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NEWS:   (June 03, 2007)  more...

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Chapter 12 - In Play, February 26 - May 28, 2002 - Episode 4

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Larry’s phone rings immediately after he reads this message. “Yes, Rachel,” he says, “you talk to our friends already?”

“No, Larry. And this email from Donna doesn’t help. She’s being very explicit about asking me to lie. She doesn’t like me, never has, and it’s affecting her business judgment…”

“This is nothing personal, I’m sure.”

“It’s personal, and I AM sure,” says Rachel. “Anyway, now we have a problem. I’m going to have to send an email back since this email exists. I’ve got to say we don’t lie. I can’t let this just be out there.”

“You still gonna talk to our friends, get them jealous of each other?”

“Yeah. But I’ve got to be very careful. There are people here who’d love a chance to stick it to me.”

“Maybe you just turn them on.” Larry sounds amused.

“Come on, Larry, it’s not funny. I’ve got a career to protect.”

“Sure. Sure you do. Just write your letter to cover your ass.”

“It’s not so simple,” says Rachel. “If I write to Donna, then she’s going to flame back. It’ll all get worse.”

“Look,” says Larry, “you take care of Harvey; I’ll take care of Donna. Don’t write anything until tomorrow; give me a chance to talk to her, explain that you’re gonna do the right thing but you gotta cover your ass. Keep the email from being pissy, that’s all I ask. She’ll be okay. She’s very reasonable.”

“I don’t think she’s very reasonable.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Larry assures her.

Donna does not react well when Larry explains Rachel’s dilemma. “Bankers don’t lie? Give me a fuckin’ break. What does that bitch do for her money? She’s so concerned with covering her ass she can’t do her job. Larry, I think you ought to tell Harvey we need a banker with some experience on this job. We’re not gonna get a deal done. They’re not gonna get their big bucks.  He’ll understand.”

“I don’t want to ruin her career…” Larry begins.

“You what? Are you fucking her? What does her fucking career mean to us? We got a company to sell and that twat can’t do the job and you don’t want to ruin her career?”

“Donna, look, I’m not fucking anybody…”

“You and Louise have a problem? That why you’re protecting this incompetent—”

“That’s not what I meant! Calm down and listen to me for a minute. We don’t want a banker that’s too experienced.”

“Well, we don’t have to worry about that. But please tell me why we want an inexperienced twat?”

“Look, Donna, you and I go back a long way…”


“And we understand each other. This isn’t gonna be an easy deal to get done at a good price. In fact, in this market it probably isn’t gonna happen at a good price.—”

“It isn’t gonna happen with an incompetent banker,” says Donna.

“Do we want the deal to happen? Do we want a lousy deal and we lose our company before we have a chance to recoup? Did you like it when Georgie called you up and didn’t offer you the CFO position?”

“I didn’t give him a chance to offer me the CFO position,” says Donna.

“Whatever. No deal’s gonna get done that we like. Not that I wouldn’t try to get one done if it was good, but there just isn’t gonna be one with the market the way it is. But you know our Board are a bunch of pussies. We have an experienced banker, he’ll sell them on whatever is the best deal he can get, no matter how shitty it is for you and me, how shitty for the company. No deal, they don’t get any commission, right?”

“Right. So you want a banker who can’t even find a bad deal and, even if she did, can’t sell our Board.”

Larry laughs. “I knew there was a reason I hang around with you. It’s because you’re so smart.”

“Okay,” says Donna. “I get that part, actually. But then what? How’re we going to pull this out?”

“We’ll figure that out soon as we get time. Monitored Service’ll kick in at some point. That’ll help. Stocks in the portfolio’ll come back up. We’ll be okay. Not like were before, no one is. But we’ll be okay.”

“Lar, I bought your thinking up to that point. But you’ve got your head in the sand. We can’t just wait. Things aren’t going to get better by themselves. Speaking as your friend, I’ve got to tell you that you don’t have the intensity you once had. Can’t say I blame you, but it’s a fact. And I’m pretty burned out, too. We both thought this’d be a bigger hit by now after the IPO and the stock taking off. Even after the secondary. Frankly, I thought I’d’ve cashed in my chips by now, gone on to be a CEO at some startup. And I bet you thought you’d get a CEO in, back off to just being Chairman, hunt more mushrooms, get into some other kind of trouble — whatever turns you on these days.”

“I don’t quit,” says Larry. “You’re right; I’m sick of a lot of the shit. Don’t want to hear any more whining from HR. Could do without the chat group assholes. Board meetings aren’t a lot of fun anymore. But you know, shit happens. We are where we are; what can we do but keep going? What I don’t want to do is let the company we made go for a shit price because we’re selling at a low. That’s what I really don’t want to do.”

“Lar, you got balls. I’ve always said that about you.  Well, actually I didn’t tell anybody but you do.  But, I gotta tell you, I don’t think I can keep doing it. I’m burned out. And all this Sarbanes-Oxley shit and all the stuff I gotta do with accountants now that doesn’t do anything but help politicians pretend they did something about Enron. And worrying about getting sued all the time. And listening to that bitch Joanne on the Board calls. Larry, I’ve had it. We get a good price, I’m out in a minute. But, you know, the headhunters call and I’m gonna have to listen. Think about my career. Think about being a CEO and not a CFO anymore.”

“You getting CEO offers from headhunters? Even in this market? There’re no startups to be CEO of.”

“What they’re calling about is companies that are still alive but bleeding. Like us. Or some of the ones that never got to go public. The boards realize that the CEO can’t make it. Maybe he’s burnt out. Maybe he wasn’t the right guy anyway. So they’re looking for someone to take over. We did a good enough job so they think of me. A few startups, too, but mostly rescue jobs.”

“Sounds like you HAVE been listening to the headhunters.”

“Lar, looks like we’re gonna sell this company. We put ourselves in play. I have to keep my options open. It’s not disloyalty; it’s just being practical. I didn’t know you had a plan to not sell the company. You could have told me that.”

“I am telling you,” says Larry. “But, yeah, I should’ve told you before. Frankly, didn’t know if you’d agree but shoulda told you. So now you know. You don’t have to look for a job. Unless we get a really great offer — and I don’t think that’s gonna happen — we’re still here. Dom’s been working better lately; I think he grew up some. We just do our shit and we pull it out.”

“It’s not so simple, Larry. Maybe I should have told you I was talking to headhunters like you should have told me that we aren’t really in play, that you have a plan to stop a pussy Board from selling us out. I’m actually pretty far along with one deal. Pretty good one for me. They’ll even go a long way to compensate me for hackoff options that are underwater anyway.”

“They gonna make you CEO?”

“And Chairman, I insisted on that.”

“Care to tell me who it is?”

“No. I’m sorry, Larry. I really am. I thought we were gonna be sold out and I looked around and this is pretty good for me.”

“You locked in?”

”It’d be very hard to say ‘no’. Cost me a lot of credibility. And, I have to tell you, the alternative’s not great. So, we don’t sell the company. I stay on as CFO. Do the same old shit. It’s a long slog back, Larry. For what? I can move right on to being Chairman and CEO. Now that I know I have the offer, that’s really the right thing for me to do.”

“I don’t think I can do it without you, Donna. Hate to say it but it’s the truth.”

“I don’t think you have an option, Larry. I appreciate your saying that. I really do. Means a lot to me.  ‘Specially because I think you mean it.  But I think it’s one of those times when we go our separate ways. It’s happened before. Maybe we meet again in some other gig.”

“Okay, you’re not leaving me any choice.”

“You gonna sell? Better get another banker if you really want to. I’ll help you with that. Help you with the sale. I can buy some time for that.”

“I already told you I’m not gonna quit. You know me better than that.”

“You just said you had no choice.”

“I’ve got no choice; I gotta keep you here,” says Larry.

“How’re you gonna do that? You gonna chain me up? It was fun when we tried it a million years ago but it isn’t gonna work now.”

“Look, Donna, you’re sick of being CFO, right?”

“Yeah, right. I said that.”

“And you see I’m sick of being CEO, right? Been there, done that.”

“You want to switch jobs?”

“Be serious. You see me as a CFO? I could wear your little black dress better than I could be CFO. No, look, here’s the deal: You stay and fight this out with me. First we make sure we don’t get sold out for a shit price. Then we get ready to save the company. But, like you said before, I pull back to Chairman only and you be CEO. Only you got to train the new CFO. That’s your first job. So your career keeps going. You don’t have to take some dumb offer at some other company. We do the strategy stuff together — as a team.  You get your rocks off being CEO — it’s not as great as you think, but you wanna do it. You’ll like it at first. You’ll do a good job. We’ll all be rich again.”

“Larry, you never cease to surprise me.”

“Okay, then?”

“You think this is a date? We get to the door; you’ve made me laugh.  Now you just ask ‘Okay?’ and we jump in bed?”

“Happened like that twice before with us.”

“When was the second time?”

“When you joined hackoff.”

“Bullshit, I did all kinds of diligence. Asked everyone I knew about a company with a weird name and an ex-con running it. Had to think a lot.”

“Bullshit, yourself. You did all that stuff after the fact. I saw your eyes.  They said ‘yes’ when I told you what the plan was.”

“I’m not saying ‘yes’. I’m older now.”

“Are you saying ‘no’?”


“No, you’re not saying ‘no’?  Or just ‘no’. Didn’t I teach you anything about being clear?”

“Yeah, you taught me that it was a bad idea. I gotta think. I’ve got some questions.”


“When do I get to be CEO if I stay?”

“Well, you know I haven’t had a lot of time to think about this. But, what I think is, we get to the end of ‘exploring strategic alternatives’; that’s a couple a more months, right? Got to be sure we’re looking out for the shareholder’s interests and all. Then we make an announcement: ‘We’ve looked at all the alternatives. Some very attractive offers. But, you know, we figured out that nothing is as attractive as going the course by ourselves. Things are looking up.  Got this great new plan. And we promoted Donna Langhorne — blast of trumpets — to be the new CEO for hackoff version 2.0. Girl — excuse me — woman’ll set the place on fire. Old Larry, he’s best at scheming. We’re gonna give him lots of time, because he’s gonna devote himself to strategy and changing the Board’s diapers. So Larry’ll make these great schemes — with Donna’s buy-in, of course — Donna’ll beat or charm the troops into submission as required. And hackoff’ll rise again.’”

Donna stifles a laugh and says: “What if the Board doesn’t go along? I know where one ‘no’ vote comes from. Woman’s intuition tells me she may be able to sway Joe, too.”

“May be a problem, but I don’t think so. Once they decide not to take any shitty offers — and that’s gonna be the hard part — they can’t make me be CEO if I don’t want to. The company’s got to come out swinging; can’t do a CEO search. We present a united front. Dom’ll join in. He won’t want to work for anyone except me or you. He’ll be afraid a newbie won’t appreciate him. Might rather work for you than me, actually. They got no choice but we gotta play hardball.”

“You gonna play hardball?” Donna asks.

“You ever know me to have soft balls?”

“I could sue you for harassment,” she says, smiling.

“You won’t,” he says. “You’re having too much fun.”

“Don’t count on it. Next question: Do I get to end the ‘equity’ stuff? Can we sell just for real money?”

“That’s not a CEO call. It’s a Board call and my call. This isn’t the time to give up on that.”

“Larry, you’re right, it isn’t a CEO call but I’m asking now as part of ‘let’s make a deal.’ I don’t want to take the job if we can’t win. And, as good an idea as it was, I think it’s time has passed.”

“You drive a hard bargain.”

“You want a CEO who doesn’t?”

“Look, here’s what I’ll do on that. I think you’re wrong. I think equity works; you don’t give up on it at a market bottom. But I’m gonna give you that call when the time comes. When we announce our new strategy. You just gotta promise me you’ll keep an open mind. You look at the facts the way they are before you make the call.”

“Done,” says Donna.

“So you stay?”

“Yeah.  I guess, for now. You wore me down. What’s a girl — I mean a woman — supposed to do? One more thing, though.”

“Great, you stay. I get to give you a hug?”

“You keep your hands off. You’ve done enough damage already. Anyway, I got one more thing.”

“What, one more thing? Can’t be one more thing when we’re through bargaining?”

“This is post-bargain. Part of implementation. Look, we got the meeting coming up with the vulture buy-out firm next week.”


“So let’s not have your dumb banker in that meeting. These guys are junkyard dogs but they’re smart. We can’t have someone dumb there. Too many variables.”

“She won’t want to miss it…”

“Too fucking bad. She’s so dumb she’s dangerous.”

“Yeah. Okay. Whatever. Remember, she’s gonna send you this CYA email about not lying…”

“Yeah, I won’t flame her back. Part of the deal. Just don’t let her in the meeting with the vultures.”



That night Donna tells Francis: “I sort of fell into it, to tell the truth. I didn’t know he had a plan — should of known, but I didn’t — and I didn’t know he needed me to pull it off. Then I saw his reaction when I started talking about headhunters so I just took it from there…”

“You have been talking to some headhunters,” he says.

“Yeah, but nothing good, at least not yet. It’s not a good time for CEOs even if I convinced Larry it is. I just winged it, and he did just what I hoped. I really would rather be CEO at hackoff than anywhere else. It is a good company; it does have the best product. Once we get rid of that stupid equity instead of cash stuff that Larry’s in love with and stop managing for quarterly results, we’ll do fine. I can do this.”

“I’m sure you can. Babe, I’m sure you can. Once you guys get out of being in play — and I don’t think that’ll be as easy as either of you think — once you get out of being in play, are you sure Larry’ll keep his word?”

“Well, funny thing, as much of a liar as he can be, he’s always told me the truth — pretty much. I think he will. I’ll cut his balls off if he doesn’t, but I think he will.”

“Good. Babe, we’ve … you’ve worked hard for this. I’m happy for you.” He reaches over and runs a fingertip down her cheek. “Ready for bed?”

“No, not yet.  I’ve got a lot to think about.”


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