Tag Archives: Jane Fonda

FAMILY FIRST

The Story of Ray Markman-Part 11

by John Jonelis

Ray MarkmanFriday, 4:30 pm

I’m trying to gathering material on Ray Markman’s assertion, “I never worked a day in my life,” before time runs out. This very afternoon, my two colleagues—Loop Lonagan and Alexander Harbinger—will fight a duel over this, and one of them may not live to tell about it.

Lonagan paces the worn oak planks of my office floor in the back room of Ludditis Shots and Beer. “I wanna say somthin’ about dis new business Ray starts. Him and his partners is already makin’ a bundle, so why should he try’n change the way people buy things? But that’s just what he does.

“Ray gets this new idea about retail distribution. So he runs a test.  He takes that Jane Fonda tape and puts it into Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Dominicks.  He gets into these stores ‘cause he offers the tape on consignment and gives ’em the displays.  In other words, he’s takin’ all the risk!  So they go along.

“Turns out, Dominicks outsells K-Mart and Wal-Mart by far on a per-store basis. A food store!  Who woulda expected that?”

Hanna-Barbera Video Cover

Hanna-Barbera Video Cover

Lonagan steps over to my desk and grabs his notes: “So Ray says this to his partners: ‘Let’s start another company and just go into supermarkets. There’s nobody there.  We can pre-empt the competition.  Here’s the idea:  We go to Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros, and get their children’s animations.  We price “em at $9.95.  And we put displays in the stores and sell it like soap.  We’re gonna blow ‘em out of the stores.  We’re appealing to another audience.  It’s women and it’s for their children.  They’re gonna buy it.’  Now if you know Ray, you gotta know he says all dis in a real soft voice.  To me that gives da words even more punch.  Hey, I can buy into that idea myself.  All his partners is galvanized into makin’ the move right alongsida him!”

Lonagan’s pacing speeds up and in this big back room, he ranges from the crates on one wall to the bottles on the other. Seems like there’s not enough room in my backroom office to hold him.  “‘Course, they can’t run both companies—it’s way too much. So they merge the first one into another company and get their money out.  Then they start a new company called Magic Video.  Don’t know why they call it dat but it seems to catch on just fine.”

Dominicks Foods

He stops in front of my desk. “And how d’ya think they distribute to the food stores? The usual way—by themselves?  You can forget that idea.  They do it with food brokers.  Food brokers!  These outfits don’t know video from a slab o’ meat, but they’re in the stores and the stores know ‘em and they got carte blanche to put up displays.  Dis is brilliant!”

I nod and he resumes his pacing. It always tickles me when phrases like “carte blanch” slip out of Loop’s mouth.  Such a contrast to the streetwise front he puts on.  Loop is highly intelligent.  Besides his experience as a futures trader in the pits, and the many private equity deals he’s made since then, he sports a masters in finance from the University of Chicago.  So I know a lot of his old neighborhood accent is a put on.  I’ve learned not to fall into the trap and underestimate him.  He’s quick.

Lonagan continues: “The way Ray works it, he goes with his food broker to a major supermarket chain and sells the idea to HQ. After that, the brokers put the product in.  They do all the housekeeping, the displays, all the details. 

“It works out great. They’re buildin’ a fantastic business.  In 2-1/2 years their run rate is 250 million bucks!  Tell me that ain’t good business.  And Ray knows he can grow it into a billion!  But it don’t turn out that way.”

Now he has my full attention. I want to know the rest of the story.  What’s Loop waiting for?  Pausing for some big effect? “Yeah?” I say, trying to egg him on. “And?”

“His first grandchild gets born. A little girl.  Big deal for Ray.  He’s traveling 90% o’ the time so he can’t see her.  He decides family comes first. 

“His partners whine and complain, ‘Ray, you can’t quit, you’re the whole company.’ So he makes an agreement with dem guys.  He sticks it out fer six more months while they get a new president settled in.  After that, da new guy’s supposed to do the day-to-day business while Ray keeps the relationships going with Disney, Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros.  He says, ‘Okay but if you screw around with the time, I’m gonna be gone.’  He’s not waitin’ around for his granddaughter to grow up without him. 

“Of course, six months pass and they ain’t done nothin’. Don’t even hire no new guy.  So Ray sells his share o’ the company.  He makes out real good but he gives up the chance o’ buildin’ a billion dollar company.  Family first!  And I say, he’s right!”

 

Go to Part 12

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Biography, Characters, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Conflict, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Invention

THE FEAR OF RISK

The Story of Ray Markman-Part 10

by John Jonelis

Ray MarkmanFriday, 4:20 pm

My office door swings open and in walks Loop Lonagan holding a bottle of scotch by the neck. “Hadda settle for da cheap stuff,” he says.  “Where’s Alex?”

“Sent him to the club to warm up.” I pull two drinking glasses out of my beat-up old WWII Air Force desk.

Lonagan pours a jigger or two into our tumblers, leans back and inhales the aroma of the scotch. He grins. “Warmin’ up won’t do ‘im no good.”

“That scotch won’t do you any good, either.” From his sloppy speech, it’s clear to me that Loop’s has too much alcohol in his belly already.

“Shuttup ‘n’ drink it. I know what I’m doin’.”  He downs his and pours another, then pulls out his notes.  “Lemme give ya what I got left on Ray Markman. Where d’ya want I should start?”

“Tell me why he leaves Britannica.”

The Fear of Risk

Lonagan flips a page of his notes. “Okay, by dis time, Ray’s da executive veep at Britannica. If he sticks another 8 months, he’s gonna be president.  Deeze guys is payin’ ‘im hundreds o’ thousands o’ dollars and givin’ ‘im every perk a guy can get.  First class travel ‘round da world, unlimited expense account, cars, clubs, seasons tickets to da Bears, da Bulls, da works.”

It sounds like a good life to me. “So why doesn’t he stay with the company?”

Risk - The Game

RISK – A Parker Brothers Game ™

Lonagan thumps his notes. “He wants to get da company into video—dat’s da up-and-coming tech play at da time. Dey already got every subject in the world between da covers o’ Britannica—a wunnerful resource—and dey got a name dat holds incredible prestige.  Nobody can compete with ‘em.  So Ray pitches video and alotta udder good ideas fer products not even on da market yet.”

He scoots his chair closer and leans forward on my desk. “Ray really studies da video business. So far, it’s just mom and pop stores.  But he knows it ain’t gonna end there.  It ends with da big guys musclin’ out da little guys.  Dat’s how it always ends and dat’s what’ll happen here.  Britannica’s da big guy.”

Board Room - Mary Poppins

BOARD ROOM – From MARY POPPINS – A Walt Disney – Buena Vista Production

“Is all this reliable, Loop? Can you back it up?”

“Naw, it’s second, third hand. But it sounds like Ray t’ me.  Wanna hear it?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

He clears his throat and reads Ray’s words from his notes: Some of these guys are interested in just one thing—retiring. That’s all they care about—that’s all they ever talk about.  Who wants to retire?  I don’t want to retire.  I said, ‘Why do you want to retire?’

I tell them, ‘The risk of DOING is less than the risk of STAYING PAT. I can’t convince them.  They have all this money.  They’re buying bonds, not stocks.  They’re looking in the rear-view mirror.  They can’t visualize.  I quit and start my own video company.’

Lonagan looks me in the eye. “You see ‘is problem? Deeze guys is worried about risk.  They’s at dat time in life when it’s too late to recover from a big loss.  We all reach dat point if we don’t get hit by a truck er somethin’.  Ray just sees it different is all.”

I lean back in my chair and close my eyes. That’s thirty years ago and Ray still doesn’t want to retire today.  I find these words wonderfully revealing.  It seems a shame that so few of us relish our work the way Ray does.  People actively seek to escape it.  He finds joy in it.  This is a man at home with his business environment.

On the Loose

Lonagan clears his throat and breaks me from my reverie. “So Ray’s on da loose with ‘is partners and whadaya think? Britannica comes back to ‘im and wants ‘im to do their video business.  Dey had ‘im on da inside.  Dey turned down da idea.  Now dey hire ‘im as a consultant.  ‘Course, he charges a huge fee.  And they pay it! 

 “So he gets into da video business, doin’ real good right from da get-go. 

 “He calls his company Heritage Home Video and does lotsa udder projects.  All sorts o’ how-to videos.  Then he gets ahold o’ dis Jane Fonda video ‘n’ makes it by far da #1 seller at da time.  You remember that one.” 

Jane Fonda Exercise Video

Jane Fonda Exercise Video

I grin to myself, recalling Jane Fonda on the cover of that tape.  They even advertised it on television.

“Back then, ever’body rented video. But Ray ain’t rentin’ any o’ da Jane Fonda stuff.  He figures, it don’t do no good to rent it ‘n’ watch it one time.  It’s an exercise video.  You gotta watch it over and over.  So people is payin’ 59 bucks for dis thing.  Then there’s videos on how to play baseball, golf, basketball, a lotsa others.  So Ray and his partners get all dis video business that coulda belonged to the big company.” 

Lonagan’s slams his fist on the desk. “Y’know how I see it?  Britannica rules da Internet today if dey keep up with technology.  But dey throw it all away just like Sears and Monkey Wards throw away their catalogues dat ever’body relied on fer years ‘n’ years.  And doze guys coulda ruled online retail the way Amazon does now. 

I nod. So Ray saw it that far back.

 “Remember dis, John—Fear o’ risk strangles yer vision every time.”

 

Continue to Part 11

 

Go back to Part 1

Comment on this article — Name and email optional

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.comComments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

3 Comments

Filed under Biography, Characters, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Conflict, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Invention