Last week in Washington, New York and the rest of the financial world, the build-up to America’s budget battle deadline was like the wait for the start of the bombing of Baghdad. The story sucked the air out of everyone and everything.
The business media, especially, was all over the story, like Bernie Madoff, Act II. CNBC and The Wall Street Journal threw every reporter and even their interns into the fray. It was virtually the only story on the assignment board.
While this dogfight was not good for the country, it was perfect timing for Regutnick Industries, a $20 billion diversified conglomerate headquartered in Manhattan. For that Sunday afternoon, Regutnick, coincidently, announced its second-quarter earnings. The numbers were terrible.
On the following Wednesday morning, Samuel R. Regutnick, the company’s CEO and founder, called his top executives to his office.
“Boys, I want to congratulate you. Together, we’ve pulled it off! Our lousy quarterly earnings were practically ignored by the media. More importantly, our stock is only down 2%, as of five minutes ago.”
The five guys in the chairman’s office cheered, knocked knuckles and bumped chests. After all, most of their wealth was tied to the company’s stock.
Regutnick waved his boys back to their seats.
“Guys, I know I yell at you a lot. But, today, I want you to know that we are a real team,” he said with a practiced tear.
“Yes, it started with Barney. When he came to me two weeks ago with his idea to move up our quarterly earning release by a week to ‘Deadline Sunday,’ as he called it, I thought he was nuts. But he convinced me we had nothing to lose: that the budget fight would dominate the news and that the business media would have no time for our release; and that we’d get lost in the sandstorm that followed.
“So, as a result of your vision here, I’m going to give you one more year to turn around sales and marketing. Yeah, I know everybody is sitting on their cash but, damn it, find a way to get our share. Or else,” he warned with a wicked smile.
Regutnick then turned to his controller, Nathan Einstein.
“Nate, I don’t how you got those numbers done a week early. Those 20-some division managers always wait until the last second before reporting. Then putting everything together — incredible.
“Thanks, Sam. We had some all-nighters and I lived on the Gulfstream for a week. Had to break a couple of legs, but that goes with the job.
“Also, just so you know, we now have two new phantom subsidiaries, I call ’em Raptor I & II. They could bite us on the ass later. But, it was the only way to balance the books.”
The CEO raised his eyebrows to show he understood, then turned to the beaming financial relations VP, Francis X.P. O’Reilly, who didn’t need to be asked twice.
“Sam, guys, moving the earnings release date up was brilliant, but you guys hauled your water, too. On Sunday night, after emailing, faxing and snail-mailing the second-quarter results, I personally called the editors at every A and B media outlet until I reached them. They all blew me off!
“So, media-wise, we’re home free, for now.”
Sam Regutnick looked around the room. He had dodged the media this time. Soon, however, he’d have the investors to worry about. Then he turned to Bloomberg and cringed.
The stock had dropped another 1% since he last looked. Were there shorts in the water already?
Bill Regardie is the founder of Regardie’s magazine.