Leader Blues

Monday, April 06, 2009

TOP STORY >> Speaker’s firm has its critics

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Sunken treasure hunter Wilf Blum, who spoke recently at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, says salvaging lost cargo from the ocean floor is expensive and returns are uncertain.

He says he tells potential investors straight up, “This is very, very risky. Don’t invest anything you can’t afford to lose.” Instead, he hopes to sell them gold, his latest moneymaking venture.

Blum’s company is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, but his treasure hunting is centered in the Caribbean.

Blum’s unusual business has attracted attention from the press, as well as criticism from financial-market observers. Three years ago, Chuck Jaffe of MarketWatch singled out Blum’s company as “Stupid Investment of the Week,” warning would-be investors to put their money elsewhere.

On a blog on Deep Blue Marine’s Web site, postings include messages from disgruntled investors and observers of the company.

One unhappy investor who tipped The Leader off about the shaky prospects with Deep Blue Marine described Blum as “a great guy and a talker who is immediately liked,” but that his company’s slick public-relations campaign had “a history of big promises of treasure to keep people buying the stock.”

“We’ve sold all the stock we wanted to,” Blum said in an interview this week.

Recently, Deep Blue Marine has gotten into the business of buying and selling gold to raise the money to keep going.

Blum says no dividends have been issued so far and that “we won’t turn the corner for another two years,” as far as any profits on the horizon are concerned.

Running short of capital to meet expenses, Deep Blue Marine had to sell off stock, “which caused the value of the stock to drop like a rock,” Blum said. “Hopefully, that will change in the future.”

Since going into the underwater salvage business four years ago, Blum and his crews have recovered two airplanes, four boats and a crane from the reservoir above Hoover Dam, which had been lost during construction. Of the ships, one dated to the 1600s, one to the mid-1800s and one to the 1700s. Two were of no commercial value, Blum said.

Danna Kay Duggar, coordinator of the Jacksonville Museum of Military History, said that a state regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution let her know about Blum coming to town to speak at a DAR convention. It was suggested that he speak at the museum while in the area.

“I know he takes investors, but he never mentioned any of that in his lecture,” Duggar said.