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Process

He was the holy saint of macroeconomics, the quintessential bean counter. Arnie Schwartz was the CFO of a cutting edge biotechnology company poised to do a gargantuan sell out to an industry megalith. He had been working for months, well ahead of the meeting scheduled later in the day at which complex and protracted negotiations were to begin. His economic magnum opus was complete. At ninety-seven pages long it was quite the tome. He was beyond proud; this was virtuoso work. It covered everything, every nuance, every minute detail. If this were a symphony it would be a Mozart masterpiece. The document was symphonic in breadth, depth, and duration. A thousand monetary note analogs intertwined in econo-logical counterpoint sliding this way and that, each stimulating a cascade of events predicted with excruciating precision so that there could be no surprises. Even force majeure, the usual cover all for everything forgotten or too improbably to include specifically, was but a mere cog in the contractual tour de force.

He anticipated long-winded back and forth yammering leading circuitously back to the start and then over again. But he had ensured that not a single modification to the transactions was necessary. His pecuniary gem was the perfect cocktail of numbers and logic.

Arnie looked solemnly at his emaciated cat and said, “Well Shady, this is it. They will be floored when they fully digest this monster and we can finally retire and move to the woods by that lake we talk about all the time.”

The cat responded with, “mmfmfmtt,” a remnant of her former purr that seemed to have aged along with the rest of her disintegrating body.

As he stacked the papers together, neatly aligning the edges the way he neatly aligned everything in his life, he saw a flash of light to the right side of his visual field.

“What was…,” he began to utter to the cat as a searing pain splintered his brain and he attempted to gain purchase. Stumbling, he grabbed the table and knocked his masterpiece to the floor, papers floating down beside him like autumn leaves on a grave, as he died quickly, the burst artery in his brain relieving him of blood pressure and concomitant life.

Three hours later in a large conference room a group consisting mostly of impatient men and women sat around a gorgeous mahogany live-edge table hewn from what must have been a three hundred year old tree. The group included no fewer than six attorneys, their minions, the CEO of the industry megalith and a longhaired thirty-something biotechnology genius and startup founder/CEO who had eschewed convention and discovered a new way to make anticancer drugs from organic waste. The elder CEO had seen everything in the industry for over fifty years but was nonetheless excited about the technology and the deal they were about to do. Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, the two company leaders had been talking about the general outline of the deal over the phone for the last week and they were just waiting for the paperwork to be completed so they could sign on the dotted line and move on.

But there were no papers to sign. The CFO responsible for drafting the documents was late, very late. He could not be reached. As the two CEOs chatted about wine and music, passions they both shared, they laughed and could just as well have been enjoying a California Pinot noir at a Napa vineyard. But they were in a Manhattan skyscraper waiting for a CFO who had dropped off the face of the earth.

The younger CEO finally said, “Hey Sanford, as far as I am concerned we can move forward with the deal and tie up the details later, if there are any.”

Sanford, the elder, said without hesitation, “Sounds like a plan to me, Braxton.”

Sanford stood and the lawyers became suddenly quiet as a wave of anxiety perfused the room. They sensed something unconventional and irreverent about to happen.

Sanford announced, “Braxton and I have come to an agreement about the deal. We see no need for formalities so please pay attention.”

He stopped speaking and gestured to Braxton to allow him time at the pulpit.

“What is your offer, Sanford?” said Braxton.

Without missing a beat Sanford said, “I would like to purchase your company for eight hundred million dollars in cash and two percent sharing of all net profit from your products going forward.”

Braxton smiled and said, “Done.”

The two men shook hands in front of gaping mouths of the gaggle of attorneys. Before the inevitable legal uproar ensued Sanford said sternly, “Please see that a check for eight hundred million dollars arrives in Braxton’s company coffers by this time tomorrow. That is all, thank you.”

As the clamor began to grow Sanford put his arm around Braxton and led him from the room, leaving the attorneys baffled despite their crystal clear instructions. The two CEOs walked toward central park chatting about music while in a Manhattan apartment an aging cat relieved itself for the last time and died next to its caretaker who lay face down in the center of an exquisite financial instrument that nobody would ever read.

 

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