Los Angeles, California – Wheels up at 8:00 AM from Midland-Odessa and back to Burbank. Stu and I went directly to his Getty office as soon as we arrived to meet again with George Conner and Max Gardner We were out of money and had a payroll due. Bob Ronstrom had done that he could back in Bristol, but Stu was not quite ready to write a check.
Solving the immediate crisis was critical to our employees and to JB. We had come to far to fail. Evey finally asked JB to advance the payroll and agreed to return all KS Sweet advances the following week. Crisis averted, but not without a lot of heartburn.
I called Dennis Cryder at the NCAA office to share the good news and to confirm our Monday meeting to continue contract discussions.
It had been quite a week: Tuesday in Cincinnati, Wednesday in Shawnee Mission, Thursday to Los Angeles and on to Midland-Odessa, back to Los Angeles on Friday and finally back to Hartford on Saturday. The roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows had never before been so dramatic, but we now had all the pieces in place.
Next up: More contract meetings with the NCAA in Shawnee Mission on Monday.
Los Angeles, California & Midland-Odessa, Texas – An early meeting with Stu Evey, George Conner and attorney Max Gardner didn’t last long. Stu announced that he and I were leaving for the Burbank airport for a noon flight on the Getty jet to Phoenix and then on to Midland-Odessa, Texas. He didn’t tell me that I was going to meet a Getty Board Member from Tulsa, Oklahoma (we picked him up in Phoenix).
The passenger list was short: Getty Chairman Harold Berg and his wife, Getty Senior Group Vice President John McCabe and his wife, Harold Stuart, the Board member we picked up along the way, Stu Evey and me. I didn’t know it until we left Phoenix, but we were headed to Texas where Harold Berg was attending the “Oil Hall of Fame.”
I never made the event because as we were registering, Stu came over to me and said, “Congratulations!” I was a bit startled and said, What?” He continued, “I said congratulations, you just got approved for your project.” I couldn’t wait to get on the phone and spread the good news to the troops in Connecticut and to JB.
I never saw Harold Stuart other than on the plane from Phoenix to Midland-Odessa, but whatever he wanted to know, he apparently discovered and gave his blessing to our project.
What a week and it wasn’t over!!!
Shawnee Mission, Kansas – What a great feeling walking into NCAA Headquarters today. The decision to move forward and have attorneys start drafting an agreement was almost anticlimactic. I was sitting in a contract meeting to acquire the most significant programming available and it was happening just nine months after being fired by the Whalers…and only four and a half months after om Hansen had told us that our idea could not be presented until the January 1980 NCAA Convention. Writing this today I still find it remarkable that all of the pieces came together so quickly – although at the time desperation made it all feel agonizingly slow.
Happy as I was to be sitting with attorneys for both sides actually talking contract language, more good news arrived about ninety minutes later. Walter’s assistant came in and told me I had a phone call waiting. The caller turned out to be George Conner and his message set the stage for the rest of the day. He said that Getty’s strategy committee had given the go-ahead for investing in our network. He asked if I could fly to Los Angeles after our meeting with the NCAA and then added, “Tentatively, I’d say congratulations are in order.” Wow!
As I returned to the meeting, Walter asked, “Good news?” JB was curious too. I filled them in on the conversation with George. Needless to say from that point forward the meeting proceeded with a vibrant new feeling of confidence on both sides.
I couldn’t wait for the meeting to end and get outside – jump n the air and click my heels. What a Valentine’s Day! Ninety minutes and a half continent apart, two “yeses” propelled us to new heights of happiness when less than 24 hours earlier JB didn’t even want to make the trip. Ours was definitely not a business for the faint-hearted.
Cincinnati, Ohio – Met with Taft’s Board of Directors and quickly discovered that they didn’t even believe cable television was going to survive. Obviously, they didn’t want to hear much about this upstart sports network we were building.
While very courteous and professional in demeanor, their minds were closed to just about anything I said.
With a promise to let them know how our “idea” progressed in the weeks and months ahead and a reminder from the Chairman that I was always welcome should circunstances suggest another meeting, I was off to the NCAA again.
Plainville, Connecticut – desperation is closing in – but excitement about the Texas Show response keeps us thinking positive thoughts.
A phone call from JB saying that KS Sweet had decided to stop funding us defined our future…if we didn’t get an answer to our money crunch, i.e., if Getty didn’t move, we would miss next week’s payroll and be out of business just six days from now.
San Antonio, Texas – Armed with a model of our proposed mobile remote truck, I was anxious to tell the gathering about our big plans and intended to read the newly minted NCAA Press Release in the last sixty seconds of my five-minute presentation as part of a “New Programming” panel.
During my five minutes I outlined what the cable industry could expect from us: a 24-hours ad-supported sports network produced with first-class production equipment such as the model shown on stage, and finished with the NCAA announcement.
Now that was a lot for some 800 Texans and the assembled national cable media to swallow from a Yankee. The message sent shockwaves through the room – at least to those listening.
I’ll never forget one gentleman from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, who greeted me as I left the stage. “I don’t know how you’re going to do all you said, but if you do only half of it, you’ll be the most successful service we have.” How prophetic!
I wasn’t exactly besieged by reporters after this announcement of (in our opinion) a gigantic breakthrough for the cable industry, but a few of the cable trade papers dd come and ask for more of the story. That was really a good thing as it turned out. We needed some sort of boost for RCA, the NCAA, D”Arcy, Getty, et al and just the beginning evidence of interest by the industry media was extremely helpful.