Authors: Jeffrey Robinson
On Monday morning, at Belasco's request, the man from Van Cleef and Arpels handed the young couple a check for $62,500.
Later that morning, Mrs. Sinatra came to Belasco's office to thank him for the roses. She was wearing a brand new diamond ring which, Belasco eventually learned, had cost her husband $5 million.
Then Sinatra himself showed up. “You're my guy, Pierre. Thank you for taking care of everything.” He handed Belasco a small gift-wrapped package.
“I couldn't possibly, sir.”
“The hell you can't,” Sinatra grinned. “Turn me down, and I'll give you a black eye too.”
Belasco thanked Sinatra. “This is very generous. Shall I open it now?”
“What the hell pal you going to wait for Chanukah?”
Inside was a pair of gold- and diamond-studded cuff links.
“These are magnificent. Thank you, very much.”
He patted the side of Belasco's face and without saying anything more, walked away.
The Van Cleef manager confided in Belasco that Sinatra had paid $30,000 for the cuff links.
Unlike the groom and his bride, Belasco kept his gift.
An hour after Sinatra handed him the cuff links, Donald Trump appeared in Belasco's office.
“Frank tells me you're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Who the hell did you have to murder to make him so happy?”
“Just doing my job, sir.”
“If you can handle Frank Sinatra,” Trump said, “you should be running a business for me.”
“Thank you, but I'm not looking for a job, sir. I already have the best job in the world.”
“You only think so because you haven't yet heard my offer. I want you to run Trump Tower.”
“Thank you, anyway, sir. But leaving here is the farthest thing in my mind right now. I'm in the hotel business. It's what I do. It's who I am.”
“That's why I need you.” Trump explained, “Until now, I've always had real estate people running Trump Tower. I need a hotel guy. But not just any hotel guy. I need you. And I want to do a deal with you right now.”
“But sir . . .”
“I'm a deal guy.” Trump leaned across Belasco's antique French desk, took a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote down a number. “That's for openers.”
He shoved the piece of paper in front of Belasco.
“There are also benefits and profit sharing. With various performance bonuses built into the deal, you could easily double that.”
Belasco looked at the number and then at Trump. “You are serious about this.”
He pointed to the paper. “That's a serious number. I'm back in New York next weekend. I'll FedEx a contract. Budget and personnel go through my director of operations. But you don't. You report directly to me. We'll move you from here and find you a great apartment somewhere in the Tower. I don't know what's available, but we'll find something you'll love.”
“What?” Trump couldn't believe it. “This is the greatest job in the world.”
Belasco stared at the number on the piece of paper. “In this business, it's always better if the general manager doesn't live in. Perhaps . . . something suitable downtown?”
Trump extended his hand. “You're my guy.”
“Mr. Belasco, sir?”
He snapped back to the moment. “Yes?”
“Forty-two, sir.” Miguel the elevator operator said. “Your floor, sir.”
“Oh . . .” He stepped out of the elevator. “Yes, Mrs. Essenbach's floor . . . thank you.”
Is she qualified
She has a background in hotels
I mean, is she qualified to steal your job
The elevator doors closed and Pierre Belasco said out loud, “Not in this lifetime.”
arson Haynes didn't mind getting up at five because, that way, he could get the running machine in the corner with the best views. And he always left the gym at 5:35 to go back to his apartment on the fifty-second floor to shower, dress and be at his office by sixâFirst Ace Capital on the twenty-third floorâbecause, that way, he got there before anyone else.
Past the big door with the tennis ball logo, there was a small reception area and behind that an open-plan office for two secretaries. To the right was a small trading room with terminals and huge screensâthe four traders who worked First Ace's little hedge fund usually staggered in by 6:30âand on the left of the open plan was a conference room, a bathroom, and a small kitchen.
Two private officesâtiny by Wall Street executive standardsâran along the Fifty-Sixth Street side of the building and weren't particularly private. Both had a glass wall looking back into the open plan. There was just enough room in each of those offices for a desk and a couch. But the day they moved in, Tommy Arcarro hung a framed sign on his glass door that read, “Size only matters if you don't know what you're doing.”
His office was on the left. He handled their institutional customers and the hedge fund.
Carson's office was on the right. He dealt with their four private clients and was rainmaker-in-chief.
As always, the moment he stepped into his office, Carson turned on his computer, then went to make a latte on the espresso machine in the kitchen. By that time, the kid from the Greek's place over on Fifty-Ninth Street was there with his daily breakfast orderâfresh papaya juice and a buttered bialyâwhich he took back to his office.
He then went through his double-wink ritual.
First, he winked at Rod Laver.
While Tommy used what little wall space he had to hang framed photos of himself playing tennis, Carson hung a large LeRoy Neiman oil painting of his hero winning the 1969 US Open at Forest Hills.
Then he winked at Alicia.
He'd taken that photo of her one morning on the deck of the beach house they'd rented in Aruba while the sun was coming up and her hair was blowing in the dawn breeze.
The photo always made him smile.
It sat on the window ledge, right next to his all-time favorite tennis trophyâfourteen large sterling silver letters on a black Belgian marble base, spelling out “Bragging Rights.”
The trophy always made him proud.
Settling in to study his overnight e-mails, he sipped his juice until he spotted one that read, “I'm up.”
Without checking the others, he speed-dialed Ken Warring in Omaha, and when Warring picked up, Carson wanted to know, “Why?”
“âCause when I was your age,” he said, “I was coming in at this hour, and now, at my age, when you're going out, I'm going to bed.” But that was the extent of his morning small talk. “You see his e-mail yet?”
Putting down his juice, Carson quickly ran through his in-box until he found it.
I will not agree to your terms, but I will agree to meet
“I see it,” Carson said. “What do you think it means?”
“It means that,” Warring said, “he thinks we're fools. We stay home, the deal is over, he wins. We go to Japan, the deal is still over, he still wins.”
Warring had bought into a Japanese conglomerate, Shigetada Industries, after a chance meeting with the man who founded it, Chokichi Shigetada. They'd bumped into each other in 1993 in South Africa, where they'd both been the guest of Nelson Mandela at a gala party to celebrate his Nobel Peace Prize. Both of them had done business in South Africa, and both of them had been vocal Mandela supporters.
During the gala dinner, Shigetada mentioned to Warring that he was looking for private equity. Three weeks later, Warring became Shigetada's largest minority shareholder.
Everything worked fine, as far as Warring was concerned, until old man Shigetada passed away and Shigetada's eldest son, Daitaroâwho was already in his sixtiesâtook over.
Junior didn't have his father's business skills or, as far as Warring was concerned, his father's deeply ingrained culture.
They'd had no dealings at all while the old man was alive, but the moment Junior took over, he did not hide his resentment toward Warring for having ignored him. They clashed over business and they clashed personally, until Warring decided he wanted out. He liked the business enough to put an offer on the table to buy it. And he disliked Daitaro Shigetada enough to come up with a number for which Warring would sell his holding.
But Warring's price for buying was too low and his price for selling was too high to suit Shigetada, who now accused Warring of deliberately undermining him.
“How do you want to play it?” Carson asked.
“For keeps,” Warring answered.
“No, you go.”
“Let me think for a moment,” Carson said, wanting the time to tear off a small piece of bialy and pop it into his mouth. “He's got fifty-one percent of the shares. We're second with twenty-two. So there's still twenty-seven out there. We know eighteen are with the institutions. That leaves nine somewhere. He knows the institutions aren't sellers and that if we picked up all of the remaining nine, we'd have to declare any intention to bid. It does us no good.”
“Tell me something I don't know,” Warring growled.
“How about something he doesn't know . . . that we're holding a lot of his paper.”
“And how about we threaten to call it in?”
“Only some of the company's debt is secured. We threaten to pull the bottom out, half the institutions sell, half of the remaining nine sell, we drop our shares onto the market, and his paper goes down the toilet. He's out of business. We buy it all back at fire-sale prices.”
“I like it,” Warring said. “Except . . . that could put us out of business, too.”
“Probably would, if we actually do it. It's called poker.”
“And if he sees us and goes all in . . . it's called hara-kiri.”
Carson checked the time. “It's quarter after eight at night in Japan. Nothing's going to happen now until Monday morning, Tokyo time. Let me keep thinking, and I'll get back to you.”
When they hung up, Carson e-mailed Shigetada that he would come to Tokyo and asked if they could meet next Friday.
Much to Carson's surprise, an e-mail came back from Shigetada himself saying, “Come now. I will see you tomorrow.”
“Sorry, dude,” Carson said to his screen and e-mailed back, “I will be in Tokyo next Friday.”
Shigetada responded, “I won't be.”
“Then there is nothing more to discuss,” Carson wrote, held his breath, and sent the e-mail.
This time, there was no immediate answer.
Carson stared at his screen for nearly fifteen minutes.
Nothing came back from Tokyo.
, Anita, had been dying of breast cancer when, in 2001, he set up a charity called “Play for a Cure.”
He hosted, and personally funded, an annual, all-Omaha tennis tournament, handing out prizes for every possible category of entry, from school children and young couples all the way up to “Over 80s” and handicapped players.
The culmination of the weeklong event was an invitation-only, all-day Sunday, pro-celebrity, round-robin doubles event that saw six teams playing each other, vying for the “Bragging Rights” trophy.
Carson had vaguely heard about it from some of the guys on the tourâthey said it was a terrific weekendâbut he never gave it any thought until, out of the blue, a few months after he quit the pro circuit, Warring phoned to invite him to play.
Carson told Alicia he wasn't interested.
She asked him, “Why? You got something better to do?”
In fact, he didn't.
He'd been earning good money playing tennis since before he graduated from Miami in 1998 with a BA in business. That meant weekends in Tallahassee and Mobile, Macon and Shreveport, Palm Beach and Orlando, but he paid off his student loans that way and earned pocket money hustling games at private tennis clubs around south Florida.
Within a year of graduation, he'd been runner-up four times on the Futures Tour, won twiceâin Hilton Head and Cape Codâand soon accumulated enough ranking points to move up to the Challengers Tour.
He won there tooâin Brazil, Chile, Tunisia and Australiaâand was quickly promoted again, now given access to all the ATP World Tour events, including the nine masters.
His first year on that tour he played in thirty events and actually won twoâQatar and Johannesburgâbut failed to qualify for any of the big four majors.
The next year he won threeâAcapulco, Calgary and Helsinkiâbut failed to get to Wimbledon and lost handily in the first round in Australia. He did, however, make it into the second round in both the French and US Opens.