Saturday, January 26, 2008

Mike Haley, R.I.P.

Received this message from Pez:

"Mike Haley won the second US Surfing Championship at Huntington Beach in 1960, the year after his older brother Jack won in '59. Mike was one of the more prominent of a large group of hot young Seal Beach surfers from the late 50s through the 60s that included Tim Dorsey, Bill Fury, Robert August, Denny and Sam Buell, Willy and Denny Lenahan, Rich Chew, Pete Kobsev, Freddy Miller, Greg Hector, Barrymore, to name a few.

"Mike and Sherry Haley were a high profile surf couple from '65 or '66 into the '70s. Mike and Hynson became pals during the Rainbow Bridge era. When Mike and Sherry broke up Mike drifted for a while, then reconnected with an old Seal Beach flame, Lorna Moore. Mike and Lorna lived on Maui, moved to Alaska then Oregon before moving to Nipomo, CA. Mike resumed surfing there.

"Months ago he thought he had a stomach ulcer. It turned out to be advanced liver cancer and he passed away at home weeks after the diagnosis. He was a unique surfer, fluid, powerful, rode all sizes, a colorful and funny character, apt to find the humor when things were going wrong."

-- Steve Pezman 

"Surfing Hollow Days" is the fourth movie Bruce Brown made and highlights travels to Mexico, California and Florida, along with a trip to Australia and Hawaii with Phil Edwards. Features a fifteen-foot shark checking the line-up at Rincon and the first wave ever ridden at Pipeline. Includes footage of Mike Haley.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

WOW, Part 2, Ch. 3

A Toe-Hold Position

“So tell me, Ben,” said John Vutara, “Are we going down the tubes, or are we in the tube, or what is it those surfers say?”

“We’ve paddled in and we’re back on the beach,” laughed Jeffries, “They pulled the plug on the LBO yesterday. I don’t anticipate the Feds wasting our time with any inquires.”

“I tend to agree. Speaking of wasting time, anything else, Ben? It’s getting a bit late.”

“Two things: Corlund resigned from Wavelife and has some ideas about a start-up. She’s coming to New York this weekend looking for capital.”

“With all due respect, Ben, I can’t imagine why you’d spend another minute thinking about working with her. I certainly won’t.”

“Just checking. What can I offer you for your time in all this?”

Vutara thought for a second.

“Three-fifty would do, plus another four-fifty for the - - -”

“How about a million and we call it even?”

“That will be just fine, Ben. I’ll write off the company’s time, otherwise I’d have to bill you for staff hours and all that. Much too much trouble.”

“We’ll get it over to you by courier tomorrow afternoon.”

“No hurry Ben. Stay in touch,” said Vutara, smiling at the thought of having just made about two hundred thousand dollars an hour for his involvement in the aborted leveraged buyout of Wavelife International.

“Will do, John, will do.”

The call ended, and with it any attachment between John Vutara and Cheryl Corlund’s new venture with Ben Jeffries. He picked up the other line.

“We’re clear,” he said on the conference call to Cheryl Corlund’s home.
“And Peter?” she asked.

“Already done. He gave me a discount. Seven-fifty.”

“What about Bruce Kaufman?” asked June Wilson.

“Well, I’d originally thought it might be good to bring him in on the deal. But I guess he didn’t like the art on my walls or maybe there wasn’t enough money in the deal or something. Haven’t heard from him since. Have you?”

“No, not a word,” said Corlund, “I guess he wants to build a mountain of money all on his own.”

“Sure, let him try. And he’ll probably do a good job at it for a long time. He still thinks he’s immortal. Someday he’ll learn he can’t take it with him.”

“Should we give him a courtesy call?” asked Bill Massara.

Jeffries furrowed his brow for a few seconds.

“I rather not waste our time, or his. He’s pretty busy these days from what I understand.”

* * *

“Mr. Kaufman, there’s a Jack Richards on the phone.”

“Thanks, Bonny. Oh, by the way, where are we having dinner tonight?”

“My place. I’ve got a new recipe I want to try on you.”

“Well, if it is anything like the last time,” Kaufman let the thought hang for a second to give his girlfriend a quick scare for the fun of it, “I’ll be there with bells on. Things are always so delicious at your place.”

Kaufman hated these in-house affairs, but he couldn’t beat the convenience. It was better than the alternative of going to clubs – or worse. Still, sometimes he wished he could just find that special someone and settle down to domestic peace and tranquility. Well, it wasn’t going to happen this time, but Bonny was a good cook – and lots of fun for now.

“Jack Richards! Sorry, old friend, but I guess I still owe you a call, don’t I? I haven’t talked to you since - - - ”

“Since you needed some inside stuff about the surf industry for your meeting with Jeffries.”

“Right! And a belated thank-you, Jack. You saved me a lot of money. What have you been up to?”

“Staying out of the market, Bruce, and staying out of trouble. But every once in a while, I get the old itch, and I was wondering where you ended up on that Wavelife deal.”

“Out of it from the very beginning. They were going to pay way too much, and Ben Jeffries was so stuck on Cheryl Corlund he would have done anything she wanted. Not me, though. She’s not my type.”

“No I suppose not, Bruce, now that you mention it,” laughed Richards, “But what did you expect, her to show up in an apron and offer you coffee? Anyway, I see where their price is down to single digits. I want you to buy me a toe-hold position.”

“Oh, And why, may I ask?”

“Well, if you were a surfer, I could explain it to you.”

“I always did like the way you think, Jack, but you must have salt water on the brain after all that surfing. Buying shares in Wavelife doesn’t make any sense to me. Why don’t you just burn the money instead?”

“Let’s just say their new management will not be able to act with fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.”

Kaufman knew exactly what Richards was talking about, and it wasn’t about rescuing widows with their life savings tied up in Wavelife’s stock.

“I see, Jack. Though a shareholder suit against a clothing company might be a bit dicey in court. That segment is always so volatile. They’ll be telling the truth when they testify to complete ignorance of the realities of their sales projections.”

“Bruce, thanks for trying to protect me, but as long as they’re not trying to sell used burkhas in Afghanistan, they’ll be worth something.”

“Sounds like this is about more than just making money. How much do you want to spend, Jack?”

“I’ll let you figure that out. Get one of your boys down at the trading desk to stay on top of the stock and get me in low. Send me the paper work as soon as you’ve made the transactions.”

“And under what name?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t you go back and see how we did a few of those deals through, uh, Italy or the Bahamas or something. I can’t remember that stuff anymore,” said Richards, feigning ignorance of all the shell corporations they’d formed when he did this stuff for a living. Kaufman knew there was no way Richards’ memory was failing him, but he double-checked.

“And we are to stay under the reporting levels?”

“Just like old times, Bruce,” said Richards, “I don’t want to scare the stock back up. We’ve got to keep it quiet.”

“Will do. How’s the family?”

“Donna and the kids are doing fine. Thanks for asking.”

“Glad to hear it, Jack. Give them my best.”

Jack Richards closed his cell phone and put it in the side door pocket of his SUV. He got out of the big car and walked across the parking lot to the entrance of OSOM’s headquarters. He had come up a day early before another weekend of maintenance on the Tom Swift and training out in the Channel. He was about to open the lobby door when L.J. Merrill came out to meet him.

“Hey, Jack! Captain Bucher said we’re skipping the run to San Miguel tomorrow. The Mother Carie is coming in this afternoon and he wants us to start working on launch procedures we’ll use off South Africa. Plus he wants us to come up to speed on the Agulhas Current, so we’ve got to get some time in on the simulator! Jack, my man, we’re really on our way!”

Jack Richards smiled for a second. He was going after Wavelife by land and by sea.

Monday, January 14, 2008

WOW, Part 2, Ch. 2

The conference table was littered with coffee cups and legal pads. A dozen large sheets of paper were taped on the walls, each covered with scrawling, handwritten text. Chairs were left at all angles by their former occupants. It was almost three in the afternoon, and the directors of surfing’s largest corporation were still at lunch. They were in no hurry to resume what had become an increasingly contentious meeting triggered by Cheryl Corlund’s resignation.

* * *

The entire issue of board governance of publicly traded companies had become front page news after the corporate melt-downs of a few years ago, but Wavelife had been so successful for so long that the company’s outside directors had never really paid much attention to how the board was structured. The fact that the CEO was on the board and the chairman was her husband was not a big deal at the time. All that changed in a heartbeat when Heath Larson’s heart stopped.

Fortunately, his heart began beating again, but now Wavelife was under a microscope. Writers used to doing surf star puff pieces began diving into documents they couldn’t understand. It wasn’t investigative journalism by a long shot, but the surf media was owned by the same conglomerate that published a string of tabloids across the country, and so a whiff of impropriety was transformed into a gale force wind of purported corporate malfeasance. Never mind that the leveraged buyout had been publicly announced. Never mind that the SEC was well on its way to approving the deal because it did indeed benefit the shareholders. Perception became reality, and when Corlund couldn’t handle the heat and resigned, it took but minutes for the directors to realize they were now on the hook for investor losses stemming from their lack of supervision of the corporation. Then the word ‘lawsuit’ was mentioned and they all got on their cell phones to their lawyers. An hour later, they were back at the table and all agreeing on one thing: their only chance to stay out of courts was to take up-front responsibility for Wavelife’s future by re-launching the company under their own management. The idea had merit, and with their respective backgrounds, they looked like the makings of a good team on paper. But by the time they’d adjourned for lunch, they’d accomplished next to nothing.

Steve Palua was the first to stake out a position since he had a lot to lose if the investors he represented lost everything. He argued for a makeover that would reflect a new commitment to the “core values of the surfing community”, and that if they were ever to get their products back in the stores they first had to get the surf media off their backs. But Richard Black didn’t like that idea at all. He wanted out of the surf industry altogether and pushed for getting more into street wear, even though Wavelife had no experience whatsoever in that market niche, because he figured they could turn a quick buck “selling all that X-treme hip-hop stuff” he saw on TV.

Bart Thomas wasn’t a vision guy, but he knew the clothing industry inside out, and there was nothing about either idea that seemed viable long term. The more Palua and Black argued, the more he began to hold out for simply declaring bankruptcy. In language that turned the air blue, he tried to convince them that it happened all the time in the clothing business. But Palua was scared shitless over how his investors would react to Chapter Eleven, and Black’s ego was unable to even consider such a defeat. Then Gunter Jacobsen weighed in and the meeting fell apart. First he came out against Palua and Black and proposed spinning off a division he could run that would concentrate on windsurfing and snowboarding. Then he remembered he wanted to get out of apparel altogether, so he picked up on Thomas’ idea until he realized he didn’t want a bankruptcy on his resume. The more he talked, the less he said, to the utter frustration of the others.

With Palua unwilling to consider any other points of view, Thomas becoming increasingly obscene, and Jacobsen unable to think straight at all, Richard Black finally had no choice but to suggest they all go their separate ways and get something to eat before returning to the board room for another try later that afternoon.

* * *

Black walked back into the empty conference room, well aware of the consequences if they didn’t come up with something by close of business and equally aware of the slim chance of getting the other three men on the same page. He sat down at the head of the table and considered his options. Jacobsen was obviously thinking only of himself and was therefore useless. Bart Thomas, on the other hand, had made some forceful arguments against his idea of a hip-hop X-games transformation. His argument for bankruptcy, however, seemed premature, leaving them with nothing to work with, except Palua’s proposal. And he had agreed with Palua on the most important point: they had to stabilize the stock and something was better than nothing.

Well, he thought, I’m the chairman, and things are supposed to roll down from me, and not roll over me.

He found a legal pad and tore off all the pages until he found a blank one. He wasn’t going to wait for the others to return and muck things up.

His scrawl was barely legible, but the words were precisely what he wanted to say.
The board of directors of Wavelife International is pleased to announce the formation of a new management team. After a long and dedicated career in service to the corporation, we regret that Cheryl Corlund has tendered her resignation and will no longer be part of the Wavelife team. Roberto Mercante has also notified the board that he will be pursuing other interests effective immediately. Also leaving the board is Bill Massara, former Chief Financial Officer.

“What a bunch of bullshit,” he smirked to himself, but he kept writing.
Please join me in thanking them for their exceptional contributions, and in congratulating the new members of the interim management team,
Now he had to do some thinking. Well, on second thought, not really.
Richard Black, former senior vice-president of Wavelife, and Bart Thomas, apparel industry veteran, will take over day to day operations of the corporation. Gunter Jacobsen, president of European operations, will oversee international markets. Steve Palua, legendary Hawaiian surfer, will be Director of Sales and Marketing. The formidable talents of this team will be committed to maximum return on the investments of our sharehoulders.

He sat back and read it out loud. The language was so generic he was almost embarrassed by its blatant plagiarism. Yet it would work, and that was all that mattered. He got out his cell phone and called down to the office he’d once occupied years ago.

“Public relations, this is Julie speaking.”

“HI, Julie, this is Richard Black.”

“Oh, Mr. Black, hello, how are you? Oh, right, probably not that good right now, I guess.”

“No, actually, things are going to be better than ever. I’m in the boardroom and I need you to get up here right away. Or better yet, can you still take dictation?”

“Of course, Mr. Black.”

“Take this down, put in on Wavelife letterhead, and get it out to the entire P.R. distribution list.”

“Ready when you are, sir.”

“I’m ready, Julie. Here you go. For immediate release - - -”