Small town media types like few things more than rewriting history…
Like bringing down legendary local icons such as Plaza developer J.C. Nichols. Or recasting a business bully like Sporting KC owner Neal Patterson as a jolly good fellow.
Why confine yourself to the mere writing of news when you can try to record what passes for history?
Make no mistake; Patterson was a giant among men, who loomed especially large given the context of his rise from the ranks of red dirt tenant farmers.
As for comparing Patterson to iconic local businessman and political firebrand Jim Nutter who died the same week, not even close.
Nutter may have wielded a heavy hand in his behind-the-scenes efforts to shape the local business and political landscape, but he was a genuinely nice guy with a comparatively deft touch.
Patterson on the other hand was a mean spirited bully who did not play particularly well with others when he failed to get his way.
Naturally, the Kansas City Star glossed over the most vivid example of Patterson’s rude, crude manner of leadership in writing that, “in 2001 he made national news when his strongly-worded email to employees complaining that they were not working long enough hours was leaked and picked up by the New York Times.”
Talk about an understatement…
Check out this far more vivid and accurate take on Wikipedia:
“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. “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.
“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 added.
“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.’ ”
So heinous was Patterson’s missive that “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.’ ”
So enraged was Patterson over the leak of his email and the attendant publicity that he reportedly booted the firm’s PR main man – a variation on kill the messenger.
More recently, Patterson was a force at the American Royal when it tried to browbeat the Kansas City Council three years back into authorizing $50 million to raze Kemper Arena and build the failing annual livestock, horse and bbq blowout a new home in the West Bottoms.
As for Patterson’s rescue of KC’s Wizards soccer team (Sporting KC), that came as the result of a Lamar Hunt schmooze, not Patterson’s love of the “beautiful game.”
The season before Patterson’s purchase, I rode up the elevator at Arrowhead with his wife who was on her way to join her husband in the owner’s suite when she told me that was their first soccer game ever.
Also missing-in-action from Patterson’s sports bio in the Star was the fact that he foolishly named Sporting KC’s spanking new stadium after disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong in 2012 in spite of the fact that the investigation and expose of Armstrong’s drug and cheating scandal was well underway.
Instead readers were treated to this telltale quote from SKC coach Peter Vermes praising Patterson:
“When I had taken the job here, I had heard from a lot of people, ‘Oh, Neal Patterson, you gotta be careful; he’s tough; he’s really demanding; he’s all these things…”
No argument there.