Why the Secrecy?

In the past day, Blind Confidential has received a lot more information about the Freedom Scientific acquisition by New York based and Kuwaiti owned Wafra Investment Group. A lot of the new information also falls into the category of hearsay but one particular item, the google cached pages from the WAFRA containing an announcement of the acquisition seems to add a lot of credibility to the rumors.

The following comes from the google cache of the WAFRA web page. The announcement, originally posted on April 25 has, without explanation, been removed from the web site:

Wafra Partners Announces Acquisition of Freedom Scientific, Inc.
April 25, 2007

Wafra Partners LLC and Wafra Investment Advisory Group, Inc.* are pleased to announce the acquisition of Freedom Scientific, Inc.

Freedom Scientific, Inc., based in St. Petersburg, FL, is the leading worldwide provider of assistive technology products for those who are low vision
or blind. Assistive technology products make information, whether in electronic or print format, and computing accessible to those who are low vision or
blind. The Company’s software products include screen reading software, screen magnification software and scanning and reading software. Hardware products
include handheld computers, Braille displays, scanning and reading machines, video magnifiers and Braille printers.

Wafra Partners LLC is a private equity firm focused on middle market companies based in North America that have enterprise values between $20 and $150
million. We are currently seeking acquisitions of companies in consumer products, outsourced business services, niche manufacturing, and consumer-driven

* Wafra Investment Advisory Group, Inc. serves as investment advisor to the investments referred to herein. Wafra Partners LLC seeks companies within the
parameters and sectors set out above.

Blind Confidential has not contacted any FS employees as I do not want to jeopardize any of my old friends professional situations by asking them to provide information that FS asked them to keep secret. My sources, however, have contacted a number of people within FS. Freedom managers seem to be saying, “FS is a privately held company and ownership information or any acquisition details do not need to be disclosed.” When asked about WAFRA, one FS manager is said to have replied, “I don’t know anything about that.”

Communication with the FS rank and file has resulted in people telling BC sources, “we were brought into an ‘All Hands’ meeting and told that the company had been sold,” but no Freedom personnel is saying to whom the company may have been sold and details like the selling price remain undisclosed. Some FS employees have grumbled that their stock options turned out to be worthless but no one seems to know the threshold above which the company had to sell in order for the employees to make some money on the deal.

I have received a number of phone calls and emails from people worried about FS falling into the hands of a Middle Eastern government. I do not share these worries as I have witnessed the great work done by the Kuwaiti government in non-denominational altruistic pursuits around the world over they years. While not perfect, Kuwait is among the more free nations in the area and has been a terrific ally of the US over they years.

So, why the secrecy? Why did WAFRA post the acquisition announcement only to pull it down a few days later? Did the deal fall through? If so, why haven’t the employees been told?

It’s my opinion that secrecy tends to lead to the worst kind of paranoid, conspiracy ridden sort of conjecture that our community, an intensely closed circle of gossips, nutcases (include me in this group) and people with little more to do than guess what the maker of JAWS, the world’s most important product used by blind people, is up to?

All I can say is that I wish FS the greatest possible future no matter who owns the business but I must admit that my curiosity has been raised by the cloak and dagger intrigue surrounding the alleged sale of Freedom.

— End

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I'm an accessibility advocate working on issues involving technology and people with print impairment. I'm a stoner, crackpot, hacker and all around decent fellow. I blog at this site and occasionally contribute to Skepchick. I'm a skeptic, atheist, humanist and all around left wing sort. You can follow this blog in your favorite RSS reader, and you can also view my Twitter profile (@gonz_blinko) and follow me there.

2 thoughts on “Why the Secrecy?”

  1. A privately held company, Freedom Scientific LLC based in St. Petersburg, Florida, the largest manufacturer of hardware and software for the blind, low vision, and learning disabled community, has recently been acquired by WAFRA, an investment firm with ties to the Middle East. With many government contracts with the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, etc., the following question begs an answer, are we setting ourselves up for another Security breach? According to WAFRA’s own website, at http://www.wafra.com, it was originally founded to manage funds in the United States for financial institutions of Kuwait and other Gulf states. It has broadened its mission and now serves over 30 institutional and private clients from around the world. It is also a subsidiary of the Kuwaiti Social Security Administration, which is an entity of the Kuwaiti government. Several unnamed sources have voiced their concern over this issue, having stated, “this could be one of the most well thought out plots to undermine National Security; who are these ‘other Gulf states’ WAFRA is representing and what are their intentions in purchasing corporations that have government contracts with agencies that have access to personal information for every citizen in this country? Also, what other U.S. companies have they, or other investment holding companies like them, acquired or are in the process of acquiring?” It would be expedient especially at this time, to remind American Corporations that with the exception of Israel, there are no democracies in the Middle East. When you sell a corporation to an investment company, such as WAFRA, you are selling it to a NATION (not a corporation) that could possibly use our own assets to undermine United States interests. While short term profits may be enjoyed by the investors of privately held companies, such as Freedom Scientific, will the price we may all ultimately pay, be too high?

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