Houston, Texas. Saturday, September 22.
Employing his superior intelligence and surreptitious methods, Walter Deaks had managed to compile a package, in exquisite detail, chronicling the financial history of Iacardi and Sons for the past ten years. After reviewing the package with an almost proprietary interest, Peter Tavaris gave it his seal of approval and couriered it under a confidential label to Ken Layton, president and C.E.O. of Enerco, in Houston. Layton’s response was prompt, and to the delight of Tavaris and Deaks, it included an invitation to fly to Houston in the Enerco Gulfstream V.
Standing beside his long black Mercedes limousine at West Houston Airport, Layton met his guests as they exited the airplane. He shook their hands, ushered them into the limousine and whisked them off to the boardroom of the Enerco headquarters, a gigantic glass and steel building complex in downtown Houston. A devoutly religious man in his late fifties, Layton was short with slightly balding and greying brown hair. He wore a brown pin-striped suit with a white shirt and a brown silk tie. By far his most noticeable feature was a pair of beady grey eyes, the kind that seemed capable of burning holes in one’s skin. He rarely blinked. Given a choice between having a good time or plotting and scheming, he’d have to think about it. He had only one way of doing things: his way.
Accompanying Layton, and adding to the intimidation factor, were Jeffery Wheeler, Enerco’s chief operating officer, and Andrew Speers, the company’s chief financial officer. Both suits smiled a lot, but looked like they ate raw meat for breakfast. Wheeler’s spectacular and brilliant financial and trading gymnastics and Speers’ innovative financial engineering had become legendary and largely responsible for Enerco’s phenomenal success and the recent explosion of its common stock.
Layton dispensed with the pleasantries at warp speed, then moved the subject in his desired direction. He spoke with his deep, measured baritone voice. “Let’s talk business, gentlemen... Jeffery, Andrew and I have taken a good look at Iacardi’s financials. We like what we see and we want to buy the company.”
Layton’s words were like music to Tavaris’ ears. Visions of instant wealth and power danced in his head. Still, Layton’s number had to be right. Tavaris needed a big one if he was going to succeed in selling it to Iacardi shareholders, and to finesse the financial master-stroke of his dreams.
Layton’s grey stare penetrated Deaks, then Tavaris. “Before I tell you how rich we’re going to make you, I need to know the components of Iacardi’s ownership. We couldn’t find that information in your package.”
“I have it right here,” Deaks said. He removed a sheet of paper from his briefcase and handed it to Layton. “You’ll see that until September eleventh, the Iacardi brothers owned eighty-five percent, the employees owned twelve percent, and Kerri King owned three percent.”
Layton perused the sheet, then glared at his guests. “Do either of you foresee any problems?” he asked.
Tavaris chuckled. “Function of the number, Ken. You make it high enough and there won’t be any.”
“Three billion,” Layton declared. No expression.
Tavaris and Deaks exchanged speechless glances, stunned by the number and the suddenness of Layton’s response, mental calculations preserving their silence. Both concluded that a sale of Iacardi at that price would increase their net worth by twenty and fifteen million dollars, respectively.
“No comments?” Layton prompted.
“I think we can work with that,” Tavaris said, struggling to conceal his excitement.
Layton displayed a barely perceptible smile. “Great, then we’ll let you run with that. It’s important that you understand that the offer is not yet committed to writing, and that we’ve based it on the information you have provided. In other words, we’ve assumed that there have been no material changes to Iacardi’s financials. I also want to reiterate that we’re proposing an all stock transaction.”
“I’m afraid I don’t share Peter’s optimism with respect to universal acceptance of your proposed purchase,” Deaks said. “I anticipate a problem.”
Everyone stared at Deaks. “What?” Layton asked, clearly angered. He hated problems.
“I expect that Kerri King, our president, will not be interested in selling. As I told Peter earlier, on numerous occasions she’s told me she has devoted her life to Iacardi. If I am correct, then she is a serious problem. The Iacardi shareholders’ agreement stipulates that a sale of the company requires one hundred percent approval.”
“I think you’re wrong, Walter,” Tavaris challenged. “You were there when I told her we should find a buyer. You were there when she agreed it was an option. What the hell else do you need?’
Deaks shook his head. “Doesn’t matter what was said. I just don’t think she’ll agree to sell.”
“Tell me about this woman,” Layton demanded.
Tavaris had studied Kerri’s history in considerable detail, anxious to uncover anything negative, no matter how small, to use against her and prove to Charles Iacardi that she was unqualified to be president of the company. He welcomed an opportunity to cut her to shreds. “She’s a square peg in a round hole. She’s still a kid and doesn’t know shit about running a company. She was hired by Miles Dennis, one of our best traders, in the late eighties. At that time she was married to Brian Pyper, the New York Jets’ quarterback. Then Pyper got hurt, became a drunk, and she divorced him. So she turned around and started shacking up with a sugar daddy by the name of Louis Visconti. You probably remember him. They called him The Crown Prince of Wall Street.”
Everyone nodded. Louis Visconti was an icon in the financial world of the eighties.
Tavaris continued. “Now here’s where the story gets real interesting. Visconti was managing a big ass trust for Kerri’s father. He’s a Canadian. His name is Mike King. All of a sudden, after ten years, Visconti scoops the money in the trust and gets out of Dodge, Kerri goes with him, and the Feds put her father in prison. The newspapers were all over this story. They said his trust was loaded with hot money. Meanwhile, Visconti and Kerri holed up in the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Next thing I read about is that Visconti whacked Alfred Schneider, the former manager of King’s trust. Even wilder, Kerri killed Visconti. Would you believe she drove an electric drill through his brain? All of this went down in the Hotel de Paris on the same day. So I get this far in the story, and I think this broad’s in deep shit. She’s going down. Wrong. She gets cleared, and her father gets released from prison. Go figure. I can’t. You can’t believe how much time I’ve spent looking for more information on this story. I needed to know why Kerri was cleared and her father was released. Nothing. It’s not there. It’s obviously been quarantined... Now here’s what I believe. Somebody got paid off, and Kerri King, our little sweetheart, is a very bad girl.”
Layton scowled. “How did Mike King get a big ass trust full of hot money? And what happened to it?”
Tavaris displayed a evil smirk. “I haven’t the slightest idea, but you just asked what could be a three billion dollar question.”
“Very interesting. I suggest you keep digging, maybe a little harder. We’ll do the same...I presume she’s got plans to replace the New York office.”
“As soon as possible,” Tavaris confirmed.
“Let me know when and where, and find out who’s doing the wiring. We have a variety resources and methods we use to obtain information, and to create attitude adjustments. First, however, you’ll have to find out if Walter’s correct about her. Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe she’ll be delighted to make ninety million on her stock.”
Both Tavaris and Deaks nodded, indicating their approval, yet unaware of Kerri’s plan to make a very large loan to the company and to pledge twenty-five percent of the company’s pre tax profits to the estates of the its deceased employees, a material change to Iacardi’s financials.
Layton and his two amigos treated their guests to lunch in the Enerco boardroom, then the V.I.P. tour of the company’s ostentatious headquarters. His objective: motivating Tavaris and Deaks to do a very good job of selling his offer and becoming members of his team.