“Are you out of your mind?” Lois exhaled and gathered her thoughts. She had known Jamie forever. They met in college and then wound up working for Rexcom for 20 years. He was excitable but never like this. He was wild eyed and would not be talked down off this cliff.
The news of the layoffs hit everyone like a brick. A 15% staff reduction right before Christmas, and that after one of their best years ever. They had new products in the pipeline, and revenue and margin were both up. Of course, this was nothing new. It had been this way ever since the private owner had bought their division as part of a larger acquisition. They would turn a profit after dealing with staff reductions and higher targets, the owner would pocket most of the gain and then beat up on them for not making enough profit to pay the bank loans. They were very profitable but were made to feel like failures year after year.
And now someone had finally snapped…Jamie of all people. But here was the strange thing: he wasn’t walking out; not quitting. “It’s our company. It was shit when we started and now look at it. And this douchebag sweeps in and takes over.” Lois reminded him that the owner had bought the business fair and square. Jamie exploded: “he didn’t fucking buy shit. He borrowed money and used our assets for collateral. That’s why we can’t get any money to invest in new equipment. He’s mortgaged every thing we worked for.”
Lois felt defeated. “Well it’s not like we can do anything about it”.
Jamie laughed, ” I have a plan, well sort of. I’m gonna need some help.” He handed Lois a list of names. She scanned the list: it was full of colleagues they had known forever, friends really. More importantly, there were a lot of senior managers but no executives. These were the people that actually ran the company. “Have them meet us at Cadillacs tomorrow, 6am sharp.”
Lois stared hard at Jamie, she trusted him, truth told, she thought the world of him but this was stretching even her faith. “What do I tell them?”
“Tell them, no ones getting laid off.”
6:04 AM and everyone that had said they would come was actually there. She was bleary eyed having been up until 1 working the phone. The last thing was a debate between her and Jamie about inviting Teddy. She was one of their best work friends and had been with them since the beginning. Lois thought she’d be valuable and Jamie agreed but said her position imparted a fiduciary responsibility to rat them out. “We are not doing anything illegal she said firmly”.
“No we are not”, Jamie assured her, “it’s just illegal for Teddy not to report it”. This only served to remind her she had no idea what Jamie had in mind, but she suspected he was massaging the definition of “illegal”. She would soon find out.
By eight o’clock the meeting was over. Jamie had chosen the attendees wisely…there was not one single defection. Part of that was Jamie’s reputation for making sound decisions, part of it was his brutal honestly “I don’t quite have this figured out but I’m pretty sure it will work” he’d told them, and part of it was that they were angry and fed up. It was a witches brew custom made for rebellion. Something else that impressed her: Jamie had an assignment for everyone, and that had the effect of committing them to the cause. It was very shrewd. Though there was one person who neither spoke or got an assignment.
Her name was Jocelyn and she was the executive assistant to the CEO. So why was she there? Sometimes she was invited to things just because some man or other liked the eye candy, and even Lois had to admit she was pretty. But that was unlike Jamie who had built the guest list so carefully, so he must be sure she won’t go tell her boss. She has access to information that not even the closest subordinates of the CEO could get hold of, so that must be it. But Jamie was being tight lipped about it. And Jocelyn hadn’t said a word for the entire 2 hours.
Time flew by. Wheels were turning, smaller meetings were convened over the course of 4 weeks. They had agreed not to have another mass meeting so as not to arouse suspicion. And then at 8am on a sunny Monday morning they were ready to roll.
The date had been chosen carefully. Everyone that could act as an officer of the company was out of town with the exception of the CEO…he had come in at his customary time and was in his office in executive row. Jocelyn was at her desk just outside his office acting like it was an ordinary day. At 8:30 Lois and Jamie were seated together in her office because it had a better view of the front gate so they could monitor comings and goings…mostly comings. Jamie looked over at Lois and she nodded. He pressed send on the text to the CIO. Instantly 700 mobile phones were shut down and 1300 users were locked out of the network.
Down the hall, Jocelyn got up from her desk and walked into the CEOs office. Everyone held their breath. As it turned out Jocelyn was the lynchpin of the entire plan, and while Jamie had assured everyone that nothing illegal was gonna go down, this was perilously close to blackmail. Still, it was unlikely Paulus would be filing a complaint. It took 15 minutes and everyone was getting jittery before Paulus emerged from his office with his coat and briefcase. Jocelyn came out a few seconds later and called after him “hey Paulus”, he turned around to look at her and she flipped him the bird, he just shook his head and headed out the door. Jocelyn waved a sheet of paper triumphantly and the staff broke into applause.
Lois looked at Jamie “that took guts, I am not sure I could have confronted him”. As it turned out ever since he’d hired Jocelyn he’d been trying to get into her pants. It wasn’t that he just had the hots for her, hell half the men and even a few women in the office did, it was the things he said to her…and the fact that he had groped her. He’d signed all the papers and docusigned the form from the bank.
Then things began to happen. All incoming ACH receipts were channeled to the new bank account using the authorizations the now departed CEO had signed off on. No one, outside of the ringleaders, had any access to that account. Payments to vendors were being handled the same way. In short, from a cash flow perspective the company was operating normally. But it wouldn’t last. Already two of the sidelined executives had managed to reach the help desk. Fortunately, they had VIP flags turned on and so instead of normal troubleshooting they were triaged to internal IT where the CIO had set up a stalling mechanism. For now they were being patient. But sooner or later they would figure out something was wrong and start calling each other. And then someone would see the daily cash flash from the old bank and the jig would be up.
So they had to get to the people who really mattered…the investment bankers. The company owed them collectively close to twenty three billion dollars. They had to convince them that this was the best way for them to go. Fortunately they had Chip on their side.
Chip was an enigma. Harvard, Oxford, father who ran the biggest investment portfolio in Austria, he was set up for a seat at whatever table he wanted. Yet here he was, upper middle management at a run of the mill manufacturing company. Yet he always seemed to be the happiest guy in whatever room he was in at the moment. But to those that took the trouble to know him he was a man who was exactly where he wanted to be; making his own way with no help from his powerful father and pulling down enough money to still be in the 1% club. Most of all he was free to engage in his favorite passions; chasing women, skiing, cycling and chasing women in no particular order.
Like their erstwhile CEO, Chip too had taken a run at Jocelyn. Unlike the CEO he had taken the time to get to know her, and when she’d rebuffed him, he’d politely taken “no” for an answer. For Jocelyn’s part, after getting to know him a bit better she found herself wishing he’d ask again.
Chip brought something to the table no one else could: he personally knew someone senior at each of their investment banks. Even more importantly he knew that getting their money back, hopefully with a fat return, was all they really cared about. When Lois had reminded him that the bank CEOs had a relationship with their owner and the CEO, he laughed hysterically and said “Lois, they’ve got a relationship with their money. Go where the money is and you’ll find their best friends.”
Lois nodded slowly, ” and we have control of the money.”
Chip smiled, hope you’re packed because by this time tomorrow you’ll be on the corporate Gulfstream headed to Geneva. And with that, Chip went off to have the phone calls that would make or break the whole scheme.
“Well we had better get going”, Jamie stating the obvious broke the tension and though it was not humorous everyone laughed in relief. Chip had briefed them on the phone calls and the final teleconference with all the bankers. They had a tentative agreement pending an in-person review of the internal only financial reports. As predicted, Jean-Claude would want to take their measure in person, though after hearing the tales of cooking the books with deferred maintenance and late season inventory builds without demand, there was not much suspense. The bankers had already grown wary of the owner; his operating costs seemed very low by industry standards. And what of the executives who’d been cut out of the loop? None of the bankers really cared. Jamie would be acting CEO with Chip as CFO and Lois filling in as COO until the bankers had their own consultants come in and sort things. They could retain who they needed and sever the rest.
As for layoffs? Darlene Hughes of Intercontinental, their second biggest lender, put it bluntly: “We could care less. It’s going to be employee owned so you do what you think is right. But if things start looking risky you’ll be getting a lot of help.”
As they were heading towards the elevator, Chip turned and looked at Jocelyn,” Come on”. Jocelyn smiled and said “I was just the honey trap, you don’t need me, I can’t talk to bankers”. “Who cares? We want you to come.” Jocelyn didn’t budge. Chip sighed, and for the first time in his life he realized he wasn’t in control. He was trying to act like he didn’t care but it wasn’t working, “okay, I want you to come.” With that Jocelyn picked up her coat.
As they walked down the hallway Chip suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and was facing Jocelyn. “What do you mean he never…?”
“Well, he did this morning. Isn’t that what you needed? Let’s go, we’ll hold everyone else up.” With that she took Chip by the hand and they headed for the airport.