Home > Disclosure(8)

Author: Michael Crichton

"It's longer than that," Sanders said. "I've been in Seattle eight years. So it must be . . ." Sanders thought back. "When I was going out with her, she worked for Novell in Mountain View. Selling Ethernet cards to small businesses for local area networks. When was that?" Although he remembered the relationship with Meredith Johnson vividly, Sanders was hazy about exactly when it had occurred. He tried to recall some memorable event-a birthday, a promotion, an apartment movethat would mark the date. Finally he remembered watching election returns with her on television: balloons rising up toward the ceiling, people cheering. She was drinking beer. That had been early in their relationship. "Jesus, Phil. It must be almost ten years ago."

"That long," Blackburn said.

When Sanders first met Meredith Johnson, she was one of the thousands of pretty saleswomen working in San Jose-young women in their twenties, not long out of college, who started out doing the product demos on the computer while a senior man stood beside her and did all the talking to the customer. Eventually, a lot of those women learned enough to do the selling themselves. At the time Sanders first knew Meredith, she had acquired enough jargon to rattle on about token rings and 1OBaseT hubs. She didn't really have any deep knowledge, but she didn't need to. She was good-looking, sexy, and smart, and she had a kind of uncanny selfpossession that carried her through awkward moments. Sanders had admired her, back in those days. But he never imagined that she had the ability to hold a major corporate position.

Blackburn shrugged. "A lot's happened in ten years, Tom," he said. "Meredith isn't just a sales exec. She went back to school, got an MBA. She worked at Symantec, then Conrad, and then she came to work with us. The last couple of years, she's been working very closely with Garvin. Sort of his protege. He's been pleased with her work on a number of assignments."

Sanders shook his head. "And now she's my boss . . ."

"Is that a problem for you?"

"No. It just seems funny. An old girlfriend as my boss."

"The worm turns," Blackburn said. He was smiling, but Sanders sensed he was watching him closely. "You seem a little uneasy about this, Tom."

"It takes some getting used to."

"Is there a problem? Reporting to a woman?"

"Not at all. I worked for Eileen when she was head of HRI, and we got along great. It's not that. It's just funny to think of Meredith Johnson as my boss."

"She's an impressive and accomplished manager," Phil said. He stood up, smoothed his tie. "I think when you've had an opportunity to become reacquainted, you'll be very impressed. Give her a chance, Tom."

"Of course," Sanders said.

"I'm sure everything will work out. And keep your eye on the future. After all, you should be rich in a year or so."

"Does that mean we're still spinning off the APG Division?"

"Oh yes. Absolutely."

It was a much-discussed part of the merger plan that after Conley-White bought DigiCom, it would spin off the Advanced Products Division and take it public, as a separate company. That would mean enormous profits for everyone in the division. Because everyone would have the chance to buy cheap options before the stock was publicly sold.

"We're working out the final details now," Blackburn said. "But I expect that division managers like yourself will start with twenty thousand shares vested, and an initial option of fifty thousand shares at twenty-five cents a share, with the right to purchase another fifty thousand shares each year for the next five years."

"And the spin-off will go forward, even with Meredith running the divisions?"

"Trust me. The spin-off will happen within eighteen months. It's a formal part of the merger plan."

     "There's no chance that she may decide to change her mind?"

"None at all, Tom." Blackburn smiled. "I'll tell you a little secret. Originally, this spin-off was Meredith's idea."

Blackburn left Sanders's office and went down the hall to an empty office and called Garvin. He heard the familiar sharp bark: "Garvin here."

"I talked to Tom Sanders."


"I'd say he took it well. He was disappointed, of course. I think he'd already heard a rumor. But he took it well."

Garvin said, "And the new stricture? How did he respond?"

"He's concerned," Blackburn said. "He expressed reservations."


"He doesn't feel she has the technical expertise to run the division." Garvin snorted, "Technical expertise? That's the last goddamn thing I care about. Technical expertise is not an issue here."

"Of course not. But I think there was some uneasiness on the personal level. You know, they once had a relationship."

"Yes," Garvin said. "I know that. Have they talked?"

"He says, not for several years."

"Bad blood?"

"There didn't seem to be."

"Then what's he concerned about?"

"I think he's just getting used to the idea."

"He'll come around."

"I think so."

"Tell me if you hear otherwise," Garvin said, and hung up.

Alone in the office, Blackburn frowned. The conversation with Sanders left him vaguely uneasy. It had seemed to go well enough, and yet . . . Sanders, he felt sure, was not going to take this reorganization lying down. Sanders was popular in the Seattle division, and he could easily cause trouble. Sanders was too independent, he was not a team player, and the company needed team players now. The more Blackburn thought about it, the more certain he was that Sanders was going to be a problem.

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