In 1946, DL decided to sell BNA. He called in the company's five top editors -- Dean Dinwoodey, John D. Stewart, Ed Donnell, Adolph Magidson, and John Tyler -- explained his decision, and offered them first crack at buying the company. The five of them went off for a weekend to mull it over, returned, and told DL they'd take his offer on one condition -- that every BNA employee be given the opportunity to buy stock in the company.
As a result, BNA was completely employee-owned from 1947 until 2011, when it became Bloomberg/BNA. It was decided that the price of the stock would be set twice a year by the board of directors. In his book Making Employee Ownership Work, John Stewart gave this pithy description of the process by which the board determined the price of the stock: "It's a metaphysical exercise, sometimes tinged with politics." The board had one article of faith, however: the price must never go down and it never did.
For its first 50 years, the rate of return on the stock averaged 20 percent a year. That rate slowed a bit after that, but it invariably out-performed the general stock market. The same stock price and dividend went to the Class B stock held by BNA retirees, who ended up owning more than half the company.
In early 2011, the BNA board set the stock price at $17.50. In August, Bloomberg L.P. announced it would purchase BNA, paying $39.50 in cash. And I had thought getting kicked out of law school in 1955 was the worst thing that could happen to me! How wrong I was.
During its years as an employee-owned company (1947-2011), employee shareholders elected 11 employees to the BNA board of directors at the company's annual meeting in April. The company started with one non-employee director and later added two more. Nominees were made by a panel of five: three current employee board members and two other employees, traditionally one sales person and one woman.
We always tried to nominate more than 11 employees, so that board service became a contest. In addition, any employee shareholder could get his name on the ballot by getting holders of 2 percent of company shares to sign a petition of support. In over a third of the elections, a "two-percenter" made it onto the ballot and sometimes onto the board.
In his book on BNA's employee ownership, John Stewart observed that in time the contest for board service became so political that the company's productivity suffered in the months leading up to elections.
I was elected to the board in my last 18 years with the company. I was pleasantly surprised in the April, 1978 election -- right after my coming out as gay and alcoholic -- that I was reelected with more votes than I'd received the year before.
I unearthed this board picture above from my files, but don't know the year it was taken. The woman at left with her elbow on the horseshoe desk is Loene Trubkin, generally regarded -- from John Stewart on down -- as BNA's best-ever outside director. She remains a treasured friend and has contributed to this blog. Many have been moved by her poem about cancer, Karma. In an introduction to that post, our BNA colleague Hugh Yarrington described the poem as "a good cry, a rant, an emphatic piece of pure rage in the face of the utter unfairness of all that comes with decades of incurable disease." Loene later posted a tribute to Hugh on his demise last year.
A favorite restaurant for BNAers was Malonas on Pennsylvania Avenue, just east of the bridge into Georgetown. Its "blue plate special" lunch cost less than one dollar, and included entree, beverage (soft drink or ice tea.... those multiple-martini lunches came later), and a slice of pie or cake. Pictured here in front of Malonas are Bill, Lili Crane (more about her later), and Tom Downer, a Tufts University pal of Bill's who was also a new BNA editor
I love this photo. It shows the genuine affection Bill and I shared, and the fun we had working together. That's Deanne Neumann in the background. She epitomizes the BNA family employee: a talented, hard-working gal with a wicked sense of humor.
Frequently on non-deadline days, several of us would begin a round-robin of phone calls by 11am to determine where we'd "drink lunch" that day. Two-martini lunches were considered normal. Some days, a few of us never got back from lunch.
This photo shows me with my best drinking buddy, Brit Shaw. In most of my photos, either Brit is holding a drink or I am. Usually, as here, we both are.
While much of this era was fun, it brought troubling and sad consequences for some. My life certainly became more manageable when I stopped drinking in March, 1978.
Brian's wife Danuta (Danny) is also an activist. She serves on the board of Women for Women International, which helps women in eight countries devastated by war and conflict.
Brian and Danny know how to enjoy life; they spend most summers on their sailboat off the coast of Maine.
BNA's Queen Mother and My Queen of Hearts
About a year after Lili retired, I was part of a BNA customer satisfaction committee that sat unseen behind a one-way mirror while a group of law librarians were asked how BNA and its competitors could provide better service. The librarians didn't know who was sponsoring the meeting, and for a while, they didn't really provide any useful feedback. Then, one of them said, "You know what BNA should do? Bring back that woman they used to have. What was her name?" Another librarian responded "Lili." Then a third said, "Yeah, bring back Lili!" Soon others chimed in to the "Bring back Lili!" chant.
Lili had an unmatched zest for life. She loved theater, museums, travel, bridge, poker. In this photo, Lili and I are preparing to head back to Washington after one of our BNA bridge weekends at Mary Miner's house at Deep Creek, Maryland.
Lili was also a regular at BNA's poker games. The largely male group easily accepted Lili, especially after they discovered her gift for profanity. She wouldn't be outdone!
When she retired, Lili and her friend Zelda traveled almost nonstop for several years. They'd return home just long enough to do laundry and catch up on sleep before heading out again.
Lili was my role model on how to handle retirement and aging: enjoy the former and ignore the latter. She told me that her number one precept was to get out and do something interesting every day. She had absolutely no problem going to the theater or movies or museums on her own. When her daughters finally persuaded her to stop driving, she still showed up for Monday bridge at our local senior center, even though she had to catch two different buses to get there. Neither the cold of January nor the heat of July kept her at home.
I threw a party for Lili on her 65th birthday. Then on her 70th. And 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th. She was the life of each party. I think this photo is from her 85th: