Gilbert Scott Markle is an ex-Fulbright scholar, with doctorates from the University of Paris and Yale. He taught Philosophy at Clark University in the nineteen-sixties, where he received Tenure as an Associate Professor, in 1972.
Markle created ALSG (American Leadership Study Groups, Inc.) in 1966, which quickly became a successful nationwide sponsor of vacation trips overseas for high school students and teachers.
In 1973, Markle purchased a large farm in rural Massachusetts, and made it over into the rock 'n' roll recording studio, Long View Farm, which has since attracted high profile acts such as Stevie Wonder, Cat Stevens, the J. Geils Band, Arlo Guthrie, the Rolling Stones, Graham Nash, Aerosmith, and others.
In 1986, the American bombing of Tripoli triggered the dramatic cancellation of thousands of students who were planning and who had paid for overseas trips with ALSG. These stay-at-homes demanded prompt refunds, creating sudden problems for ALSG and Markle.
A year later, in 1987, ALSG/Markle appealed to Access America, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the New York City and Washington, D.C. Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance companies, for emergency financial assistance, explaining that ALSG might otherwise default on travel obligations to thousands of clients, who had been insured against such calamities by Blue Cross.
Blue Cross agreed to lend assistance, in order to avoid the payment of insurance claims, and took Markle's various stock interests and real estate properties as collateral, including Long View Farm.
Blue Cross then took over the operation of the student travel business. In an apparent bid to accelerate repayment of borrowed sums, visiting representatives of the large insurance company reportedly slashed marketing budgets, employee rosters, and the quality of services delivered to students and teachers traveling overseas under the auspices of the company. Enrollments and corporate profitability plummeted and plummeted again. Markle would later claim, at trial, that Blue Cross destroyed ALSG using these tactics.
At the end of a hotly contested option agreement with Markle, Blue Cross sold the travel business and the recording studio in 1991 to a flamboyant but largely unknown Tennessean, Sam Cooper, who claimed to have 100 million dollars, but who subsequently looted the travel company of its student travel deposits and disappeared. Blue Cross was obliged anew to re-involve itself, embarrassed, and now swearing revenge on all hostile parties, real and imagined alike.
On its own account, Blue Cross spent over $1.7 million dollars in legal fees, all funded unknowingly by health-care subscribers, in explaining and extricating itself from its unfortunate involvement in the student travel and recording businesses owned by Markle.
The assets of the travel company, ALSG, were sold at auction by Blue Cross in September of 1991, over Markle's objections, to an Englishman named Christopher du Mello Kenyon. Blue Cross then moved to liquidate the remainder of Markle's holdings, including the famous recording studio.
Markle dug in his heels, claiming unfair and deceptive business practices on the part of the large insurance company. Blue Cross sued Markle and attempted to evict him; Markle countersued, and accepted conditions of virtual house arrest in his home of two decades, Long View Farm, closely monitored by Blue Cross special investigators, who moved onto the North Brookfield recording studio premises with guards, electronic surveillance devices, and specially-trained dogs. Business at the recording studio staggered on, the band Aerosmith in occasional residence, and oblivious to the state of siege.
Markle offered to repurchase the assets, including Long View Farm, to end hostilities. But Blue Cross seized Markle's bank accounts, and cut off all other sources of financial support in an effort to starve him out of the rural recording location
Markle resisted, now networking frantically with advisors and supporters by telephone and fax, huddled in the farm-based, makeshift barnboard bunker occupied ten years earlier by The Rolling Stones.
A civil trial in the Worcester Superior Court occurred during the first week of March, 1992. The local press caught wind of these events, and put out a David vs. Goliath story featuring a rock 'n' roll professor, recording superstars, entrepreneurial intrigue, and a heavy-handed corporate giant determined to have its pound of flesh.
In September of 1992, a Trial Court decision was handed down, largely unfavorable to Markle. Markle has since appealed the decision, and has created a new and successful student travel company called passports.
A Court Restraining Order prevents Markle from entering upon the premises of Long View, or from recovering allegedly personal possessions located in his former homes, including gifts from family, clothing, and other such items. The once active recording studio is now quiet.
In January of 1993, Senate Hearings were held in Washington, D.C., by the Permanent Senate Committee on Investigations, Senator Sam Nunn, Chairman, on the activities of the Blue Cross affiliate for the Washington, D.C. area, GHMSI, Inc. — one of the two Blue Cross companies involved in the dispute with Markle. The CEO of that company, Joseph Gamble, took the Fifth Amendment rather than to testify to the role of his company in these and related activities.
Shortly thereafter, in April of 1993, the other Blue Cross affiliate involved in the dispute with Markle, Empire Blue Cross & Blue Shield, of New York City, was also brought before the Nunn committee on similar charges, with results that have also become part of the Congressional Record.
The student travel company, ALSG, which had been acquired from Blue Cross by the Englishman, Christopher Kenyon, in the fall of 1991, ceased operations unexpectedly in June of 1993, due to a "lack of operating funds," stranding thousands of American travelers in this country and overseas without refunds.
Kenyon has since become the focus of an FBI and Interpol investigation, and is rumored to have escaped the country with millions of dollars.
Markle kept contemporaneous notes during the period of time that he created and operated ALSG and Long View Farm, and has collated these notes in the series of essays that follows here.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.