UNITED STATES—Sam had his plan, alright: he could be crazy like a fox, this guy who came at 11 years old from Bessarabia. From his stake that had shrunk to some $2,000,000 he took fully half of that out and instructed Price Waterhouse to buy Allied Fruit stock. In a very genteel way, the broker cast aspersions on his sanity, in an indirect way and then quickly caught himself, as he knew the importance of Mr. Delaney’s business.
There was a hue and cry after the Dodge Bros. listed only non-voting shares to the public, eventually and as the board of officers, running the Allied Fruit took full advantage of this loophole, (later closer by regulators in 1940) which deprived the average stockholder of a say in running the company and it got them a seat at annual shareholder meetings. To carry out his plan, Sam Delany had to own half of all outstanding shares of stock, plus one extra share. This was a guy who knew how to spend and how to scrimp, and he double, triple checked with his brokers, and made sure that that one last share, valued now at $9.25. That last share was a goldmine over an oilwell.
Sam clashed with big fruit in in the isthmus for years, he took their offer for Chamelecón on a share-for-share share basis of 115 dollars it launched his retirement. Now, two years later it was selling around $ 9.75 a share. He knew the value of his money better than anybody, the sweat, the toil, the dirty breaches of conduct involved in keeping an enterprise alive, though kept to a bare minimum.
So here we were, back to Boston. this provincial backwater where is all started by the Tea Party, which was all about taxes. Getting value for hard-earned. Sam took a train to Boston, where nobody had ever seen him. The towering, hawk-nosed man with brown eyes dark as flint dropped in on a boardroom meeting on the eleventh floor of Allied’s corporate office.
His attire stood out, the strikingly exaggerated herringbone pattern of his green mohair suit, the rich burgundy hue of his shantung silk necktie. It would have looked dumpy had he not carried himself so well, he stood very straight and towered over the gentlemen seated around a long table.
He said in a guttural voice, which retained more than a little of Mother Russia especially when he got tired or intense.
Vincent Auchincloss Sutton, the chairman of Allied Fruit, didn’t even look up as Sam entered the office, acknowledged Sam frostily at best. The accent the clung to him in moments of weariness and great intensity. The head of the First National Bank of Boston looked askance at Sam as he would at a janitor who’d taken a wrong door. Behind the green mohair suit the men in the room saw somebody who no longer was, they saw the banana peddler who had sold the ripe ones in the dock in New Orleans.
When he summarized the key points in his letter the gentlemen around the table seemed to hear only what reinforced their preconceptions of him. He said ‘w’ for v, so stevedore became stevedore.
“I came to offer some help as I have some experience in the banana business.” Some tapped their fingers on the glossy mahogany surface. “The Allied Ships are coming in at half speed, half loaded. Ripes are being dumped into the sea when they get to New Orleans and Boston and New York. The stevedores and captains all confirm this. You are losing more bananas than you are saving, and you are losing more money than you are saving. I built a strong business with my own work and picture, one that grew and grew from finding a market for the ripes. When I bought my first 5000 acres in the Isthmus I knew speed was of the essence. Get them to the distribution hub dark green.
You had 68 million in profit two years ago, and that has reduced to six million:
I have five points:
–Decommission the old ships.
–Fire the deadwood, those workers who underperform.
–Plant new cuttings, to increase yield.
–Pay more and stop the race to the bottom line. My workers didn’t want me to leave Chamelecón. Now the workers, the managers have a culture of griping. All levels, this is disrespect. I would call your attention to the smoldering labor unrest.
–The task is to care for the plantations. Plant new cuttings and you will get out of the vicious cycle of planting less because you sell less and less product reaches the customers. Listen.”
To be continued…
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.