by Max Brantley
Don't know about you, but a Friday without the Dillon Panthers is like the D-G without Wally. Or some better simile. Give me your best.
It's an open line.
So add this to the mix: Glasgow, though an immensely succesful and competent chief financial officer of a top-billing Arkansas construction company, had plenty of anxiety in his life, as we all do.
I learned today details of the hard-nosed dickering going on between members of the Dillard's Department Stores family and top execs of CDI over the structure and management of CDI after the death last year of founder William Clark. The Dillard forces (Bill Dillard and James Freeman) were pressing hard on Glasgow over accounting practices (depreciation, inventory evaluation, etc.), even though CDI had followed long-established procedures under the 17-year partnership between Dillard and Clark. It was formed as a 50-50 Dillard-Clark partnership, in the beginning just to do Dillard construction. Clark expanded the company significantly. The resolution of future ownership and control, which has put Clark's son at the helm so far, has been uncertain.
Glasgow, too, was the go-to guy on whether a number of company officials, including him, should go to the bank for borrowing to buy equity interests to settle the transition of the firm from the Clark estate to a new active ownership mix. Glasgow, friends say, took his role seriously, including the implications by his Dillard partners that the accounting -- so far unassailed by any outside audit -- hadn't been handled properly. Glasgow, after all, was the guy who'd discovered and blown the whistle on some financial misdealing at CDI long ago. Friends say he took his job seriously and had invited the Dillards to inspect everything, so sure was he in the way the company had been operated.
The Dillards may have been merely pressing an advantage in the changeover to take control of the company. That's business. The 50-50 arrangement was a difficult formula if they had questions about the rising leadership. If they tried to achieve a takeover by take-no-prisoners tactics on a guy who felt he'd worked hard and honestly for a successful company, it could offer some clues as to state of mind of a person who suddenly went missing.
This much is a fact: Ownership and control of CDI were in transition. Glasgow was a key player. The Dillards play hardball. Questions about the new ownership and control of one of the state's leading firms is news, particularly when the CFO -- somebody who made a $300,000 bonus for work in 2007 -- goes missing. Why doesn't the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette think this is a news story?
My own thoughts are that the D-G is too large and unwieldy for a large department store advertiser to control how the newspaper decides to cover a news story like this. (I acknowledge that this advertiser has dictated news decisions at the D-G in the past.) But I can also tell you that -- in a state where conspiracy theories are much favored -- a LOT of people think the D-G's sloth on this elementary business story is a result of the Dillards' influence.
I think the Dillards hoped to take control of CDI. I think this caused anxiety for John Glasgow. I think it's a factor in the mystery.
I know my readers won't disappoint. They'll have thoughts, too.