Money, power and greed: the T-Rex of headhunters

Bill Regardie Founder, Regardie's Magazine
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For the last few decades, Korn Flakes International was the free world’s premier headhunting company.  Led by its crafty CEO Gary Burnass, it was the place to go for the big game’s most senior executives.  Like Nike, they ruled the world.

That’s all changed now.  I just learned that super sports agent Scott Boring is expanding into the corporate world.

Boring is famed for negotiating those $150 million contracts for baseball’s biggest stars as well as its hottest rookies.

I discovered this when I ran into an old pal who’s now CEO of one of the world’s most elite hotel chains.  We became pals in the 1980’s when he ran Washington’s Four Seasons and I published the city’s business magazine.

“So what was it like working with Boring?”

“Frankly, I found him a little scary.  Like dealing with Michael Corleone.

“Anyway, about six months ago, I went to a Cubs game – our headquarters was in Chicago – and Boring dropped by our suite.  I had left him a couple of tickets never figuring he would need or use them.  He was staying at my hotel and we started talking.

“He said some very complementary things about our hotels.  Turned out, we were his favorite chain and all but one of our units had thrived during the Great Recession.

When I said that, his whole body came alive like a T-Rex awakened by the smell of fresh meat.

“John, we are expanding very quietly into the corporate world.  And I would love to work with you.  As you know, I only deal with stars.  Here’s my card.  Call me if you’re interested.”

“How long did you wait?”

“I called the next morning.  Do you think I’m a schmuck?”

“So what happened next?”

“”I gave him my history in three minutes and told him my current package: $1.2 mil a year plus bonus and the promise of stock sometime. When I flew, it was business class.

“Boring promised a much brighter future: a signing bonus of $2-3 million, a package of $10-12 million the first year plus bonus.  More importantly, stock options immediately and yearly thereafter that would net me about $100 million over the next 10 years.

“You’ve got to be kidding, Scott,” I told him.  “I’m good.  But who’s going to pay that kind of money?

“John, you have to understand that proven stars like you are rarer than 20-game winners.  Take Ford’s Alan Mulally’s; he went from airplanes to autos.  You’re at his level in your business.

“Maybe you’ll stay in hospitality, maybe not.  However, there are certainly other companies that would kill to have a guy like you at the helm.  I’m going to sell you as the next Michael Jordan.

“Just relax and let me do my job.  Give me two, three months.  Call me any time. You can reach me 24/7 on my cell.

“Finally, everything you’ve heard about my negotiating style is true.  My job is to go in there and tear their guts out to get you the best deal I can.  I give you my word that I won’t damage your reputation.  Just leave it all to me.  And, I promise, no leaks.”

“That’s all there was,” I asked dumbfounded.

“Pretty much.  I had a great offer from Starbucks but I didn’t like the weather in Seattle.  Dunkin Donuts made me an offer I couldn’t refuse but I just couldn’t see myself spending the next 10 years flying three days a weeks to donut shops.

“Then Legend Hotels came in with everything Scott promised plus a G-4.  We just bought an $8 million condo at the Time Warner tower in Manhattan.  Last week they asked me to look over their two retail companies and join the board of directors.”

“Any down side in this whole process?

“Unfortunately, yes.  Legend’s senior VP, the one who handled my contract negotiations with Boring, was damaged so badly psychologically, that he was given early retirement at full pay and 24/7 nursing care for life.

“He was only 45.”

Bill Regardie was the founder and publisher of Regardie’s Magazine.