dollars.
Top executives from the Bank of Scotland were scheduled to meet with Robertson in the United States on Friday and will reportedly pull the plug on a much-ballyhooed joint venture designed to bring the bank's experience in British-style telephone banking to the huge U.S. market.
The action follows reports in Britain of recent comments from Robertson that proved offensive to some bank customers and to many Scots generally. Scottish Christians put too much emphasis on "tolerance," Robertson explained, and as a result "you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are." He warned that Scotland "could go right back to darkness."
The remarks, made on Robertson's Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, referred to the fact that Scottish churches have ordained homosexuals.
The Bank of Scotland's stock fell 4 percent Wednesday as word spread of the new round of rhetoric from Virginia Beach. Today, amid rumors that the bank was backing out of the deal, the stock gained back about half of the previous day's loss.
In the past, Robertson has responded to his Scottish critics by insisting that he was the victim of misquotes and distortions. He hired a lawyer in Glasgow who threatened several local newspapers with defamation suits. But after his latest remarks, critics put a video of his television show on the Internet, making it hard for the television evangelist to deny what he had said.
With the temperature rising, a spokesman said today that the Bank of Scotland is "reconsidering" the deal. It was widely reported here that the bank's chief executive, Peter Burt, will tell Robertson on Friday that he has turned into an albatross and the deal is off. The bank will reportedly argue that Robertson himself was responsible for the collapse, so he will receive no compensation.
The Bank of Scotland has been a leader in the development of telephone banks. These start-up banks, with no branches or tellers, do business via telephone and automated teller machines. Their fixed costs are much lower than traditional banks, making for higher profit margins.
In March, the Edinburgh-based bank issued a glowing news release announcing a new joint venture with Robertson -- a U.S.-based telephone bank, with marketing initially aimed at Robertson's born-again Christian following. Robertson aides predicted the U.S. bank would quickly become profitable. Robertson was to receive 25 percent of the venture's earnings.
Officials at Robertson's banking arm, Robertson Financial Services, did not return calls seeking comment.
The combination of the bank's know-how and Robertson's personal appeal among born-again Christians looked at first like a business marriage made in heaven. But the venture turned into the deal from hell for the bank, because Robertson's fiery rhetoric on religious and political issues made him extremely unpopular in Scotland.