Home > Disclosure(7)

Author: Michael Crichton

It was just one of the many controversies that surrounded Sanders's handling of the new Malaysia factory.

Now, Sanders and Blackburn greeted each other with the wariness of former friends who had long since ceased to be anything but superficially cordial. Sanders shook Blackburn's hand as the company lawyer stepped into the office. "What's going on, Phil?"

"Big day," Blackburn said, slipping into the chair facing Sanders's desk. "Lot of surprises. I don't know what you've heard."

"I've heard Garvin has made a decision about the restructuring."

"Yes, he has. Several decisions."

There was a pause. Blackburn shifted in his chair and looked at his hands. "1 know that Bob wanted to fill you in himself about all this. He came by earlier this morning to talk to everyone in the division."

"I wasn't here."

"Uh-huh. We were all kind of surprised that you were late today."

Sanders let that pass without comment. He stared at Blackburn, waiting.

"Anyway, Tom," Blackburn said, "the bottom line is this. As part of the overall merger, Bob has decided to go outside the Advanced Products Group for leadership of the division."

So there it was. Finally, out in the open. Sanders took a deep breath, felt the bands of tightness in his chest. His whole body was tense. But he tried not to show it.

"I know this is something of a shock," Blackburn said.

"Well," Sanders shrugged. "I've heard rumors." Even as he spoke, his mind was racing ahead. It was clear now that there would not be a promotion, there would not be a raise, he would not have a new opportunity to

"Yes. Well," Blackburn said, clearing his throat. "Bob has decided that Meredith Johnson is going to head up the division."

Sanders frowned. "Meredith Johnson?"

"Right. She's in the Cupertino office. I think you know her."

"Yes, I do, but . . ." Sanders shook his head. It didn't make any sense. "Meredith's from sales. Her background is in sales."

"Originally, yes. But as you know, Meredith's been in Operations the last couple of years."

"Even so, Phil. The APG is a technical division."

"You're not technical. You've done just fine."

"But I've been involved in this for years, when I was in Marketing. Look, the APG is basically programming teams and hardware fabrication lines. How can she run it?"

"Bob doesn't expect her to run it directly. She'll oversee the APG division managers, who will report to her. Meredith's official title will be Vice President for Advanced Operations and Planning. Under the new structure, that will include the entire APG Division, the Marketing Division, and the TelCom Division."

`Jesus," Sanders said, sitting back in his chair. "That's pretty much everything."

Blackburn nodded slowly.

Sanders paused, thinking it over. "It sounds," he said finally, "like Meredith Johnson's going to be running this company."

"I wouldn't go that far," Blackburn said. "She won't have direct control over sales or finance or distribution in this new scheme. But I think there is no question Bob has placed her in direct line for succession, when he steps down as CEO sometime in the next two years." Blackburn shifted in his chair. "But that's the future. For the present-"

"Just a minute. She'll have four APG division managers reporting to her?" Sanders said.


"And who are those managers going to be? Has that been decided?"

"Well." Phil coughed. He ran his hands over his chest, and plucked at the handkerchief in his breast pocket. "Of course, the actual decision to name the division managers will be Meredith's."

"Meaning I might not have a job."

"Oh hell, Tom," Blackburn said. "Nothing of the sort. Bob wants everyone in the divisions to stay. Including you. He'd hate very much to lose you."

"But it's Meredith Johnson's decision whether I keep my job."

"Technically," Blackburn said, spreading his hands, "it has to be. But I think it's pretty much pro forma."

Sanders did not see it that way at all. Garvin could easily have named all the division managers at the same time he named Meredith Johnson to run the APG. If Garvin decided to turn the company over to some woman from Sales, that was certainly his choice. But Garvin could still make sure he kept his division heads in place the heads who had served him and the company so well.

`Jesus," Sanders said. "I've been with this company twelve years."

"And I expect you will be with us many more," Blackburn said smoothly. "Look: it's in everybody's interest to keep the teams in place. Because as 1 said, she can't run them directly."


Blackburn shot his cuffs and ran his hand through his hair. "Listen, Tom. I know you're disappointed that this appointment didn't come to you. But let's not make too much of Meredith appointing the division heads. Realistically speaking, she isn't going to make any changes. Your situation is secure." He paused. "You know the way Meredith is, Tom."

"I used to," Sanders said, nodding. "Hell, I lived with her for a while. But I haven't seen her in years."

Blackburn looked surprised. "You two haven't kept contact?"

"Not really, no. By the time Meredith joined the company, I was up here in Seattle, and she was based in Cupertino. I ran into her once, on a trip down there. Said hello. That's about it."

"Then you only know her from the old days," Blackburn said, as if it all suddenly made sense. "From six or seven years ago."

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