Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lisa Napoli's "Ray & Joan"

A journalist for over thirty years, Lisa Napoli was among the pioneering team of reporters at the New York Times who covered the early days of the dot-com era.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…the fiscally prudent Harry wanted to take the company public, the ultimate triumph for a serious businessman, while Ray was wary of that path. He wasn’t keen on having to live by Wall Street’s rules and regulations. Harry believed selling stock was the only chance they’d get to personally cash in on their hard work.

Though Ray would religiously devour the morning sales reports for each store—paying particular attention to the numbers from Rapid City, where Rollie was still at the helm—he continued to find the nuts and bolts and rules and regulations of the financial world of no interest. Those “codfish aristocrats.” he sniffed, knew nothing about real work. He preferred his role as chairman-salesman, swooping in to police the parking los for trash and micromanaging the presentation of food by the hourly workers, confabbing with the franchisees on whose backs the business had been built. They revered him.

With a swagger, he liked to dangle the carrot of a franchise to select associates and friends. To make it possible for some of Jane’s family to get in on the game, Ray waived the required cash deposit, which had risen to $15,000. Harry was not only angry about this bush-league transgression: he worked to block it, calling on the corporate lawyers to support his resistance. Everything needed to be above-board, by the book, so that the ledgers were as bulletproof and defensible as possible. Ray harrumphed and managed to front the necessary deposit money to the relatives himself.
Today, unless you’re of a certain age or a business student, you probably don’t know the name Ray Kroc. In his time, he was the legendary founding chairman of McDonald’s. But that was a carefully constructed myth that omitted the reality—that the brothers McDonald came up with the assembly line process that moved along fast food, and that another man named Harry Sonneborn cooked up the winning franchise formula that allowed the sleepy desert burger stand to flourish.

On page 99 of Ray & Joan, Harry and Ray are headed for their ultimate denouement, but not before Harry gets his wish, which turns each man into an instant-multi-millionaire. At this stage, circa 1965, Ray is still married to Jane, the second wife he married as a placeholder while pining for his true love, Joan—who had spurned him earlier. (He’d gone ahead and divorced his first wife, anyhow.) To tell the story of Joan the great philanthropist, of course, you had to tell the story of how Ray got rich-and how he and she finally came together.
Visit Lisa Napoli's website.

Writers Read: Lisa Napoli.

--Marshal Zeringue