- This Week
The money was part of a $44 million pot — half loan, half grant — awarded to the city by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund start-up ventures or help expand existing businesses in three distressed areas of Oakland with high unemployment rates. The federal money was supposed to create jobs, and it was intended for borrowers who could not qualify for conventional loans.
E.M. Health's share of that pot — through the leadership of then-bakery lieutenant Nedir Bey — would further Yusuf Bey's efforts to empower poor black residents and ex-cons by giving them training and job opportunities at various bakery outlets and private security companies affiliated with the patriarch's expanding empire.
The loan proceeds were supposed to be used for start-up costs to recruit workers and patients, establish the home health training program and provide ongoing operating expenses.
The company never lived up to its promise. Ten years have passed and still not a cent has been repaid. The equipment pledged to secure the proceeds never surfaced. The promised jobs for low-income residents, as well as the promised services for sick and elderly clients, evaporated. The Oakland city attorney sued to recoup the debt, plus interest, but the city's finance department has not been able to collect.
Nedir Bey, whose last listed occupation is business development consultant, would not answer questions about the business operations or why the company failed to take hold, saying that was "in the past." In a brief telephone conversation, Bey said there were other Oakland businesses that defaulted on city loans and he asked if they were receiving the same level of scrutiny. Bey remains in Oakland but says he is no longer affiliated with the bakery.
Former bakery associate and businessman Ali Saleem Bey has spent the last several months trying to save the heavily indebted bakery enterprise from liquidation. Saleem Bey said he hasn't spoken to Nedir Bey in years, but he defended E.M. Health's efforts to provide job training and services to poor Oakland residents.
Saleem Bey, reached by phone, said the city subjected the business to undue scrutiny compared with others seeking public money. That scrutiny also led to the company being underfunded, Saleem Bey said, and contributed to its demise.
"We really felt we were sabotaged by the city, ..." said Saleem Bey, who worked alongside other bakery associates to help launch the business.
"Politically, they never wanted to give us the money ... and when it came time to work with us and make it go, they made it as hard as possible," Saleem Bey said. "They wanted to wag their fingers at us."
But the only thing that remains today from the ashes of E.M. Health is a considerable outstanding debt to taxpayers — a debt that could have been much larger.
Big plans, big loan requests
The Qiyamah Corp., E.M. Health's nonprofit parent company, first filed state business registration papers in October 1993. The nonprofit organization was formed to expand the bakery's community work and job training programs, and it wasn't long before bakery members sought the city's help in financing a new home health care venture.
Nedir Bey originally approached the city in approximately 1994 for a $3.4million loan to buy an apartment building on 24th Street in North Oakland. That would be used, he said at the time, as a base for his home health care program.
The building purchase didn't qualify for HUD funds, and over time it was dropped from the plan. The loan request was whittled down to the $1.1 million, which was conditionally awarded to Qiyamah's for-profit subsidiary, E.M. Health.
The company promised to create 32 full-time jobs, more than half of which would be filled by residents of West Oakland, East Oakland or San Antonio/Fruitvale — the three economically depressed areas targeted by HUD.