Tag Archives: Ray Markman

THE DUEL

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 2

by John Jonelis

Ray Markman

Friday, 1:30 am

Ray Markman claims, ‘I never worked a day in my life.’ Now I wait for Alexander Harbinger and Loop Lonagan to give their analysis based on boxes of old documents and memories. The clock reads 1:30 when Loop and Alex finally file in. They each carry thick note pads and plunk down in soft chairs across from my desk. From the way Loop pats his belly, I know they’re straight from some heavy lunch spot.

Lonagan is first to speak. “Me and Alex want you should go first.”

“What?” I say. “There’s some problem?”

Harbinger responds in his heavy German accent. “Vee are at a point of disagreement. Perhaps, Yon, you vill set ze right tone for this meeting.”

I lick my lips. That sounds like trouble and I hesitate a moment wondering what’s under the surface. Each of us started with a bulging box of documents and I like what I found in mine. Finally: “Okay, I’ll kick it off.” I glance at my clipboard of notes. “Ray Markman is living one of the most interesting business careers I’ve ever researched. Right from an early age, I get the picture of an enthusiastic entrepreneur, just playing with the world. He attends Erasmus—first public high school in the country. Barbara Streisand is there. Ray sees Sid Luckman play high school football. Lainie Kazan, some Nobel prize winners, and other luminaries come out of that program. Ray runs the school paper. He figures he can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college but the faculty sells him on the University of Missouri—the first formal school of journalism in the world. Lots of illustrious figures go there. He sees Walter Cronkite. Meets the head of CBS, the head of NBC—all those guys. Connections that pay dividends later on.”

Harbinger shakes his head. “Zat is veak. You vill not prove your point based on such information. Have you nussing  from his vork life?”

“Well, yeah.” I turn a page. “This one’s interesting. He creates the Britannica Achievement in Life Award—you remember that. The award goes to people like Louis Armstrong, Hank Aaron, Ella Fitzgerald, Olympians, astronauts, singers, artists, athletes, academics, actors—it must be quite a rush doing that.”

Both men nod but nothing registers in their eyes. They’re still waiting.

Ray Markman

Is that Polly Bergen with Ray Markman?

I turn another page. “Okay, try this one. He finds out that National Geographic has lots of fantastic footage—reels and reels of film. Underwater clips of Jacques Cousteau, footage of Americans climbing Everest, Jane Goodall and the wild chimpanzees, even discovering the first Homo Sapiens. But they aren’t TV shows—just footage. So he gets John Allen and a team to help him create shows. Allen is the genius that got the Peanuts shows on prime time. So that’s how the National Geographic Series happens. Certainly you’ve seen that.”

“Yes, ziss I remember vell.”

“Well here’s where it gets good. They make the whole series on spec. Then Ray tells his client—Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘We won’t sell it to you unless we get prime time.’ Wrap yourself around the moxie behind that. He doesn’t want it aired on Sunday afternoon the way Hallmark does at that time. He figures people are watching football that day and he’s right. After finishing the shows, he’s saying if they’re not a raging success, he’ll chuck ‘em. He’s taking a huge risk.”

Lonagan shakes his head and scowls. “A guy shouldn’t never oughta let his ass hang out dat far on a deal.”

“Maybe, but Ray doesn’t seem to have any fear in his makeup. So he takes the show to NBC. They turn it down. Same old story: They don’t know where it fits—it’s not news and it’s not a documentary. It’s a whole new genre. Always hard to sell a new genre. And ABC? Same story.

“Anyway, he realizes there’s only one man who’ll buy this show—the head of CBS—the king of the documentaries back then. So he spends a whole month and works up a super-detailed 30-minute presentation. All the visuals, the financial projections, the entire picture.”

I lean back and glance at my two guests. “So the big day finally arrives. Ray and the agency meet the head of the network face to face. Ray’s just three minutes into his presentation when the guy says ‘I got it. Let’s do it.’ Just like that.”

Lonagan nods. “I seen stuff like that happen.”

“Well Ray’s not done. He tells them there’s one caveat. ‘We gotta have prime time.’ Seems to me he’s pressing his luck but the guy says, ‘Done. You got early prime time four times a year.’ So Ray goes ahead and gets Britannica to sponsor it for four years. Great show. I don’t think I missed a single episode.”

Lonagan leans across my beat-up desk. “I got somethin’ even better.” That close to my face, his breath stinks of corned beef and beer.  Smells worse than a cheap cigar. I roll my chair back, away from the stench and put my feet on the desk. “Fire away.”

He cracks a malicious grin. “Ray’s one o’ them born entrepreneurs. He loves every part of it.”

Then Harbinger barges in. “Ze man spent his career in advertising, not as an entrepreneur.”

Lonagan reels on him. “Listen, you candy-assed school boy. Everything he does, he goes at like an entrepreneur. It’s impossible to figure out where his corporate work stops and his entrepreneurship begins. When he ain’t bettin’ his dough, he’s bettin’ his job.”

Once I watched a debate between Loop Lonagan and Alexander Harbinger almost escalate to blows and I need to head that off quick. “You guys are off on a tangent. Entrepreneurship isn’t the question on the table. I’m looking to prove or disprove his statement that he never worked a day in his life.”

“No John, yer wrong,” says Lonagan. “Bein’ an entrepreneur’s the heart of it all. In da mindset of an entrepreneur work ain’t work. It’s doin’ what you love for the love of it. It’s creatin’ somethin’ new, then creatin’ somethin’ else that’s new. That’s why Ray makes that statement—‘cause that’s how he lives his whole life. Don’t matter if yer workin’ in a startup or a big organization. If you got enough freedom and love what you do, you’re an entrepreneur. Ray’s a serial entrepreneur. Anybody says different don’t know his keister from a hole in the ground.”

Harbinger scowls. “I cannot agree wiss you. Your premise—it iss badly flawed.”

I’m keeping a close eye on Loop’s reaction. He doesn’t respond immediately and his face slowly swells purple. If they start swinging, I sure hope they take it outside.

Then Lonagan blurts out, “Ever hear of a little thing called a hedge? That’s how the smart guys do it. A paying job’s nothin’ but a ‘covered call.’ It counters da capital risk on all dem companies he starts. That’s a real smart setup if you got the energy to pull it off.” He raises his voice. “But then, you never been in the trading world riskin’ real money. You hang out at that college and teach bullshit like ‘random walk theory.’ You don’t know nothin’ about business, you lousy Kraut.”

Harbinger rises from his chair. Stands erect like a soldier.  Dignified—all six foot five of him in his impeccable gray handmade suit. “I cannot accept such personal abuse—zis slur on my nationality—and ziss from an inarticulate, uneducated, and ignorant man. I demand an immediate apology.”

Lonagan jumps to his feet, pulls off his sports jacket, and throws it to the floor. “Apology nothin’. And whadaya mean, callin’ me ‘little’?” Standing in a crouch with his fists raised, he cranes his neck to meet Harbinger’s eyes. “You kin cram that where the sun don’t shine, mister.”

Harbinger looks down his nose at Lonagan and hands him a card. “Zen I vill have satisfaction. Ze Union League Club. Vee meet at Five p.m.”

I can hardly believe it. I am witnessing the preamble to a formal duel. The only thing missing is a slap to the face or a glove hurled down. Will it be pistols or foils?

“Okay, Mr. PhD.” Loop flashes an evil grin. “You’re on. Boxing gloves. Three rounds. And make sure you show up.”

I let out a sigh of relief.

A boxing match.

And after a moment’s thought, I’m actually looking forward to it. But somehow I need to find a way to get these two back in their chairs and working on the subject at hand.

 

Continue to Part 3

Go back to Part 1

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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, CORE Insight Story, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets, Innovation, Nobel Prize

I NEVER WORKED A DAY IN MY LIFE

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 1

Ray Markman

by John Jonelis

“What he says is—” I pause to confront the two men across my battered old WWII Air Force desk.  “What he says is this: ‘I never worked a day in my life.’  Far as I can tell, Ray Markman never stopped working a day in his life.  Should’ve retired years ago and he’s still working.  Day and night he’s working.”

“It is merely a paraphrase from ze great inventor, Thomas Edison.” Alexander Harbinger PhD, sits erect, speaking in his German baritone.  “Most likely, Mr. Markman does not intend such a statement to be taken seriously.”

Loop Lonagan slams his fist on the scarred maple desktop.  “No.  I heard ‘im say it.  Two times I heard ‘im.  That guy always says what he means and I believe him.”

I smile.  I believe Ray, too.  I glance at my notes and read Ray’s words: I loved what I did.  To me working was the greatest things in the world.  I still average twelve hours a day.  I never felt I worked a day in my life.’  How can you argue against that kind of heart?

Ray Markman

Ray Markman – Bachrach Photography

Again the baritone from the tall man, but more animated:  “Voicing such an outlandish opinion does not make it fact.  The very idea iss… what is ze word…”  He pauses.  “Vimsical.  It iss vimsical.”

It tickles me to hear Alex’ accent thicken when he gets excited.

“Proof,” he says.  “I cannot accept it vithout proof and I do not believe that you can produce evidence that vill convince an educated person that such a statement is…that it iss justified.”

“Waddaya mean educated?  You callin’ me illiterate?”  I don’t like the look Lonagan gives Harbinger.  Dangerous.  Personally, I never want to find myself on Lonagan’s bad side.

For a moment, the tall PhD appears nonplussed.  Then he stammers, “No—no.  Present company excepted, of course—of course.”  An amazing concession from the tall, cold scholar.

I roll my chair out of the way, stoop to the floor and work my fingers under a cardboard box, remembering what I learned working in factories as a boy—lift with your legs, not your back.  The massive old desk shifts when I drop the first box on the scored maple top.  I dump the second next to it.  Then the third.

Still standing, I heave a sigh. “Glad you’re taking it that way.  This is everything I have.  I’d appreciate each of your perspectives.  It’s short notice but I need your opinions by Friday.  Will you take it on?”

The room goes silent as the three of us stare at the bulging boxes, each with the name, RAY MARKMAN, printed in neat letters.  I know I’m asking a lot. Gazing down at Alex and Loop I am unable to read their eyes.

Loop is first to speak.  “You want I should dig through all this stuff by Friday?”

I lean forward on my fists.  “Listen—you are two of the smartest guys I know.  Loop, you traded huge money on the floor of the CME and later funded a lot of winning companies.  Your street smarts and business savvy make your opinion beyond value to me.  Alex, you’re academic credentials are legendary but at the same time you keep your feet solidly on the ground.  I trust your judgment—trust it thoroughly.  I’m hoping we can put our heads together on this.”

After a pause, Harbinger stands tall.  “I vill begin immediately.”  He turns to Loop.  “I meet you here Friday.”  Then he lifts a box of documents and ducks as he marches out the door.

Loop grunts when he hefts a box.  “Lug dis.  Lug dat.”  Leaning well back, he steps out of the room with the heavy burden.

I park my duff in my chair and stare at the remaining box.  A lot of documents to examine.  But I link my fingers behind my head and lean back into the plush leather, lifting my feet to the desktop, smiling to myself.  I’ve just succeeded in lighting a fire under two divergent thinkers.  I wonder what they’ll bring back with them.

Continue to Part 2

Comment on this article — Name and email optional

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

18 Comments

Filed under Biography, BNC Venture Capital, Chicago Ventures, Midwest Renaissance Fund, Nobel Prize, Northwestern