A unique form of social imprisonment is a yacht trip.
Of course SS Alpega, which Jimmy Goldsmith had chartered
to celebrate his impending takeover of Crown Zellebach,
could not have been more comfortable. It was a 40 meter
long motor launch. Suspended above its gleaming white
deck were two Riva-style speedboats, equipped for every
kind of water sports. Below the four staterooms had
king-size beds, TVs and marble baths. So he would not
lose touch with the outside world, and the negotiations
with Crown Zellebach, Jimmy had paid an extra $100,000
to install a state-of-art satellite telephone system.
It was my
first yacht trip. The other aboard was Jimmy Goldsmith,
his girlfriend, Laure, an old friend of his from the
Traveler's Club in Paris, Guy Bagno and his fiancee,
Patricia, who is a TV presenter ("The Dan Rather
of France," as Jimmy introduces her), and two young
surprise guests, Natalie, a French runway model, and
Anne-Marie, an American runway model. Jimmy had met
them both just two weeks earlier at the offices of his
newspaper, L' Express, where they had come to model
bathing suits for its Swim issue. He invited them along
on the theory that they would make the trip more interesting."
in a way Jimmy could not anticipate. She began using
his hi-tech satellite phone to call her answer machine
in Paris so her poodle could hear her purring over it.
Not only did that purring cost $80 a minute, but it
crossed lines on satellite phone at a delicate time.
While she was trying to get through to her dog on the
phone on the bridge this Friday morning, Jimmy's lawyer,
Joe Flom, called to say there was to be an emergency
Board meeting of Crown Zellerbach in three minutes.
Jimmy put it on speaker phone as operator took a roll
call, and said, "Everyone present: proceed."
To Jimmy's shock, the deal unraveled. CZ Chairman Donald
Cresson made a motion to leave the poison pill in place.
It passed. This meant if Jimmy bought more than the
20 percent of the stock, the company would flood the
market with a new class of shares that would dilute
the value of all the existing shares. The idea of this
poison pill was to make it impossible for a raider like
Jimmy to get bank financing.
turned beet red. He told Cresson, "Do not mistake
my gentle manner for weakness. If you look back over
my record you will see that I have always done exactly
what I said I would. I said I will buy your company.
I will, poison pill or no poison pill."
Natalie, in the radio room, finally got a dial tone,
causing the whole satellite system to crash. Jimmy smashed
the silent phone against the wall. The Greek Captain
then announced that the satellite phone was "dead."
was pacing the deck in frustration, saying he was going
to personally sue all the CZ directors and make Cresson
return "the pacemaker in his heart he bought with
company funds," I went to the radio room to see
if I could restore the phone.
still trying to get through to her dog. Figuring there
was little to lose, I played around with the dials to
re-position the aerial for the satellite phone. But
there was something to lose: the ship's backup telecommunication,
which, alas, I inadvertently disabled.
While I was
tinkering with the electronics, Jimmy found a solution
(which is why he is a billionaire.) He ordered the Captain
to change course and head for the nearest town with
a phone booth. So we raced to Kos.
Kos, up to
10 years ago, was accessible only by sea. According
to my guide book, it has rarely visited Lydian tombs,
a Roman amphitheater and a ruined fortress. We sped
in the Riva launch into the small harbor full of caiques,
fishing nets and Turkish men, strolling hand in hand.
As the captain
promised, there was an empty phone booth right on the
pier. But the Turkish strollers laughed, it is "Bazook,
Bazook," which means doubly broken. It turned out
that the only working phone was at the post office,
next to the Café Lokanta. The problem here was
that there was a queue of 12 French doctors, off some
sailing holiday caique, waiting to use the single automatic
pay phone. But Jimmy, being half French, knew how to
deal with a French queue. He sent Laure back to the
yacht for a case of Piper Heisek champagne, and offered
each French doctor a bottle for his place in line. They
were more than happy to accommodate.
But on calling
his office in New York, he discovered yet another problem.
The tokens, which we bought at the café, took
so long to register, than all the time was used up before
he could complete a sentence. Always flexible, Jimmy
called his office in London, which required less tokens,
and managed to get through. He owned 4 million shares
of CZ, and now aimed to buy a majority on the open market,
even though it would trigger the CZ poison pill. "This
is war," he said, when he finished the call. "They
will choke on their stupid poison pill."
suddenly in an elated mood. He loved Kos because, aside
from the French doctors, there were no tourists. We
had dinner in the souk. He recalled that when his young
son Ben asked what he did in America, he answered "I'm
a pirate." With his yacht dominating the small
port, and the now drunk French doctors now toasting
him with his champagne, it was a role he savored.