“When the cop stopped me, I had cocaine all over the car,” my friend “V” told me. “He took one look at me and said, ‘Clean yourself up, and I don’t ever want to see you again.’”
He let me go, and I never took cocaine again, my friend said. V tried calling up the police station of that time, but they said no officer of that name worked there. He called all the surrounding police stations and the state police, and nobody by that name worked anywhere. He was an angel.
“Uh-huh,” I said.
I was nodding to anything. I was advising my friend on how to sell his company, a mental health institution that catered to the needs of kids who were drug addicts. He was the founder and CEO.
Someone had recently offered him $10 million for his company. I told him to turn it down. I thought he could make a lot more.
“Look at this,” he told me. He showed me his favorite porn site. He gave me the password.
If anyone sits in this chair in the mornings, it’s always sticky, he said. He laughed. Life was good for him. He was going to make a lot of money.
I lined up a lot of meetings for him. I called every public company that was buying hospitals. I had called every private equity firm that was buying chains of hospitals. I went through all his numbers and put together a package to describe the company.
We called one chain of hospitals and got the wrong number. My business partner called back and got the wrong number again for the person he wanted to talk to.
Finally, he called back a third time. He ended up speaking to someone.
The person he spoke to was the only person out of the 40 people we called who made an offer to buy the company.
Instead of taking that initial offer for $10 million, we got him an offer for $41.5 million, all in cash. The key to everything was that the president of my friend’s company was also the minority leader of the state assembly in that particular state.
One time I called up V and he told me, “Why should we take $40 million? Let’s go for $60 million!”
This is just months after he had turned down the $10 million offer.
I called up his wife. I asked her, “What did you do on the job yesterday?”
She told me she had cleaned the shit off the walls. Literally. A teenage female patient was angry and decided to crap all over the place—on the walls, the floors, the windows. And so the wife of the CEO was the one who had to clean it up.
I asked her, “What if that girl had killed herself instead of just crapped everywhere?”
We’d be out of business, the CEO’s wife told me.
Can you please tell your husband to accept a $41.5 million cash offer instead of risking going out of business every day while you clean crap off the walls?
V’s wife was pretty, 15 years younger than V.
Later that day, V called me and told me to go ahead and accept the offer.
One time, I stayed at his house. It was the day the offer was expected to be made. He had eight kids, and one or two of them were sick.
That night, I called my business partner. “I can’t believe it,” I said, “but I’m going to get sick.” Then I got off the phone and ran to the bathroom. The bathroom bordered the CEO’s room. I started throwing up and doing other things all night long. It was disgusting. I couldn’t believe this was happening in someone else’s house. I was mortified.
The next morning, the CEO told me he could hear everything and he felt bad. He said, “I wanted to come in there and hold your hair so you wouldn’t get it in the toilet.”
“I’m glad you didn’t do that,” I said.
And we went into the office and got an offer for $41.5 million cash for his company.
The day the deal was going to close, we all gathered in his house. There was a problem that we had to fix before heading over to the lawyer’s office and signing all the documents.
There was regulatory approval that was needed from the state. The state said there’s no way to speed this up. It could be weeks or months. We needed it that morning.
The president of the company, who never got reelected to the state senate again after this, made some calls. We got the regulatory approval within minutes.
“All set,” the CEO said and clapped his hands. We all climbed into cars and drove to the lawyer’s office.
A few minutes after that, $41.5 million was wired into the CEO’s bank account.
Within 15 minutes, everyone was gone except for me. I had forgotten to arrange a car service, and I was a several-hour drive from home and had nowhere to go. It was snowing and dark, and I felt lonely while I stood there and waited three hours for a car to pick me up.
Many years later, I was going through a divorce. I told the CEO, with whom I was still friends, the miserable details.
Then V’s wife called my ex. She said, “James and V were never that close. Let’s get together, because I have advice for you.”
I called up V and said that was inappropriate.
He told me that he can’t control his wife and that wives will be wives.
I said, “What you are telling me is that I can’t really trust you.”
“James,” he said, “we love you. You have to start trusting the people who love you.”
I hung up the phone and never spoke to him again.
I don’t like to kiss up to people, but I felt I had to kiss up to V while he was doing this deal.
It’s a painful thing not to be yourself, to have to hide and pretend you like someone. I will never do that again.
I found much later that once you start being a trusted source, then you become a magnet to people who need help from people they can trust.
You never have to kiss up again.
I wonder about V and his story of the police angel.
Maybe angels are true. Who am I to judge?
But the angel was not for V. The angel was for me—to get myself cleaned up and stop dealing with the worst people like a bad drug and finally rid them from my system.
Thank you, angel. I might one day be in a horrible storm and cold and lonely, with no way out, but please know that you saved my life.