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.

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