These new breed American Royal guys are scary…
UMB’s Mariner Kemper doesn’t really fall into that category – he’s far too mellow – plus he wrote a touchy-feely op-ed two weeks back. However today’s answer to R. Crosby Kemper, Jr., – Cerner main man Neal Patterson,- is a dick-biter-offer of the first order.
And look no further than Patterson’s Wikipedia page for the evidence:
“Patterson is infamous for an e-mail flaming managers for not coming to work before 8 am and leaving before 5 pm, now a prominent example used when discussing e-mail etiquette,” it reads. “On the day that the email was posted to Yahoo, the company’s market cap fell by over 22% from a high of $1.5 billion USD.”
How harsh was it?
“The only things missing from the office memo were expletives,” the New York Times wrote in 2001. “It had everything else. There were lines berating employees for not caring about the company. There were words in all capital letters like ”SICK” and ”NO LONGER.” There were threats of layoffs and hiring freezes and a shutdown of the employee gym.”
Originally intended for Cerner managers, the email spread throughout the 3,000 person staff, went viral and became a shot heard round the world.
“Now, Neal L. Patterson, the 51-year-old chief executive, a man variously described by people who know him as ‘arrogant,’ ‘candid’ and ‘passionate,’ says he wishes he had never hit the send button,” the Times continued.
“Mr. Patterson went on to list six potential punishments, including laying off 5 percent of the staff in Kansas City. ‘Hell will freeze over,’ he vowed, before he would dole out more employee benefits. The parking lot would be his yardstick of success, he said; it should be ‘substantially full’ at 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and half full on Saturdays. ‘You have two weeks,’ he said. ‘Tick, tock.’ ”
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at the Stanford University, characterized Patterson’s approach as ”the corporate equivalent of whips and ropes and chains. It puts you at war with your employees and with your basic tendencies in human nature.”
A more recent example of Patterson’s “take no prisoners” corporate warfare went down in September when he threatened to move the American Royal out of KC.
Like that’s gonna happen.
Then again, if KCK or Louisville, Kentucky has $50 to $70 million and wants to hitch one of their wagons to a livestock and horse show, more power to ’em.
When a proposal to remake Kemper Arena into a youth sports Mecca began to get traction, the Royal sicced the town’s top law firm on the lowly Foutch Brothers and cease-and-desisted them into dropping their proposal.
“There’s not a lot of love for the American Royal proposal,” KC councilman Ed Ford said shortly afterward, in an understatement of Titanic proportions.
Upon which an attorney for the American Royal threatened the city that if it didn’t go along with its plan to bulldoze Kemper and invest in a smaller venue, the Royal would force it to choke out $188 million to make good on its current agreement.
Following the nice guy approach two weeks ago by UMB Bank honcho Mariner Kemper to schmooze KC into getting behind the Royal’s plan, it was back to playing hardball.
A few days before Thanksgiving the Royal told the KC council to stick it and dropped it’s proposal to raze Kemper and build a smaller venue.
“It is unfortunate that a conversation about what to do with Kemper Arena has morphed into a hostile debate on whether or not Kansas City supports the American Royal,” it read “The City has made it clear that investing in the American Royal is not a priority.”
Not only that, but “the current debate and negative dialogue have become a detriment to the American Royal brand and its core mission,” the letter went on.
So while most headlines focussed on the American Royal “halting” it’s plans for Kemper, make no mistake, that was merely a smokescreen.
A full reading of the letter reveals that the Royal’s “threat” to bail was little more than a bargaining ploy to threaten that it had the city over a barrel.
And face it, who in their right mind was going to respond to the city’s request for proposals after what the American Royal had done to the Foutch Brothers?
It’s just one more example of an increasingly impatient American Royal trying to bully the city into green lighting a $50 million ($70 million when initially proposed). deal.
I spoke recently with one of the Kansas City area’s top investigative reporters and asked for a prediction on whether the Royal would be successful in intimidating the city council into granting the organization its $50 million white elephant.
“I think they get their way,” was the answer.
Even Mariner Kemper half-heartedly conceded in an open letter that the glory days of livestock shows was o-v-e-r.
“Times have changed,” Kemper wrote. “I get that. Ag no longer defines our city. We’ve become a metropolitan community with a state-of-the-art performing arts building and a revitalized downtown that plays host to some of the best concerts and events in the Midwest.”
The flip side of the Kemper concession:
“But agriculture is still very much a vital part of our day-to-day lives,” he immediately added. “It is also an important part of our Kansas City economy.”
Seriously, other than going to a grocery store, what sort of daily awareness do average Kansas Citians have about agriculture? Certainly not watching society matrons circle orange barrels on horseback or country bumpkins lassooing livestock.
None of which has anything to do with Kansas City hosting a boring ag event that virtually nobody local attends – let alone paying customers.
The worst – most ridiculous – Kemper argument for building a $50 million smaller venue – was Mariner’s comparison to Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City…Patterson’s pride and joy.
“Just a few short years ago the Wizards had minimal attendance at games and a small fan base,” Kemper writes. “But their leadership, and the leadership of Wyandotte County, had the vision to build a soccer-specific stadium. Now, Sporting Club plays in the best stadium, arguably, in the world, right here in Kansas City. You can’t pass a car on the street without seeing a Sporting Club sticker or someone wearing a T-shirt bearing their logo.”
Talk about a reach…
There’s no connection whatsoever between the growth of the world’s most popular spectator sport – not to mention a championship team – and faltering livestock shows.
The Wizards of old drew 10,000 to 20,000 fans at the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium, which looked bad because there were another 60,000 to 70,000 empty seats.
Well, guess what?
Sporting Park only seats 18,000.
Earlier I referred to the American Royal’s proposal as a “white elephant.”
The definition of a white elephant:
“A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam, now Thailand, were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered without use or value.”
Get the picture?
What’s gonna be the most fun is seeing how the KC Council rationalizes granting the local rich guys their bogus new venue, then counting down the years until somebody finally figures out a way to0 repurpose the venue and make a buck.
Which could happen.
However that won’t excuse the serious waste of taxpayer dollars in the here and now.
The $64 million question:
Will Patterson be able to browbeat the Big Guy when he gets to the Pearly gates?