A terrific investment
Recall there were four men who helped Derry and me start this business financially: Buell Baclesse, Jim Wunderlich, George Stiles and Jack Murphy. Jack died in July, 1975, and his wife, Lela, took his shares. Remember, Buell, Jim, George and Jack owned fifty percent and Derry and I owned fifty. They’d each bought in for $3,000 in 1972. While there’d been no distributions, there were monthly director’s fees starting at $150 and increasing through the years to $500.
The early eighties saw a change in the makeup. In December, 1981 Buell–wanting to liquify his portfolio, offered–under the Shareholder Agreement–to sell his shares back to the Corporation for $40,000. The Corporation agreed. Then in August the following year, Lela offered hers for $50,000. George offered his in November of 1984 also for $50,000. And Derry offered his on August 9, 1985.
Both George and Derry were cattlemen. They’d amassed significant land holdings by leveraging existing land to buy more over the two prior decades. But the terribly high (15-20-percent) interest rates of the Carter era, brought down their scheme. The cattle business couldn’t pay the interest on the notes and they quickly were close to default. George took bankruptcy and had to sell his assets, including Learfield. Derry was more fortunate as I’ll tell in a later story.
The shareholders did pretty well on their stock in our company; judge for yourself: they paid $3,000 for their investment, received annual director’s fees of $6,000 and ten years later sold out for about $50,000!
Here’s the other side: they personally guarantied the financial success of a very risky business run by a 28-year old! Without them, there wouldn’t have been a Learfield. While they were well-compensated for sure, it was worth every cent!
Which brings me back to a macro view of free enterprise. High risk; high reward. Some states–wisely, I believe–offer tax credits to people (like Buell and the others above) when they invest their money into fledgling, new, upstart business ventures. These “angel investors” are oftentimes the only financing available for an entrepreneur. I’ve gotten great satisfaction recently by investing as an angel-investor in upstart businesses. Most fail. But some have really been home-runs. How am I doing financially? On balance, I’m ahead. But the real fun is the satisfaction I get by mentoring and being with these, mostly young, entrepreneurs.