Memory Twenty Two

After securing our position as a bidder to Youngstown Sheet and Tube, we set out to learn all we could about the Bethlehem Steel specifications. Bethlehem Steel had been blocked from acquiring Youngstown Steel in the late Fifties so the two plants would remain independent, but we could supply oxygen to both plants simultaneously. We visualized having two 600 T/D oxygen plants. We were told that they would also go out for formal bids in about three months.

At the Bethlehem Burns Harbor plant steel finishing mills had been gradually added ever since the official week long million dollar Opening Ceremony in September 1965 at which 3,000 guests were  served steak and lobster at the plant facility and were entertained by Woody searchHerman’s band and famous singers. (This may have been the biggest BBQ ever.) The hot steel to supply these mills was scheduled for 1969 with a 5,000 ton per day blast furnace feeding new Basic Oxygen Process converters.330px-ENIAC_function_table_at_Aberdeen

Without waiting, we continued to study the facts as we knew them. I learned about American Cryogenics new computer and analysis capability. We had isolated a large room entirely filled wall to wall with computers. Three Information Technology experts were brought in from Standard Oil to set everything up. We put probabilities on every single potential project variable, technical and financial, we could think of and the computers gave us a range of Discounted Cash Flow, DCF, returns on investment with a probability for each one. I had never experienced such a capability before and it was quite amazing. (Note: As I write, this same capability could be achieved by a single quality laptop, but we were in 1967.)

Out of the office, I was playing golf at week-ends at Druid Hills Golf Club with occasional rounds on other courses. In this period I had the first two of my three holes in one. I had in my regular Sunday foursome a lawyer named Lyman Hilliard who was one of the partners of Jones, Bird and Howell, the lawyers who did our house closing. One day he asked me if I would like to meet Mr. Jones. When he also told me he was the world’s most famous golfer, Bobby Tyre Jones, it did not take me long to say yes.

We went on a Saturday afternoon to his office and I had a long conversation with him about many of the courses in England and Scotland that I had played with Dr. Hunt. I knew that he was suffering from fluid in his spinal cord and he was obviously in considerable pain. (He died in December 1971.) He gave me an autographed copy of his 1966 book, “Bobby Jones on Golf” which I treasured. I have since given it to my son, Nigel. He signed it Bob T. Jones and told me he never liked being called Bobby. He explained that during his playing days from 1923 to when he retired in 1930, there was confusion with he and the famous golf architect, Robert Trent Jones. They had discussed this and came to an agreement that the architect would be called Trent and Bob Jones would become Bobby.images

He was most famous for his un-equaled Grand Slam in 1930 when he won both the Amateur and Open Championships of the U.S. and Britain, and for being co-founder of the Augusta National G.C. and the Masters Tournament. I later acquired a fine replica of his famous putter, “Calamity Jane” which I have since given to my son, Nick. (It is currently valued at about $300 and I swapped a $30 boomerang for it.)

One Standard Oil employee who was transferred to ACI was Clement Hipkins who had a Flying Dutchman yacht which he generously shared with Doris and I and we had several camping week-ends at Lake Alatoona. We also started a gourmet supper with Clem and his wife, another Doris, and two other couples. At the first dinner at the Hipkins, we got into such an argument planning the next event that we all agreed there would never be a next one.

Clem and his wife were having what we called “sundowners” on the big deck at the back of our house one Saturday imagesand after a few drinks, we all got hungry. Clem suggested going to get a tub of chicken with all the trimmings. He and I went to our local Colonel Sanders in our Impala wagon and on the way in we saw this life-size plywood replica of the Colonel standing in the doorway. Clem suggested that we should invite the Colonel to our party. (Note: See my post, “Signs of Kleptomania” in the “Other” category of this blog.)  We agreed that we would order our chicken and when it came Clem would create a diversion while I stuffed the Colonel into the open back of the wagon and we would roar off. Clem started shouting that he had seen a mouse behind the counter and the place was in an immediate uproar. I rushed over to see the mouse until Clem said, “You idiot. That’s the diversion.” Too late, I grabbed the Colonel, got him half way in the car and jumped in the driver’s seat. As we drove off we saw in the mirror one of the Colonel’s helpers standing there holding the Colonel upside down by his feet.  The chicken was delicious and no cops showed up.

A key member of my sales analysis team was Joe Moyer. He had been Sales Manager for Independent Engineering and had made sales all over the world. Joe was 6 ft. 6 inches tall and was always very well dressed in a suit. He told me that he had to get his clothes custom designed and he bought them from Japan. On one of his international trips, he was in Tokyo so he went to see the tailor who “built” his clothes. He was shown into a basement work shop and in the middle of the room was a giant manikin with “Joe Moyer USA” on its chest.

During the last few months and well into 1968, our team studied variations of the proposed plant to supply Youngstown and Bethlehem.  It involved visits to the proposed site and lots of calculating, searching for the optimum configuration of the many components. Joe Moyer and I kept in touch with both companies and early in 1968 we got both formal bid invitations. This made it easier to finalize the plant design and start choosing suppliers. This continued well into March and April, and as the bidding deadline came near, we asked for an appointment to present our proposal to the Board of Directors of Standard Oil. This was like making an appointment to see the Pope because our estimate was nearing one hundred million dollars. The members of the Board were accustomed to multi-million investments but we were not and we had several dry runs preparing our presentation.

15404366-portrait-d-un-homme-d-affaires-s-rieux-et-femmes-participent--un-s-minaireWhen the day came about mid-June, Pierce Marks, Bob Temple, Joe Moyer and I went to New York and were put in a Board Room annex waiting room and lectured on the dos and don’ts of our conduct and were told we would have twelve minute to state our case. Marks would be the presenter and the rest of us would sit behind him to help with questions. We were all scared stiff, particularly Marks. We were called in and started. It went quite well and our rehearsals paid off. There was an atmosphere of enthusiasm and the few questions were very pertinent.

Near the end, the Chairman asked Marks directly, “Well Mr. Marks are you ready to take this considerable elevation of your capabilities in the gas industry?” Marks absolutely blew it. He stumbled and said something like, “Well, we’ve never done anything of this magnitude but we would like to have a try.” The lack of enthusiasm clearly surprised the Board members and when he failed to give the expected firm and positive, “Yes Sir,” the atmosphere in the room deflated, the presentation was over and we were dismissed and told we would get their answer in three days.

We all felt equally deflated and never spoke about it all the way back to Atlanta. I, personally was sure that this was the kiss of death for American Cryogenics. I think we clearly disappointed the Board members who I believe were actually ready to support us. This air of gloom stayed with us for a long time, especially when we were told our project did not conform to the required criteria.

I have written a lot about this project and I and my team spent a year working on it full time. This is because it eventually affected us all quite drastically but that is another memory for another day.

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