David Sanders wasn’t easily impressed, but today was an exception. Forbes magazine listed him as one of the five richest men on the planet every year for the last ten years, and for good reason. He had made a fortune in the tech world over the past two decades, and was considered a pioneer in the rapidly growing industry. He advised Presidents, met with royalty and socialized with celebrities. But he could already tell his retirement party tonight was going to be hard to top. Some of the most recognizable and powerful men and women in the world were here tonight. Including the nights entertainment, rock legend Paul McCartney, his all-time favorite musician. David had no doubt who put all this together. His right-hand man for the last twenty plus years, James Ellison.
James had been there from the beginning, advising David every step of the way. A lot of the ideas that made David Sanders a household name actually originated from his best friend, James Ellison. He always tried to make sure that James got his share of the credit, but his friend was incredibly humble and wanted no part of the spotlight. But David knew that without James, he would not be standing here today. That’s why it only seemed fitting that James would be riding off into the sunset at the same time as his long-time boss and mentor.
“Hah, some mentor”, thought David. If anything, it was the other way around. It was usually James that was talking David down from the ledge when the stress of deadlines or bad media coverage got to be too much. As he stood backstage waiting for Sir Paul to finish his last song before being introduced to the crowd, he read over his prepared speech one more time. Of course, James was the one who was asked to proofread the speech, like always.
He really didn’t know how he was going to manage his day to day life without James by his side. Wherever life would take James Ellison, David hoped that he would find peace and happiness. He definitely deserved it after years of babysitting the CEO of Sandcorp.
The emcee for the evening was a late-night talk show host that David had never heard of, but who he was told was very popular with the younger crowd these days. It was with that thought in mind that he looked out among the crowd, comprised mostly of his employees. They all looked so damn young. They probably had no idea who the old rock star on stage was, but seemed to be enjoying the night regardless. Of course, the open bar probably had a lot to do with that.
With the musical part of the show over, the emcee finally introduced the guest of honor. With the crowd giving a long standing ovation, David made his way to the podium.
When he had his papers in place, he looked out at the crowd and gestured for them to sit.
“Thank you, Jimmy, for that fine introduction.” The crowd gave the late-night host a polite round of applause. “I’m a huge fan. And a big thanks to Sir Paul McCartney”, which got an even louder reaction from the crowd, if only because they knew that their boss expected it.
“I’m not going to take too long with my speech. God knows all of you have heard enough speeches from me. But I did want to take the time to thank you all for coming tonight. I know it was hard for you to show up to a mandatory company event for a free concert and free booze. But seriously, thank you all. Not only for tonight, but for the last thirty years. It’s been one hell of a ride hasn’t it? I look out into the crowd tonight and I see faces that have been here since the beginning. And I also see faces so young that they probably weren’t born when we opened the doors to this company. And that’s fantastic. I know that I’m leaving this company in good hands. I’ve had the privilege to work with some of you young people and I have no doubt that you will carry on the proud tradition of excellence that this company represents.”
David scanned the front row while the crowd applauded itself. Then he finally spotted him.
“But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one man in particular tonight. Truth be told, he should be standing right here beside me , getting this same send off. James Ellison, get up here.”
The crowd applauded loudly again as three of James’ friends urged him to take the stage, which he finally did.
“Anybody familiar with the day to day operations of this company knows how important this man is. He’s never allowed me to give him his proper credit in public, but tonight I’m not giving him a choice. James Ellison has an official job title of CTO, but that still doesn’t do justice to the role that he plays. I am under no illusions that I or this company would be where we are today if not for the hard work and dedication of this man.”
James, like always, looked uncomfortable with praise from his boss. He had always shied away from the spotlight, even when most Silicon Valley insiders considered him the brains behind Sandcorp.
“My wife, Anne, jokes with me and asks when I retire, what time will James have to come by the house to tell me what I’m supposed to do that day. You laugh, but I’m wondering the same thing myself. I know my name is on the building, and my wrinkled old face is the one on camera and in print, but make no mistake about it, we built this together. I’ll miss a lot of things about this job, but most of all, I will miss seeing my friend every day.”
David raised a glass for a toast, which prompted everyone else holding a drink to do the same.
“Here’s to James. Starting tomorrow, you’ll never have to listen to me ramble on about anything ever again. But I sure hope you stop by every now and then to talk anyway. To James!”
The two men shook hands as the crowd applauded. Then James left the stage and rejoined his friends, relieved for that scene to be over with.
“Touching moment”, snickered one of James’ friends awaiting him off stage.
“Knock it off Lynn. It’s an emotional night for the guy. For me too. We’ve been through a lot together. He may have his faults, but he’s a good man.”
“I know. Relax. I was just joking around. It is sad really. A lot of good things are coming to an end pretty soon I guess. But at least your buddy up there gets to go out with a few billion dollars and a Beatle performing for him. Thanks to you.”
“A few? I think the last figure I saw was a little more than $60 billion. But who’s counting? That’s just part of the deal right? Besides, I’m not exactly going to be begging on the street. None of us will.”
The four friends sipped their drinks in silence, while watching the crowd enjoy the festivities. Each of the men had known each other for years and were each successful in their own right. Marcus Matthews was an executive VP of a major pharmaceutical company. Will O’Brien was a board member for a private security company that was contracted out by every branch of the U.S. military. Lynn Peterson was a Vice President of a major Oil and Gas company out of Houston. Something else that each of the men had in common; they were all getting ready to retire.
Just then a waiter walked by and Lynn stopped him and got fresh beers for all four men. They each raised their glass for a toast.
Will was the first to make a toast. “We’ve had a good run guys. I can’t say I’ll miss all of it.”
James replied, “I won’t miss any of it. Sure, I’ll miss some of the people that I worked with on a daily basis, but our thing? No, I won’t miss that at all. It’s time to let someone else deal with it.”
“And time for some other lucky sap to get the credit for it”, Lynn said, which got a sideways glance from James.
They all continued slowly sipping their beers, but said nothing else about it.
Marcus finally spoke up, “Speaking of, have any of you heard from our friend? It’s almost that time.”
“No, but I hear he’s making his rounds across the pond right now”, answered Will. “Won’t be long before he makes his way here. Then the real fun begins.”