Entry dated :: July 12, 1985
Kos, Turkey 
Jimmy Goldsmith's Takeover:
Aboard the SS Alpega

A unique form of social imprisonment is a yacht trip. Of course SS Alpega, which Jimmy Goldsmith had chartered to celebrate his impending takeover of Crown Zellebach, could not have been more comfortable. It was a 40 meter long motor launch. Suspended above its gleaming white deck were two Riva-style speedboats, equipped for every kind of water sports. Below the four staterooms had king-size beds, TVs and marble baths. So he would not lose touch with the outside world, and the negotiations with Crown Zellebach, Jimmy had paid an extra $100,000 to install a state-of-art satellite telephone system.

It was my first yacht trip. The other aboard was Jimmy Goldsmith, his girlfriend, Laure, an old friend of his from the Traveler's Club in Paris, Guy Bagno and his fiancee, Patricia, who is a TV presenter ("The Dan Rather of France," as Jimmy introduces her), and two young surprise guests, Natalie, a French runway model, and Anne-Marie, an American runway model. Jimmy had met them both just two weeks earlier at the offices of his newspaper, L' Express, where they had come to model bathing suits for its Swim issue. He invited them along on the theory that they would make the trip more interesting."

Natalie did in a way Jimmy could not anticipate. She began using his hi-tech satellite phone to call her answer machine in Paris so her poodle could hear her purring over it. Not only did that purring cost $80 a minute, but it crossed lines on satellite phone at a delicate time. While she was trying to get through to her dog on the phone on the bridge this Friday morning, Jimmy's lawyer, Joe Flom, called to say there was to be an emergency Board meeting of Crown Zellerbach in three minutes. Jimmy put it on speaker phone as operator took a roll call, and said, "Everyone present: proceed." To Jimmy's shock, the deal unraveled. CZ Chairman Donald Cresson made a motion to leave the poison pill in place. It passed. This meant if Jimmy bought more than the 20 percent of the stock, the company would flood the market with a new class of shares that would dilute the value of all the existing shares. The idea of this poison pill was to make it impossible for a raider like Jimmy to get bank financing.

Jimmy's face turned beet red. He told Cresson, "Do not mistake my gentle manner for weakness. If you look back over my record you will see that I have always done exactly what I said I would. I said I will buy your company. I will, poison pill or no poison pill."

Meanwhile, Natalie, in the radio room, finally got a dial tone, causing the whole satellite system to crash. Jimmy smashed the silent phone against the wall. The Greek Captain then announced that the satellite phone was "dead."

While Jimmy was pacing the deck in frustration, saying he was going to personally sue all the CZ directors and make Cresson return "the pacemaker in his heart he bought with company funds," I went to the radio room to see if I could restore the phone.

Natalie was still trying to get through to her dog. Figuring there was little to lose, I played around with the dials to re-position the aerial for the satellite phone. But there was something to lose: the ship's backup telecommunication, which, alas, I inadvertently disabled.

While I was tinkering with the electronics, Jimmy found a solution (which is why he is a billionaire.) He ordered the Captain to change course and head for the nearest town with a phone booth. So we raced to Kos.

Kos, up to 10 years ago, was accessible only by sea. According to my guide book, it has rarely visited Lydian tombs, a Roman amphitheater and a ruined fortress. We sped in the Riva launch into the small harbor full of caiques, fishing nets and Turkish men, strolling hand in hand.

As the captain promised, there was an empty phone booth right on the pier. But the Turkish strollers laughed, it is "Bazook, Bazook," which means doubly broken. It turned out that the only working phone was at the post office, next to the Café Lokanta. The problem here was that there was a queue of 12 French doctors, off some sailing holiday caique, waiting to use the single automatic pay phone. But Jimmy, being half French, knew how to deal with a French queue. He sent Laure back to the yacht for a case of Piper Heisek champagne, and offered each French doctor a bottle for his place in line. They were more than happy to accommodate.

But on calling his office in New York, he discovered yet another problem. The tokens, which we bought at the café, took so long to register, than all the time was used up before he could complete a sentence. Always flexible, Jimmy called his office in London, which required less tokens, and managed to get through. He owned 4 million shares of CZ, and now aimed to buy a majority on the open market, even though it would trigger the CZ poison pill. "This is war," he said, when he finished the call. "They will choke on their stupid poison pill."

Jimmy was suddenly in an elated mood. He loved Kos because, aside from the French doctors, there were no tourists. We had dinner in the souk. He recalled that when his young son Ben asked what he did in America, he answered "I'm a pirate." With his yacht dominating the small port, and the now drunk French doctors now toasting him with his champagne, it was a role he savored.

This is a totally commerce-free site.
No charges, no advertising.
The webmistress June Eng can be reached at june@jooon.com