KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Chapter 7

New York, Monday. 9:00 A.M.

Tavaris had returned to his West 11th Street apartment late Sunday, almost a year to the date since he had turned over the keys to his Greenwich, Connecticut home to his latest wife. He was deeply perplexed. Unrelenting media coverage of the damage caused by the terrorist attacks of the previous Tuesday had left no doubt in his mind that his office and likely all of his co-workers no longer existed. For him, indeed for anyone in his position, it was a unique and surreal experience. No office to go to. Nobody to talk to. He could amuse himself by talking to the surviving Iacardi traders, but he’d already done that. Neither of them had any new information. He craved it.

There was an option. He could talk to Kerri King. The London office had confirmed that she had survived the disaster, the exact opposite of his earlier wish. A blizzard of questions swirled in his head. “Where is she? What is she doing? Should I talk to her? What will I say?” he asked himself.

His Blackberry rang and he answered it.

The caller was Ken Layton, president of Enerco, a gigantic energy trading company with headquarters in Houston, and a market capitalization of over sixty billion dollars. Layton and Tavaris had graduated in the same class at Wharton, but had not communicated since their graduation date. They exchanged the customary pleasantries, then Layton conveyed his regrets and sympathies to Tavaris. Next came the real reason for the call. Layton got right to the point. “Peter, I want to buy Iacardi & Sons. What do you think my chances are?”

Shocked by Layton’s proposition, Tavaris took several seconds to gather his thoughts. He reasoned, correctly, that Layton was engaging in shameless opportunism. Iacardi had sustained a near mortal blow. Its shareholders were vulnerable to a low-ball offer. He chuckled. “You mean you want to steal it.”

“Of course I do, if I can, but I’m not stupid enough to think you and the rest of the shareholders will let me. If what I’m proposing to do is the slightest bit interesting to you, then get a copy of the company’s latest financials to me as soon as you can. I’ll review your material with our financial people and decide how much we can afford to offer. Before we do anything official, however, I’ll call you and tell you what that number is. Then you can take that number and determine how receptive the shareholders are.”

Tavaris sensed an opportunity of a lifetime. “Suppose I do this. What’s in it for me?”

“You make this deal happen and I’ll make you a very wealthy man.”

“How? Be more specific.”

“Iacardi’s a great world brand. I’ll keep it separate and make you president. Then I’ll pay you a salary equal to mine and give you an annual performance based bonus, plus stock options. Am I getting warm?”

Layton’s offer rang Tavaris’s bell. It was as if he had just won the New York State Lottery. “I’m in. I’ll get back to you, soon.”

“Terrific! One more thing, Peter. I want it to be an all stock transaction. No cash.”

Excited and motivated, Tavaris called Walter Deaks, his friend and confidant. The two were like blood brothers. No secrets. He gave Deaks, chapter and verse, the details of his conversation with Ken Layton. “What do you think?” he asked, certain he could convince his friend to join him.

Deaks needed time to consider his response. A brilliant man, he was aware of the enormous implications of the proposition, and was smart enough to know he needed time to consider them. “It sounds interesting,” he said with no apparent enthusiasm.

“Walter, baby!” Tavaris cajoled. “This is the big one. Finally, it’s our chance to get what we’ve worked for and deserved for so long. I just checked Enerco’s stock. As I speak it’s trading above eighty-three bucks. If we cut this deal, we’ll both score big time on our equity. If we make this deal happen, Layton told me he’ll keep Iacardi separate and I’ll be running the show. I’ll make you vice president. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what you and I could do then.”

“You’re going to have to do the selling job of your life, Peter. I’m sure you’re aware that in most cases you’re going to be negotiating with attorneys who are representing the Iacardi widows. In addition, you’ll have to deal with Kerri King. She owns three percent of the stock, and I’m virtually certain she will not want to sell. On more than one occasion she’s told me that Iacardi is her passion, indeed her life. In my opinion, short of torture, you’ll never convince her to sell.”

“I understand and agree with everything you’ve said. As far as the widows are concerned, they’ll have to understand that Iacardi’s just taken a major body blow, one from which it might not recover. Even if the company did have the money, it’s going to take years to rebuild it, and I don’t think Kerri King has a chance in hell of making that happen. I don’t know about you, Walter, but I’m not prepared to sit around and watch her take my life deeper into the sewer. With or without you I’m going to make this deal happen. If she stands in the way, I’ll bury her. I’ll get leverage on that broad. I’ll do whatever it takes to find her dirty laundry. There’s no way Miss Perfect is perfect.

“You’re very persuasive. I have difficulty faulting your logic. I’ll call you within twenty-four hours.”

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