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Friday, March 29, 2013

ANOTHER DISASTER, PEARL HARBOR ALL OVER AGAIN

It was December 8th, 45 years and a day after the "Day of Infamy", but thanks to the misguided management team at Cahners (Reed), it became the day of mass dismissals . At about 10:30 a.m., Diane Ruggeri came into my office. "You're new best friend, Bill Platt is on the phone", she informed me. He had not been in contact since the meeting in my office in October. We exchanged pleasantries and then he hit me with a demand I couldn't believe. "Fire 150 people this week," he ordered. I can't remember ever losing my temper in a business situation before, but I couldn't help myself. Two months earlier, he had  told me our circulation and accounting department employees had at least six months to find employment. I was so hot, I shouted "Go f... yourself!" And I slammed down the phone. Seconds later it rang again. I knew who it was, and I answered "yeah". He said he thought we had lost our connection. I was simple and to the point. "If you want to sack 150 people, you come to New York and do it yourself," I replied, this time slamming down the telephone so hard I cracked it. I expected, that when he showed up two days later  for the execution, the number dismissed would probably be 151, and I'd be out too.

For some reason, in spite of my  outburst, he acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He said not a word to me. I called Tim Burkholder in  Barrington for consolation. He was having his own problems. "Expect to be out of work on April first," I warned him. His response, "Why would they fire the best two publishers in the company?" And I answered, "We're the enemy." From that day on I had no tolerance for the Cahners executives, though I hoped my disrespect would not affect the staff of GAM.

I had not mentioned my problems to any of our customers or readers prior to that day,  but I could no longer contain my feelings. For nearly eight years, because I was always traveling, our family had not taken a holiday together. Now I decided that the whole family, Carol, Michael;, Leslie and I would attend the PIA Presidents Conference in Hawaii in January. It would give me a chance to say goodbye to a number of my friends in the printing industry. We had a great time. In February, Carol and I traveled to  Phoenix, Arizona for NAPL's Top Management Conference, and I alerted attendees to GAM's current shakeup. I guess the word had leaked out. John Favat, publisher of American Printer and Elizabeth Berglund, the editor, approached me to write a monthly column for AP. " I told  them I had to finalize my separation, which I expected to do at the end of March, but that I'd be happy to be one of their contributing editors..

Last, but not least we went back to Tuscon for  the NPES spring meeting. Going to Cleveland Indian Sprigt Training camp had always been on my bucket list. I remember Neil Richards, Kodak's statistical and market expert, organized a trip to Al Lopez Field. We even chatted with my teenage idol, Bob Feller and Neil still has the autographed ball from the Indian's Hall-of-Fame star. Every one of the executives on hand asked me how I was getting along with my new bosses. "They're so fond of me, I expect to get canned when I get back to New York," Most thought I was joking .(Next week: The end of an era and my final column in Graphic Arts Monthly.)