Chapter 7 Going to the Mattresses

Rico Thomas’ POV

I was in New York for a meeting with Harrison to discuss the Jupiter Works acquisition. Edward Enterprises L.P. is a diversified holdings conglomerate located in the 9 West building in Manhattan. One of Harrison’s subsidiaries is Edward Capital L.P., an activist hedge fund with just over seventeen billion in assets under management. Aside from being a businessman and billionaire philanthropist, Harrison is an old family friend and my mentor. He’s currently married but separated from his wife.

I had the highest respect and admiration Harrison, even more so than my father. He taught me everything I know about my business, how to obtain power; ultimately he’s shown me how to survive.

Harrison had gained a reputation a pit bull corporate raider in the nineties; the preferred modern term is “activist investor or shareholder.” He told me once when I was at Harvard that he preferred the name “corporate raider” because it invoked a feeling of fear and that “activist investor” made him sound like he was outside on 57th street holding up signs in protests. Edward Capital is one of the top hedge funds in the country, particularly in the software technology market. It’s well known for being at the center of many hostile takeovers, acquisitions, and mergers. Several of the takeovers Harrison’s executed over the years have resulted in corporations breaking up, selling off, or shutting down altogether. Harrison was nothing pleasant when it came to a boardroom coup d’etat.

I don’t go to Harrison for every merger or acquisition my firm consults on. There is a multitude of ways we strategize for our clients if they’re looking to merge with another company or completely acquire it. Not all takeovers were hostile, and frankly, I preferred when they’re not. Since Jupiter decided to shut down talks with Grazier, they came to us to execute the best plan that would eventually get them controlling shares of Jupiter.

I wanted to see Harrison face to face to talk about our strategy, and it was better to meet in his New York offices, rather than San Myshuno for various reasons.

Cassandra, the first assistant, greeted me in the executive reception area on the 44th floor. “Good afternoon, Mr. Thomas. Mr. Edward is expecting you,  right this way, please.” I closely followed behind Cassandra, admiring the way her sleek black dress fit snuggly over her swinging hips. I could tell she wore Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue because it was the same perfume I’ve purchased for Shoshannah many times.

She showed me into Harrison’s massive corner office with views overlooking the park and expansive surrounding buildings that seemed to go on forever. The hardwood floors were freshly shined and buffed; you could smell the finish the janitors used from the night before.

The sunlight coming from the high windows bounced off the wood-paneled walls. Other than the notifications of the stocks rising and falling on the monitors, the only sound you could hear were the pop and crackle of wood burning in the fireplace.

“Long time, no see,” Harrison smiled, standing up from his desk and extended his hand. His eyes were a piercing ice blue, but there’s warmth behind them. “Cassandra, could you please bring us two coffees?”

“Of course, Mr. Edward.” I slightly turned to watch Cassandra walk out of the room. “Nice view,” I remarked. Harrison raised his eyebrow. “How’s Shoshannah doing these days?” he asked, smirking. I laughed. “The same as ever.”

“Still the heartbreaker, eh?”

“No, not at all. Shoshannah keeps throwing hints at getting married, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.” Harrison gave me a wistful look, undoubtedly looking back on his youth and mistakes he wishes he could’ve remedied, especially now with the problems that led to his moving out his family home and away from his wife.

“How are you? It’s good to see you.” I was genuinely happy to see Harrison. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how good of a player I become of the game; I always learn something new after meeting with him.

“Here, sit. I’m good. How was the flight? It’s been a long while since you’ve been home hasn’t it?” asked Harrison as he headed over to two leather sofas; probably worth the equivalent of a mortgage payment on my first high-end apartment. I nodded. “The flight was fine. And yes, I haven’t been home in nearly a year.”

“You’ve been home to New York in recent months, just not your parent’s home, is what you mean,” observed Harrison. I sighed, not wanting to get into the reasons I’ve avoided going to my parent’s house. Harrison already knew, for the most part, I just didn’t want to discuss the more recent problems I’ve encountered with my father.

“My mom isn’t in the city anyhow. I would see her, but she’s in Tokyo.”

“And Connor?” asked Harrison, wryly. I shook my head. “I haven’t talked to him; he doesn’t know I’m here,” I replied.

Harrison sat back and studied me for a moment. “Connor is certainly aware you’re here, don’t be mistaken. Akira’s in Tokyo, hmm. How are Richard and Ryan doing?” he asked, referring to my brother and sister. “I suppose they’re fine.” I hadn’t expected to see any of my family although I grew up in Manhattan and had many ties to the city. My brother Richard lived in DC and Ryan lived on the Upper West Side. None of us were exactly close. I had a feeling Harrison wasn’t done grilling me about my family just yet.

“You know I ran into your old man at the Met not too long ago. It was for the opening of Kennedey Leeds’ new collection. I spoke with the artist briefly and remembered she was somehow related to your mother’s cousins, the Powers brothers,” recalled Harrison.

“Yes, she’s the sister-in-law to my mother’s cousin, Jaylen Powers. Did you and my father speak?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. Harrison laughed. “No, not even a little bit. You know your daddy doesn’t care for me.”

“The feeling is mutual for you both,” I shrugged. It was good to see Harrison again, but I wanted to move our meeting along to discuss the reason I was here. Talking about my family, especially my father to anyone is not something I revel in.

Harrison sensed my agitation and changed our discussion to the business at hand. “As I told you before, the synergies from combining Grazier and Jupiter would be very profitable down the line. They’re better together than they are apart. Jupiter is undervalued, plus after my research, they have some issues with their latest application Cypher. Once I start buying shares, it will drive the price up. I’ll stay between twenty-nine and fifty-one to start. Just enough so Jupiter will see I mean to set about making changes. They need to reduce cost and fix the issues with their software. I’ll need a clearer picture of their debt as well. When I have a certain percentage, I’ll send a proxy to the shareholders until I can get a specific amount of control. Most of their board if not all will be replaced. Once I sell my shares to Grazier when it’s most profitable, they’ll most likely remove everyone from Jupiter. Then I’ll get a seat on their newly formed board.”

The work of a real mastermind. I loved how Harrison’s mind worked. “It’s a smart plan. Once I hear news of some unexpected early morning raid, I’ll know the play’s in motion,” I said.

Harrison wryly laughed. “There could be a spot for you too,” he said, pointedly. Now that a board position for me was on the table, the stakes were even higher.

“It’s something I would have to review. If I were to take a position, it could risk a conflict of interest for current and future clients of TGS,” I replied. “I wouldn’t concern myself with that, Rico. If a conflict came up later, you have the option to recuse yourself from those dealings and delegate those responsibilities to your associates.” Harrison made a good point, but I’d have to think about what the implication could mean if I became a Grazier Technology board member in the distant future.

Grazier “technically” walked away from Jupiter after their last talks. If they voted to go after them, undoubtedly, Jupiter would employ whatever defense accessible to them to defend itself from a takeover, something Grazier didn’t want. They wouldn’t be expecting Harrison to come along and get the majority of their shares. I was sure once they saw Edward Capital had a significant amount of control, they wouldn’t have much choice but to adhere to any demands Harrison made.

It may seem Machiavellian to some, but the fact is that once everyone saw Harrison buying shares, it would create value for their shareholders. There’s a term in the business people like to refer to whenever they see that Harrison is interested in a company. It’s called the Edward Drive due to his ability to drive up the price and adding value to the shares of the companies he invests in. Jupiter won’t know right away of Harrison’s intention to sell off to Grazier once he fixed their internal issues and made the company more profitable.

It was just another Monday for Edward Capital. The firm bought and sold companies on a regular basis. Harrison had the insight to see where different companies are undervalued, in trouble, or doing well but could be better; he will get enough shares to advocate on behalf of shareholders to their board to bring about changes he wanted to see at those companies. Many dislike Harrison, but funny enough some of the people who hate him have great respect for him.

Harrison narrowed his eyes. “We need a closer look at Cypher, and any vulnerabilities it has that surely will cost Jupiter’s stock to go down were it made public. I don’t need to know how you’ll obtain this information, but I won’t go into a battle without being fully armed.” I nodded in agreement. Whatever Tanner found through his “research” it wouldn’t be enough since Cypher hasn’t gone to market. He could only look at the current data.

Once I got back to San Myshuno, I would follow up with my associate, Bash Banks. I sent him a text not too long ago telling him that I wanted to meet up. Jupiter not only undervalued their product, but they undervalued their employees in many ways. It’s not so much that I think Jupiter isn’t aware of Bash’s education and talent, they’re aware of his negative feelings. More likely than not in most corporate climates having an attitude with a sense of entitlement will get you nowhere fast.

Bash is young, but not too young where he should believe merely having degrees from specific schools is a guarantee of anything. He’ll only have one shot with me; I won’t tolerate ineptitude.

******************************

I left New York only hours after meeting with Harrison. I texted Bash telling him to meet me at Georgio’s the following afternoon. He didn’t need to know the specifics of Harrison’s involvement nor his plans for Jupiter once he held a controlling interest.

Not only did I want Bash to give me the information on Cypher technology and other data systems, but I also wanted to gauge what his thinking was like. Sometimes bitter people act out irrationally and make less than smart decisions. If the sting of being passed up for this latest promotion heavily weighed on him, I couldn’t count on Bash to watch his step and not make a big mistake that could put everything at risk.

I stepped into the lounge at Georgio’s where I found Bash sitting across the room near a window. I specifically chose this location because it was out of the way and there was a better chance we wouldn’t run into a lot of people. The atmosphere was quiet; not many patrons had made it from downtown, which was just about twenty-five minutes from here. Georgio’s was more or less on the upscale side, but not in an unattainable way.

Bash spotted me and gave a short wave. He was here before me, which is good. I didn’t see he had a drink already. “How long has he been here?” I asked Roger, one of the servers and a longtime spy. “Not long, less than ten minutes.” I nodded. Getting here too early would signal desperation, it was good for Bash that he hadn’t committed such a transgression, yet.

I headed to Bash’s table and frowned. After we exchanged pleasantries, I got right to my first point. “Sebastian, let me give you a pro tip. When you’re meeting someone for business, especially when that person is of higher rank and standing than you, wear a tie.” I was aware that people in tech, usually didn’t dress to the nines for work, but one must always be prepared, especially if they know they have an important meeting to attend.

A look of embarrassment briefly spread over Bash’s face, he shifted uncomfortably. “I, uh, I-I’m sorry. I came here after work,” he stammered. His nervousness would need to get in check, but at least Bash didn’t break eye contact with me. Shoshannah told me years ago that like her father, I intimidated people. She claimed that when I met the judge and didn’t cower like most guys our age, her love for me was cemented. I took that with a grain of salt, as she proclaimed the same thing after we first had sex and I gave her five orgasms in a row. It wasn’t even my best work yet.

“From here on out, when I meet with you, don’t worry about it. I’m just getting you ready for game-time,” I replied as I slid into my seat. Bash gave me a quizzical look, wondering if I’d been testing him and I was.

“I was surprised to get your text. Then I didn’t hear from you for a while,” said Bash. Roger came over and took our drink orders. I nodded. “I’ve had some things in the works for several weeks now. I heard about that last promotion you were passed over at work.” I kept my eyes laser-focused on Bash, waiting for his response. He dealt with many internal issues, mostly about race and class. While I can guarantee those things do play a part in corporate America, I know for a fact that isn’t the main reason Bash continues to get passed over for promotions. He’s too focused on bitterness and pettiness to see how his attitude can turn people off. I’ve known him for some years now and witnessed it first hand.

Bash is incredibly smart and gifted, and his talents aren’t utilized at Jupiter. He’s not exactly expendable which makes him highly qualified for the type of career he’s in, but it takes more than just your education and skills to climb the corporate ladder.

If I were going to use Bash for our attack on Jupiter, he’d need to get the chip off his shoulder. Once Harrison had controlling shares and made the company more profitable, Grazier would gain control. If Bash helped us with information on Cypher technology and the bugs in their system, I could guarantee he could move up to a much higher position once Grazier fully acquired Jupiter.

“Yeah, I can’t say I was completely surprised by not getting the promotion. All the tap dancing “they” want me to do, acting like I even had a chance. Never again,” scowled Bash.

I wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. “I wanted to discuss your future. I need to know if you’re in or out right now,” I said. A look of strong curiosity spread over Bash’s face. “What is this about?”

Roger walked back over to our table and set our drinks down. “Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked. I shook my head, no. Roger was a long-time informant in my network of spies I have placed all over the region. He didn’t know exactly why I had him watch Bash today nor the other people I keep tabs on, he just knew I paid him well like the others that report back to me.


“I told you, your future; whether you want to be on the losing team and go down with Jupiter or play for the winning side. For your protection, as well as others and mine, I can’t get into too many details. However, as events unfold in the media, you’ll begin to understand.” I replied.

Bash took a deep breath. “Well, I’ve always known you to be smart and capable, Rico. Everything you touch seems to turn to gold. I don’t normally enter into blind agreements, but yes. I’m in. I know different companies have made plans to merge with us. I can see the writing on the wall. If Jupiter is going down, I don’t want to be on that ship.”


“That’s good to know. Before I go any further, you need to pledge your complete loyalty to me; your resolve must be unassailable. I can’t have any doubts and neither can you.” Bash earnestly nodded in agreement. “I understand, Rico. You have my loyalty.”

I informed Bash that I needed specific information on Cypher, the current data encryption software Jupiter was developing. I wanted to know what bugs the application had, what software or operating systems it wasn’t compatible with and what plans did the developers have to integrate it into their existing systems. Bash wouldn’t be engaging in anything illegal per se by obtaining information he already had access to. Nor contributing to any “insider trading” for Harrison’s benefit.

We at Thomas Global wanted to know exactly what we were dealing with. If I wanted this takeover to go as smooth as possible, we would need to know the areas to target first and foremost when it came to dealing with Jupiter’s board of directors. Harrison will want to replace them eventually, but he couldn’t on day one.

If Jupiter even smelled Grazier in the vicinity or knew they were resolved to acquiring them once it was in Harrison’s control, they would fight dirty. They wouldn’t want to destroy themselves internally, but they don’t have the capital for a “pac” defense, they could and would find a white knight. I would do everything in my power to stop that from happening. We’re going to the mattresses.

After I left Bash and paid the check, I headed downstairs for my car service and driver I periodically use when I travel to meetings.

I pulled out my cell phone and sent a single text to Cressida: Line up the mattresses.

 

****Author’s Note: Be sure to check out our Facebook group for writers for previews and character updates before they’re posted to this blog Sims of Color Stories

****Check out Rico, Harrison, and Bash’s biographies in the character bio index 

****You can check out some background information on the artist Harrison mentioned, Kennedey Leeds in my first Sims story Reagan Leeds: Run The World. She’s the younger sister of Reagan and aunt to Marseille. This Is Only a Test highlights the opening of Kennedey’s first gallery in Isla Paradiso.

****The term “going to the mattresses” is a line from The Godfather, basically meaning going to war. 

My hostile takeover storyline contains elements of the power dynamics in the business world, I’ve always had a keen interest in. It’s taken a lot of research and my intense desire to develop this arc in GOP. I appreciate you all who “tune” in to read the story.

Thank you once again for reading and Happy Simming,

Camille

Chapter 3 Greed is Good

Rico’s POV

Grazier Technology retained Thomas Global Strategies for our mergers & acquisitions services. I don’t directly acquire companies through acquisition. Depending on the logistics of a corporate takeover, I may use several different strategies on the target to gain control of the company for my client. For Grazier, I’d consulted with my mentor and activist investor, Harrison Edward. Another term you could use that was more popular in the eighties, is a corporate raider. Harrison makes all the raiding Carl Icahn did in the eighties seem like child’s play.

Now, Grazier is preparing itself to be the center of news yet again after their sexual harassment scandal. They were looking to expand their core business and wanted to acquire a smaller firm that had developed new and innovative crypto technology and financial data security applications. Grazier was one of the largest software companies concentrated in data technology. As more consumers conduct business and financial transactions on their thousand dollar smartphones and tablets, they were hard-pressed to tap into the highly lucrative mobile market. The road ahead would be arduous. Grazier was looking at Jupiter Works, a small but highly innovative software firm to get them to where they needed to be in the digital mobile market.

Not only will Grazier make millions, but they will gain a substantial amount of power from the Jupiter acquisition.

As Harrison mentioned in our brief conference call the other day, a takeover, especially a hostile one, is no walk in the park. Grazier approached Jupiter Works board of directors about a merger in the past, as did other firms with similar proposals. Their executives weren’t looking to join with anyone and desired to remain independent. The good news for Grazier and bad news for Jupiter is that their board can be replaced. We can take our fight directly to the shareholders, which is where Harrison would step in. You have not seen an actual artist until you’ve seen him in action. Gird your loins.

*****************************

I wanted to spend the evening preparing for my associates meeting tomorrow; I wasn’t expecting my doorman to call letting me know my on and off again lady-friend, Shoshannah Carter was on her way up. We dated throughout graduate school at Harvard. We had broken up for a couple of years but started seeing each other again a few years back. She and I never lost contact, and it was mainly Shoshannah pushing for a commitment. Some of her family members were pressuring her to put the heat on me to propose; that wasn’t going to happen. We were in our thirties, and Shoshannah wanted to settle down as expected of someone with her upbringing, but I won’t be manipulated into proposing or getting married; both were the furthest thing from my mind.

I opened the front door, just as Shoshannah was stepping off the elevator, I saw my neighbor, Panther’s star quarterback, Colin Stone heading toward his penthouse apartment.

There are two penthouses in my building; I owned one and Colin had the other; mine is bigger. He had been playing on the road, and it looked as if he’d just got back into town. He gave me a slight wave as I nodded at him.

She walked up to the door and brushed past me. I held the door open briefly before shutting it and turning the lock. Shoshannah, pushed her hair out of her face, revealing her silk blouse that fell slightly off her shoulders. She wore a tight black pencil skirt, and the twenty thousand dollar Birkin I gifted her some months back. You would rarely find Shoshannah in an ensemble that wouldn’t cost the average person a few paychecks.  “It feels like we haven’t seen each other in forever,” said Shoshannah, getting straight to the point. I sighed. “Been busy. You know this is one of the busiest times of years for me.”

I walked into the living room with Shoshannah close on my heels. “Have you had dinner yet?” I looked at the clock; it was already half past eight. I didn’t like to eat this late, but I couldn’t get out of it. I knew she would badger me about our “relationship” or needing to spend more time together if I didn’t silence her with a distraction.

“Not, yet,” I replied. “Looks like you’ve been working. We can try that new Italian place across the street, and then we could do something else,” said Shoshannah, suggestively.

“The cook left chicken alfredo for me. I’ll heat it up; we can eat that.” Shoshannah rolled her eyes. If she thought I was going to be leaving the house to take her out to a five-star restaurant at this hour, she had another think coming.

Shoshannah was from a well-to-do “John and Jenn” prestigious and prominent black family. My association with The Carters had been good for business over the years. The most important connect I had through Shoshannah was her father, Corliss Carter. He sat on the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most powerful court in the country. Her mother, Clara Carter served in the last administration’s cabinet as the president’s Secretary of the Interior. It was good to have friends in high places.

It’s no secret to those closest to me, that I had no intention of marrying anytime soon, neither do I want to continue a relationship for several more years to come. Having one of the most powerful judges in the country one phone call away is always beneficial, and I knew I would need to continue to have favor with the Carters.

After I warmed the chicken Alfredo up, we headed to my upstairs deck overlooking the bay to eat our dinner. I quietly sat at the table, chewing the slightly dried out chicken,  while I half-listened to Shoshannah drone on about an upcoming gala her mother’s charity was hosting. She feigned resentment at her forthcoming duties during the party.

“If I have to meet and mingle with one more board member, alumni, or former White House aide, I’m going to go absolutely insane.” The truth of the matter is that Shoshannah loved the society functions her family was heavily involved in; she was obsessed with class and appearances.

Many of these functions were beneficial as far as networking goes. I used to attend them all the time with Shoshannah, but now not so much. I occasionally hobnob with her father and her mother’s friends and their associates. I choose more carefully which social events I attend as my firm and reputation grow within influential circles.

Networking was vital in my line of work, but I find that needing Shoshannah’s intervention on my behalf with her dad was becoming obsolete. As the judge and I have gotten closer and know more of the same people, he’s more open to taking a phone call to me or helping a client out when it’s needed.

Shoshannah is high strung at times, and her behavior is starting to become more of a liability. She can drink too much at times, and she tends to boast tales of elaborate million dollar weddings that she is currently planning, of which couldn’t be any further from the truth. No one can pressure me in any aspect of my life.

**************************

I had a meeting with my executive associates the following morning for a strategy session for the Grazier acquisition of Jupiter Works.

“As some of you with prior knowledge on this case know, Grazier’s most powerful shareholders implored the board and management that they needed to increase their presence in the mobile market. These days, companies could lose everything and be left behind with no significant digital mobile presence. They have a target, and that is what this meeting is about,” I said, addressing everyone in the conference room. It was after 8 am and my day was already half-over.

“Grazier wants to expand their mobile base, that’s why they want Jupiter. They’re a very innovative firm. What specifically is Grazier after?” asked Sam Watanabe, my college roommate at Harvard, and now one of my associates. “Jupiter has this new data encryption technology that Grazier wants, but even more than that,” I replied.

“Jupiter is working on a new application using crypto-technology that will be integrated into their current product allowing the ease of anonymous financial transactions using internet currency,” said Jefferson Lewis, one of the executive associates that knew of the current situation with Grazier. Jefferson was also an old associate of mine as we went to prep school together. He didn’t go to Harvard, but his MBA was from Yale. He was my second in command when it came to dealing with clients on the financial side of TGS.

Cressida pulled up Jupiter’s quarterly earnings on her tablet. “Jupiter isn’t direct competition right now, but they will be within three to five years. Therefore, not only does our client want to choke out their competition, but owning the design and software at Jupiter would be highly profitable for them in the long run.”

“TGS needs to employ the most cost-effective way to acquire the target. Looking at areas that are solvent, profitable, and any debt that may not be publicly available. We can’t just do that by looking at past performance and future projections,” argued Nixon Keen, one of the most prominent hardliners at the firm. He made valuable contributions to TGS, and his father is a former deputy director of the NSA. Nixon was a no bullshitter and told you exactly what was on his mind. He didn’t like to take on projects if a win wasn’t guaranteed.

“Last year, Grazier’s board voted to make a friendly takeover offer. Jupiter, not wanting to merge, declined. Grazier pushed the issue to meet with the executives at Jupiter, but each meeting grew more and more hostile. It wasn’t a deal Jupiter wanted, and they completely shut down any further talks,” I said.

“What happened with those negotiations?” asked Autumn. I could see the wheels churning in her head, putting together press packages and orchestrating damage control attacks against leaks in what will undoubtedly be an ugly battle in the coming months. She had her tablet nearby but didn’t make any entries, and rarely took physical notes but kept information in her mental rolodex. Autumn was more old-school at first glance, but she is a mastermind.

“Grazier’s terms didn’t interest Jupiter, but they’re not big enough; they don’t have enough capital to ward off these attacks. Grazier’s most influential shareholders and a portion of the board hadn’t changed its mind about acquiring Jupiter even after the talks fell through. We’re beyond negotiations now; we’re going to come up with the best plan of execution for our client,” explained Jefferson.

“Tanner, I will need you take a closer look at the technology. Find out if there are any bugs or issues with the development of their latest applications,” I said to Tanner Young, the firm’s computer genius. If there were anything on the internet or within a company’s internal network, Tanner had unique skills to obtain pertinent information. Some of this tactics may fall into the gray area of legal vs. illegal.

“I’ll get started on it right away. Jupiter has excellent security, and they’re very secretive so it will take me some time to get any useful information,” replied Tanner. “That’s fine, just keep me updated daily on your progress. I will meet with you privately,” I said.

What I didn’t mention to my associate is that I had a contact at Jupiter that I believed could provide me with some valuable insider information. Jefferson and Tanner were already aware of this. If my contact is as unhappy as I’ve heard he was with his job, he could be looking to make a deal with a much larger company and find favor with Grazier once the takeover was complete.

Jefferson and I laid down the framework of our plan over the next couple of hours with the rest of the associates. By the time our meeting had ended for today, everyone was clear on what I needed them to do. We were all looking at fifteen hour days in the coming weeks, so I told everyone to get comfortable because we were going into battle.

 

****Author’s note: The title of this chapter is a famous line from the movie ‘Wall Street.’

Check out the biography of Rico and other main characters here.

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