On October 7, 1982, I walked into Ed Ney’s office, and told him I quit after 15 fabulous years at Y&R.
He asked me why. I told him I wanted to get rich quick. It was the 80’s and every Tom, Dick and Harry was launching an IPO. I had met this Wall Street and ….He smiled, shook his head knowingly, and made a one final comment. I wanted to say, so much more, but I was in tears.
On May 9, 2013, I walked into the new Y&R offices at Columbus Circle. I had been asked to video a few recollections for Y&R’s upcoming 90th anniversary bash. It was the first time I had visited Y&R in 31 years. When we finished, I asked Mary Alice Kennedy if Ed still stopped in. She nodded, “with surprising regularity.” Turned out he was there that day with his wife Pat, showing her the new digs. Mary Alice then proceeded to do me a great big favor. They found Ed, and arranged for me to say hello in the new coffee shop. They just told him, “a former senior exec wanted to say hello.”
I figured, after all the great people who had walked through the doors of Y&R, I’d be lucky if he even recognized my face, much less remembered my name. But, there was something I had to say, I needed closure….for me.
I walked in. He sat across the room. He stared, gave me that Ed Ney wink then raised his arms and smiled, “My goodness, Matt Crisci.” The buttons on my shirt burst; the blood rushed through my veins. I was so pleased, it was hard to maintain my composure.
Anyway, I sat down next to Pat and Ed’s assistant, Joanne Carle. I was as economical as a thirty-second commercial—unusual for moi, known for circuitous verbosity. “Ed, you remembering me has made my day. I’ve wanted to say something to you for the last 31 years.” I took a deep breath. It was hard to get the words out. “I just wanted you to know you were my moral compass for 15 years; the Dad I never had.” As far as I was concerned I was done. He looked right into my eyes, and said, “You’ve made my day.” I started to cry. Everybody at the table did the same. Then a most amazing thing happened.
Ed leaned over and asked me “Remember what I told you when I closed the door?” (Ed had a button on the side of his desk, which he pressed to close the door some 40 or so feet away when he wanted to have a really private séance). I nodded. He continued, “I told you to be careful out there. Wall Street was a rough place.”
I couldn’t believe he remembered. I smiled. “Well, I found out the hard way. I made the fortune, but then I lost it all, wound up about $10 million in the hole.” He smiled knowingly. “But you’re still here.” I mumbled something self-serving like, “It’s hard to knock-out a Boy from the Bronx.”
Since I was on a roll, I decided to ask him one more question. “Do you remember Ed Gelsthorpe?” He responds, “Gelsthorpe, now that was a piece of work.” (Gelsthorpe was a client who had fired us in a prior role or two. He had become President of United Brands (Chiquita Bananas). He wanted to meet the “new guy.” For whatever reason, Ed called me at home while I was on vacation wallpapering my kid’s room. “You’re on Chiquita Bananas because theres a new guy we’ve had trouble with twice before. He’s an intimidating ex-military guy who’s smart and doesn’t like us. I figured you’d be a good match. You have a meeting with him on Monday morning in Boston. If that goes okay, I’ve scheduled you to meet the Chairman Eli Black in New York on Wednesday.”
I remember explaining to my wife what had just transpired. I had no idea if I had been complimented or insulted. A bunch of stuff arrived at the house. I read it all. Gelsthorpe was exactly as described. Need I say more? Anyway, we sparred for 90 minutes. I think I held my own, but I wasn’t sure. The guy maintained a poker face.
I get to the office on Tuesday. Twenty minutes later Ed is on the phone. My assistant, Janet Francis, unaccustomed to such calls, struts in, “Mr. Ney is on the phone. You getting fired?” Actually, I didn’t know.
As I’m retelling the story, I look at Ed. “Any chance you remember calling me.” He looks up at the ceiling, then lowers his smiling head. “I told you the meeting with Gelsthorpe went well, but the meeting with Black was off because he had just jumped out of his office window of the Pan Am building.”
We laughed, then took a few pictures. On the way out, I told him I’d send him a copy of one of my latest books, This Little Piggy, about an advertising executive that decides to try his hand at the Wall Street game. “There’s a guy in the story named Gordon Naye. You might recognize him.”