April 1, 2019

The Evelyn Y. Davis Diaries: Part 2

Over the years, I’ve shared stories about Evelyn Y. Davis, who recently passed away. Here’s an excerpt from Carl Hagberg’s “Shareholder Service Optimizer” with some of Carl’s own stories:

Evelyn Davis was at the very first shareholder meeting I ever attended – at the then-new, post-merger Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company. A callow youth in the mid-1960s, I was pressed into duty because I was good at long-division. The only ‘calculators’ back then, other than human ones, were mechanical monsters that weighed about 75 pounds and made ear-shattering noises as they literally ‘spun their wheels’ to come up with percentages. “From the moment Evelyn Y. Davis grabbed the mike, in the old American Stock Exchange auditorium, I knew this was a business I wanted to stick close to.”

Davis had just begun to branch out from her first-career – and what a first impression she made on the audience. All of them were in their best business attire, as was the custom then. She was wearing a tight black sweater with a plunging neckline, a mini-skirt that was 10 or 11 inches long at most, black net stockings, thigh-high black boots, and a short chinchilla jacket.

Her opening remarks were to fawningly compliment the Chair – and to ask if she could come up on stage, sit on his lap, and give him “a big juicy kiss.” Our then Chairman, Jeff McNeill, was an incredibly strait-laced, old-school Southern Baptist, with a big old-fashioned Florida drawl – and when he recovered himself sufficiently to politely demur, she turned on him with a vengeance, peppering him with one question after another, never pausing to wait for the answer, which was her usual habit at all meetings. Her loud, sarcastic-sounding tone that she favored during the first half of her career. After a few minutes, people in the audience began to shout, “Sit down! Shut up! Go home!”

“You’re all just jealous of me” she yelled. The audience was totally stunned into silence – but I was totally hooked – on shareholder meetings that is.

Shaq Becomes a Director. Does It Matter?

Hat tip to Sempra Energy’s Lenin Lopez for pointing out this Form 8-K filed by Papa John to announce that NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal has become a director for the company (here’s the press release). According to this article, Shaq will become much more than a director – he’ll become the face of the brand (with a marketing agreement) and owner of nine franchises in the company.

I’m only bothering to blog about this because old-timers may recall that Dr. J was often held up as the example of how some directors were overboarded. Since Dr. J had a successful private investment firm, he was perhaps targeted unfairly since many sat on too many boards back then. Since then, overboarding has become rare as attention to this issue has curbed it – and many athletes have had fruitful second careers and would be good fits for boards. Shaq certainly fits the mold as he has long had pursuits outside the basketball world, including even when he was playing. Just like LeBron does now. His new TV show – the “Million Dollar Mile” – looks like it will do okay…

A question in Shaq’s case is whether he could really be considered an “independent” director since he will be the face of the brand, etc. In it’s Form 8-K, the company notes that it doesn’t consider Shaq to be “independent” under Nasdaq’s listing standards…

A Farewell to Cooley’s Bill Godward

Over five years ago, I taped a podcast with Cooley’s Bill Godward. He was still going into the office at age 100. And he was amazing – so wonderful to hear stories of what practicing law was like 70 years ago. I’m sad to note that Bill has passed away at age 105 – here is a nice memoriam from Cooley…

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Broc Romanek