Checkmated by Greed

What is it about money that causes some people to grow horns and carry a pitchfork? Have you ever known anyone like that?

Several years ago I was a part owner of a legal services business. One of my partners was a top attorney on Long Island and the other was a highly-paid CPA at a firm in Manhattan. My expertise was in network marketing and public speaking. Together, the 3 of us organized a business that allowed people to pay a monthly fee for an assortment of legal services from law firms within their zip codes. After many months of preparation, we were ready to incorporate. We decided to give each of us a title, but we would all be equal when it came to making decisions affecting the success of the business.


We decided that the attorney would be Chairman of the Board, the CPA would be President and I would be the Veep. Well, we had thousands of brochures printed, video tapes made and newspaper ads published as we prepared to launch. We kicked off our first seminar in one of the ritzy hotels in Manhattan and by the time I got up to speak, the huge ballroom was wall to wall with prospective clients. I outlined the marketing advantages before turning the mike over to my partners, who provided the nuts and bolts of the legal formula. We must have signed up over 200 people that first night. A few days later we were at another major hotel and recruitment more than doubled. Within a few months we knew we had succeeded in cultivating a money tree.

Our clients were happy with the services; the lawyers were happy with the abundance of new clients; our marketers were giddy with the income they were receiving and we were raking it in at our office. We couldn't have imagined it would be that lucrative in so short a time. Although each of us was doing well financially, this appeared to be the ticket to a new level of prosperity. Then, something happened that sowed the seeds of our destruction. One of my partners, the CPA, began turning in four-figure expense vouchers. Although I had known him for over ten years and knew he was a bombastic, fun-loving party guy, I always thought he would put business first. However, after some of those hotel meetings, while my other partner and I were headed home, he had been going to the bar and buying drinks for a sizeable segment of the seminar attendees.

When we approached him about his profligate spending, we began to see the metamorphosis that was taking place. He told us that "he" was the president and "he" would make those decisions without interference from us. When we reminded him that we voluntarily agreed on those positions but had made it clear that we all had an equal say, he rejected our plea to be reasonable. His intractable behavior resulted in some loud and ugly scenes in our office. I couldn't believe this was the same guy I thought I knew. He seemed obsessed with power and greed, like someone whose soul had been claimed by the devil. One night, when he was playing the role of big shot raconteur at a bar in a hotel lobby, I watched as he lit a cigarette (not even a cigar) with a fifty-dollar bill.

Since he was incapable of reason, my other partner and I called a board meeting to replace him as president. When he got word of our plans, he showed up with an attorney. As a measure of this guy's temerity, he was using an attorney from our list of providers. Nevertheless, we conducted the meeting, had minutes taken, and I was elected to replace him. Unable to deal with his sudden diminution of power, he filed a frivolous lawsuit against us and went to the media to announce it. He knew very well that such negative publicity would be anathema to our business and, if he couldn't have it his way, he'd rather destroy it.

Soon afterward, clients and providers began bailing out of the network. The business ultimately collapsed and the dream died. My erstwhile partner had a serious flaw in his character; he couldn't handle success with any degree of maturity. He never had another opportunity; he died broke a few years later. People who obtain power, either through political influence or money, often become victims of their own super-sized egos. They seek to manipulate people like pawns on a chess board, while they, in their blind ambition, end up checkmated. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob.
What is it about money that causes some people to grow horns and carry a pitchfork? Have you ever known anyone like that?

Several years ago I was a part owner of a legal services business. One of my partners was a top attorney on Long Island and the other was a highly-paid CPA at a firm in Manhattan. My expertise was in network marketing and public speaking. Together, the 3 of us organized a business that allowed people to pay a monthly fee for an assortment of legal services from law firms within their zip codes. After many months of preparation, we were ready to incorporate. We decided to give each of us a title, but we would all be equal when it came to making decisions affecting the success of the business.


We decided that the attorney would be Chairman of the Board, the CPA would be President and I would be the Veep. Well, we had thousands of brochures printed, video tapes made and newspaper ads published as we prepared to launch. We kicked off our first seminar in one of the ritzy hotels in Manhattan and by the time I got up to speak, the huge ballroom was wall to wall with prospective clients. I outlined the marketing advantages before turning the mike over to my partners, who provided the nuts and bolts of the legal formula. We must have signed up over 200 people that first night. A few days later we were at another major hotel and recruitment more than doubled. Within a few months we knew we had succeeded in cultivating a money tree.

Our clients were happy with the services; the lawyers were happy with the abundance of new clients; our marketers were giddy with the income they were receiving and we were raking it in at our office. We couldn't have imagined it would be that lucrative in so short a time. Although each of us was doing well financially, this appeared to be the ticket to a new level of prosperity. Then, something happened that sowed the seeds of our destruction. One of my partners, the CPA, began turning in four-figure expense vouchers. Although I had known him for over ten years and knew he was a bombastic, fun-loving party guy, I always thought he would put business first. However, after some of those hotel meetings, while my other partner and I were headed home, he had been going to the bar and buying drinks for a sizeable segment of the seminar attendees.

When we approached him about his profligate spending, we began to see the metamorphosis that was taking place. He told us that "he" was the president and "he" would make those decisions without interference from us. When we reminded him that we voluntarily agreed on those positions but had made it clear that we all had an equal say, he rejected our plea to be reasonable. His intractable behavior resulted in some loud and ugly scenes in our office. I couldn't believe this was the same guy I thought I knew. He seemed obsessed with power and greed, like someone whose soul had been claimed by the devil. One night, when he was playing the role of big shot raconteur at a bar in a hotel lobby, I watched as he lit a cigarette (not even a cigar) with a fifty-dollar bill.

Since he was incapable of reason, my other partner and I called a board meeting to replace him as president. When he got word of our plans, he showed up with an attorney. As a measure of this guy's temerity, he was using an attorney from our list of providers. Nevertheless, we conducted the meeting, had minutes taken, and I was elected to replace him. Unable to deal with his sudden diminution of power, he filed a frivolous lawsuit against us and went to the media to announce it. He knew very well that such negative publicity would be anathema to our business and, if he couldn't have it his way, he'd rather destroy it.

Soon afterward, clients and providers began bailing out of the network. The business ultimately collapsed and the dream died. My erstwhile partner had a serious flaw in his character; he couldn't handle success with any degree of maturity. He never had another opportunity; he died broke a few years later. People who obtain power, either through political influence or money, often become victims of their own super-sized egos. They seek to manipulate people like pawns on a chess board, while they, in their blind ambition, end up checkmated. 

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob.