Facing Goliath

Calvin King cleared his desk as his secretary showed Augustus Kramer into his office.  Of all the things that Calvin had to do that day, meeting with Kramer was the one thing that he had looked forward to the least.  The man was the owner of the largest company in the Biotech industry.  He had a vicious streak, and if he was unhappy with you, it was generally wise to watch your step.  Kramer had made it a point to try and limit the amount of expansion that Calvin would be able to make.  He sighed as he saw Kramer walk into the office; he knew why he had come.

“Augustus, welcome.  Why don’t you have a seat, and we can talk about why you came.”

Taking a seat, Kramer looked hard into Calvin’s eyes. “So, Calvin, I hear that your company is trying to broker a merger with Wright Pharmaceuticals.  This move, from what I understand, would put you in a good position to compete with me.”

Calvin shrugged his shoulders, trying to appear nonchalant. “We’ve considered some options, and this one will further the interests of the company the most.”

“If you follow through on this, you’d be deliberately pitting yourself against Kramer Inc.  Believe me, that’s the last thing you want for your company’s interests.”

“Look, when I was promoted to C.E.O., it became my task to keep expanding sales and to keep stockholders happy.  Nowhere in the job description did it say that I have to worry about Kramer Inc.’s happiness, too.”

A thin sneer crept onto Kramer’s face. “The only reason you became C.E.O. is because your mother was the last C.E.O., and she had the controlling interest in the company.  So let’s skip the BS and lay things out the way they really are.  You’re the spoiled kid who inherited a small corporation and wants to make a bigger splash.  You don’t really care about the company.”

Calvin leaned forward, the animosity apparent on his face. “If I were really insignificant to Kramer Inc., then you wouldn’t have come all this way to stop me from going through with this.” There was a pause as the men sized each other up.  After a few seconds, Calvin said coolly, “Have a nice day, Augustus.”

Kramer stood up stiffly. “Consider yourself warned.  If you follow through with this, I will crush your company before the year is out.”  He then turned and strode out the door.

Calvin stared for a moment at the door of his office, and then picked up his phone. “Yes, we need to have an emergency session with the Board of Directors tomorrow.  See if my mother can make it as well.”  Hanging up the phone, Calvin leaned back in his chair and looked out of the office window, feeling tense.

The next day, Calvin sat at the head of the table in the company’s conference room.  When all the members of the board were there, Calvin stood up.  Before he could start the meeting, though, a middle-aged woman came in, dressed in a professional grey pantsuit and carrying a black folder in her arm.  It was Veronica King, Calvin’s mother.  Calvin’s mother was not the first C.E.O. of the company, but she was a legend in America for the strides she had taken in expanding the company, taking it from the brink of disaster to a relatively soaring success.  Ironically, it was also Veronica who made enemies with Kramer Inc.  An issue with intellectual property blew up to be one of the biggest legal battles in decades.  The court case captured the attention of the nation, and papers everywhere were labeling it the David and Goliath battle of corporate America.  When Veronica finally won the case, Augustus Kramer received a wound that he would not let go…

Calvin smiled. “Hi, Mom.  Would you like to have a seat?  We were about to get started.”  Smiling back at her son, Veronica walked to an empty seat and sat down.  Calvin continued, “Yesterday, Augustus Kramer came to see me.  He was furious about the merger negotiations, and he swore to put us out of business before the year is out if we go through with this.  Kramer doesn’t make idle threats.  So, we need to discuss two things today; whether we’re going to go through with the merger, and how Kramer is so confident that he can put us out of business.”

Immediately, Veronica spoke up. “Well, I know the answer to question number two.”  The board stared at her.  Veronica shrugged her shoulders. “Well, if anyone has been paying attention to the stock market, you’ll see that Hernandez & Son’s stocks dropped.  The company’s vulnerable, and Kramer has been trying to own it for years.  If Kramer gets ahold of their machinery, he can upgrade them so that they can produce computer hardware, and then—.”

“And then they can undercut our prices and force us out of business,” finished Calvin, eyes wide.  There was a silence as people took this in.

One of the board members got up, shaking his head. “We can’t go through with this merger.  We can’t risk the future of this company in order to expand its size.  It just doesn’t make sense.”

Another board member also stood up, scowling. “Now, look, we’ve been brokering this merger for months!  We can’t just break off negotiations now.  We’ll go through with this.  Calvin, we all know that Hernandez is a competent businessman.  I don’t think that Kramer can force him out of business so easily.  We need to do this.”  A heaviness descended upon the room as the board members bickered back and forth as to the proper plan of action.  They still hadn’t reached a decision by the end of the day.

Calvin rubbed his eyes as the boardroom emptied.  Tiredly glancing up, he realized that Veronica was still there. “Mom, I didn’t realize you were still here.”

At first Veronica didn’t answer, her gaze unfocused as she remained deep in thought. “What do you think about the situation?”

“What?”

She gave Calvin a penetrating glance. “I noticed in that meeting that besides me, you were the only person who didn’t give an opinion.  What do you think?”

Calvin stared back at her helplessly. “I mean… the security of the company’s current situation is important.  The merger could make us lose everything.  But on the other hand…”

Veronica nodded. “I understand what you mean.”

Calvin clenched his fist, clearly exasperated. “How did you do it?  You made this company what it is.  You fought the big corporation, and you won!  You made our company rich again, and became a national legend while doing it.  All I want to do is take it to the next level, and just that step is threatening to make us lose everything.  I just don’t know what to do.”

“I’ll tell you what, Calvin, I didn’t save this company by taking the safe road.”

“So, you think I should—.”

“Calvin, I’m not going to tell you what you should do.  This is your decision.”

Calvin looked at his mother. “We could lose everything, or we could go on as we were before, with no consequences.”  Veronica nodded.  Sighing, Calvin said, “I’m going to tell the board that we should go through with the merger.”

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