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Authors: Cameron Hawley

Executive Suite

BOOK: Executive Suite
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“Hawley's books are realistic page-turners about the romance and drama of business.” —Marsha Enright, The Atlas Society

Executive Suite

“An extremely well-informed novel of the financial world and its high-echelon inhabitants.” —
The New York Times

“This is the world of business snapshotted in one of its all-out battles with no holds barred.… The reader [is] entertained by some rapid-fire storytelling.” —
San Francisco Chronicle

“A fine job of writing; the suspense is terrific; and when you've finished the book we think you'll know a lot more about what really makes businessmen tick than most people know.” —
Daily News
(New York)

Cash McCall

“Cameron Hawley, who proved in
Executive Suite
that the problems and personalities of corporation management make fascinating material for fiction, has done it again.…
Cash McCall
… is … just as entertaining.” —
The New York Times

“The picture of what goes on in the big banks, the law offices, the clubs, and hotel suites while millions of dollars are at stake will fascinate almost any American reader.” —
Saturday Review

“Fun to read … Its account of corporation maneuvers has an air of inside savvy.… A novel that will be read and talked about.” —
New York Herald Tribune

The Lincoln Lords

“This third novel from Cameron Hawley sustains his reputation for an honest approach to business problems—in fictional dress.” —
Kirkus Reviews

The Hurricane Years

“Engrossing … Will keep you reading.” —
Chicago Tribune

Executive Suite

A Novel

Cameron Hawley




June 22

“The king is dead



2.30 P.M. EDT

A minute or two before or after two-thirty on the afternoon of the twenty-second of June, Avery Bullard suffered what was subsequently diagnosed as a cerebral hemorrhage. After fifty-six years, somewhere deep within the convoluted recesses of his brain, a tiny artery finally yielded to the insistent pounding of his hard-driven bloodstream. In the instant of that infinitesimal failure, the form and pattern of a world within a world was changed. An industrial empire was suddenly without an emperor. The president of the Tredway Corporation was dead—and no vice-president had been designated for succession.

It was not a coincidence that Avery Bullard had been thinking, in the minutes immediately preceding his death, about who his new executive vice-president might be. It was a question that had been in his mind many times during these three months since John Fitzgerald had died. Today, he had thought of almost nothing else. This morning George Caswell had warned him again that the investment fund executives were asking why a second-in-command of the Tredway Corporation had not been designated. “You can't blame them,” Caswell had said. “Continuity of management is an important consideration to anyone holding large blocks of an industrial security.”

Caswell had been right, of course. Avery Bullard had willingly admitted that. If they were to float a debenture issue in the fall, they would need the support of the investment trusts. Those crew-cut boys who analyzed securities for them liked to see everything done just as their textbooks at Harvard Business had said it should be done. A big corporation was supposed to have an executive vice-president. The chart didn't look right if you didn't have one. All right, Bullard had told Caswell, there would be no more delay. An executive vice-president would be elected at the board meeting on Tuesday. Before midnight tonight he would decide who the man would be. The only reason he had delayed as long as he had was to give himself a chance to check some top prospects outside the corporation. He had wanted to be sure that there was no better man available than one of his own vice-presidents. He was down to the last name on the list—Bruce Pilcher. All the others had been crossed off. He was having lunch with Pilcher at noon. Caswell had agreed that Pilcher was worthy of some consideration. “Most people seem to think he's done quite a job since he stepped in as president of Odessa,” Caswell had said. “Apparently he's a very clever operator.”

Five minutes before his death, Avery Bullard had left the small private dining room on the fifth floor of the Chippendale Building where he had lunched with Pilcher and old Julius Steigel, chairman of the board of the Odessa Stores Corporation. Waiting for the elevator, he had had no premonitory hint of the disaster that lay ahead of him. He felt unusually well. The luncheon had been an unqualified success. He had proved that Bruce Pilcher was not the man for the job and, to his secret amusement, he had done it without giving either Pilcher or Steigel the slightest suspicion of the true motive behind his visit.

In the sheltering privacy of the deserted corridor, Avery Bullard permitted himself a guarded smile as he recalled what Caswell had said about Pilcher. A very clever operator? It had taken less than two minutes for Mr. Pilcher to trap himself. He had asked Pilcher a casual question about the net worth of the holding company that owned the twenty-six Odessa furniture stores. That was all it had taken to bait the trap. Pilcher had leaped like a starved wolf. You could almost see his mind working behind his cold gray eyes … the money-man who had caught the blood scent of a multimillion-dollar deal.

The elevator door started to slide and Avery Bullard plunged through the opening. He was a big man, six-four and heavy-muscled, but he moved so quickly that he had turned and was facing the door before it was fully open.

Yes, Pilcher was a money-man. They were a type. It was easy to spot them. You could always tell one by that cold fire in his eyes. It was not the hot fire of the man who would never interrupt a dream to calculate the risk, but the cold fire of the man whose mind was geared to the rules of the money game. It was a game that was played with numbers on pieces of paper … common into preferred, preferred into debentures, debentures into dollars, dollars into long-term capital gains. It was the net dollars after tax that were important. They were the numbers on the scoreboard, the runs that crossed the plate, the touchdowns, the goals. Net dollars were the score markers of the money-man's game. Nothing else mattered. A factory wasn't a living, breathing organism. It was only a dollar sign and a row of numbers after the Plant & Equipment item on the balance sheet. Their guts didn't tighten when they heard a big Number Nine bandsaw sink its whining teeth into hard maple. Their nostrils didn't widen to the rich musk of walnut or the sharply pungent blast from the finishing room. When they saw a production line they looked with blind eyes, not feeling the counterpoint beat of their hearts or the pulsing flow of hot blood or the trigger-set tenseness of lungs that were poised to miss a breath with every lost beat on the line.

No, Pilcher wasn't the man … and Pilcher was the last name on the list. None of them had been right … not Clark, or Rutledge, or that fellow over at United, or any of the rest. There had been something wrong with all of them.

Caswell's voice echoed in his mind. “Do you think it's possible that you've set your standard a little too high? If you're looking for another Avery Bullard I can tell you right now that you'll never find him. He doesn't exist. They made only one and then they broke the mold.”

He had denied it then and now he denied it to himself again. He wasn't looking for another Avery Bullard. Why should he? He was only fifty-six. There were nine full years ahead of him before he was sixty-five. They would be the best years of his life. He could move fast now. His hand was sure and steady. There would be none of the fumbling, none of the false starts, none of the mistakes of inexperience that had slowed him down during those first years of building Tredway. He could accomplish as much in the next nine years as he had in the last twenty. A man wasn't old at fifty-six. He was just in the prime of life!

“I hope you find someone who will let you take it a little easier yourself,” Caswell had said. “You absorb a lot of punishment, Avery, the way you drive yourself.”

Punishment? Avery Bullard smiled. George Caswell didn't understand. It wasn't punishment! It was what a man had to have to stay alive. When you lost it you were dead.

The elevator door opened and Avery Bullard broadshouldered his way through the lobby crowd, driving himself with the self-perpetuating fire of his enormous energy. As he passed, men and women looked up at him, not with recognition but because there was something in his face that commanded attention.

His decision was made. Now he would pick one of his own men as executive vice-president. He would select one of the five. He'd do it tonight. It would be cleared at the board meeting next week. But who would it be … which one of the five?

His quick-roving eye saw a Western Union sign at the far end of the lobby. An idea flashed. He would get them together tonight for one last look before he made his final decision. Yes, that was the way to do it. He'd put some kind of a proposition before them … anything … the possibility of building a new factory in North Carolina. It would hit them cold. No one knew that he had even been thinking about it. Yes, that would be a good test. He would toss out the idea and then sit back … watching, listening, judging. Then he would pick the man who showed up best. Yes, that's what he
to do … pick one … only one. The others would probably be sore as hell … throw them off their pace for a few days … but they'd get over it. They were good men … all of them … had to be … wouldn't be his men if they weren't. They'd understand why only one of them could be executive vice-president … Wall Street wanted it that way. But it wouldn't mean anything … just a name on a chart. Nothing would really change … nothing at all … not for nine years. Nine years was a long time. Anything could happen in nine years. Who would have guessed, even a year ago, that Fitzgerald would die?

BOOK: Executive Suite
10.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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