Ugh. I just reread the notorious Chapter 12, in the context of having read the rest of the book up to that point. And I'm so damn mad I have to vent here, and reveal some things I don't normally talk about.
Mickey insinuates that I tried to take over Primarily A Cappella because John Neal had finally started to make it profitable.
"In 1997 he [me] quit the firm entirely and turned his attentions to Primarily A Cappella, which Neal had taken good care of in his stead. In fact, Primarily A Cappella was just starting to make money. You can see where this is going."
In other words, Mickey insinuates that I was trying to take the business just after the brilliant John Neal had nursed it back to health. This is utter horseshit, swallowed whole as John Neal fed it to Mickey.
Earlier today I reread the memo I sent to John Neal in early 1998 when I proposed that we swap the Records business for the catalog. I give it to you below as I found it in the original Word file, as counterpoint to Mickey's slanderous insinuation.
As background to this GENUINE document, John Neal had 60% of "the business," I had 40%. I hadn't signed a formal contract with him - my bad. I had been sending boatloads of money his way, even going so far as to put a $115,000 downpayment on a house he lived in and used as his office (through what's called a "Tenants In Common" agreement). I also held the mortgage to 13 Sheila Court, where John and his family live today.
In January 1998, John was on holiday at his sister's in New Zealand. On January 2, I got a call from Nette Worthe, working in the Primarily A Cappella office in California, to my home in Maine. She tells me the phone is about to be shut down because John hasn't paid the $2,000 bill. So I wire a $5,000 loan to the company bank account to cover that bill and some others she's not sure about.
John Neal eventually returns from vacation, and reassures me that I can get paid back the $5,000. Just not right then. More requests, more slithering out of repayment. After two months of promises, still no money. I get increasingly agitated - this is a business that has been consuming copious amounts of my cash. John Neal was getting bonuses, he was getting the Harmony Sweepstakes income (not declared to the IRS), and living in a house I bought for him. It most definitely was NOT profitable and showed no signs of being profitable - except for John, of course.
Something happens (I can't recall right now) that keeps us from talking for a week, and during that time I conclude that something big has got to give. I sent the following memo in my dry venture capitalist style.
The week of being in communicado with you has given me considerable time to think about our business relationship, which is strained at many levels.
General A Cappella Businesses Issues
• Opportunities are not being pursued (PAC Records, CAP) because you and I are already stretched and don’t have the time to pursue them
• The Harmony Sweepstakes is the only business generating cash
• All other businesses need cash for growth (according to my analysis)
• You are unwilling to trade equity for cash
• I am unable to continue my free spending indefinitely, even as I have committed to put another $100,000 into the various businesses in 1998 bringing the total spent on a cappella to about $675,000
• You don’t believe I’m doing enough to help the businesses
• I don’t believe you appreciate the money I’ve put into the business, especially the $115,000 I’ve spent to give you a nice place to live
• You are first in line for any money coming out of the joint businesses
• I need to start getting a return on investment, and I’m therefore putting money elsewhere (CAP etc.)
• We are both frustrated at not making any money for all our work (and money)
• The narrow window for communications (8:30 pm - 10:30 pm EST) has led to poor communications
• The lack of control because of my distance has grown intolerable.
In short, the previous relationship of you doing most of the work and me sending money, reviews and legal documents will no longer work.
The thought process that led to the following radical proposal includes months of dissatisfaction on my end, months of hearing dissatisfaction on your end, then catalyzed by:
a) the move of the catalog
b) the difficulty of getting back $5,000 loaned to USI
c) a week of being cut off from communications
d) a thorough review of my finances, both historical and projected
e) Nette receiving a job offer
f) A good friend here on the island becoming available
Summary of Proposed Restructuring
• Catalog moves to Maine, Don trades ownership of PAC Records including the loan for all of John’s ownership in USI
• As part of the trade, Don disclaims any ownership of the Harmony Sweepstakes
• 13 Sheila Court is sold, with proceeds split according to the TIC agreement
I have a more extensive discussion and financial backup for why this all makes sense and is fair to both of us. Let me know when you’d like to see that.
So it appears that I had invested $575,000 in Primarily up to that point - probably $125,000 prior to John Neal, $115,000 for his house (and the mortgage was in my name), so about $335,00 invested in the catalog and the record label (and buying out his Harmony Sweepstakes partner) when we were partners, through early 1998. And our discussions were such that we thought another $100,000 was going to be needed in 1998. This is not the profile of a business turning profitable!
Other points in this memo I'll elaborate on in some other venue, but let me jump to the big reveal.
My grand total investment in a cappella is now somewhere north of $3 million. Some was spent foolishly, to be sure (Hot Lips Records being one prime example), but building a world class a cappella web site, a catalog company with decent IT systems, an ICCA that had a large stable of producers, and a sheet music company distributed by Hal Leonard, not to mention capitalizing the growth of the Primarily A Cappella Catalog and Primarily A Cappella Records... these things aren't cheap. They now provide livelihood or extra income to full-time and part-time employees, some of whom even get health benefits (those at A-Cappella.com, that is). And they provide lots to the a cappella community.
My take? I tried paying myself minimum wage for nine months in 2006, but that didn't last. I've given myself a few modest bonuses... maybe $10,000 in total. I've had a modest income from Contemporary A Cappella Publishing, but there's a loan from me still on the books that's equal to about half the cumulative after-tax income I've received over the years.
So I've spent 16 years and $3 million dollars trying to build resources that are valued by the a cappella community, and this... I won't use the word I'd like to... from GQ portrays me as a money-grubbing venture capitalist who enjoys stealing businesses from innocent a cappella bystanders. Again, I'm not asserting brilliance or moral superiority, but I'm one of the good guys here. Even if Mickey's story works better that I'm a bad guy.
At some point, Mickey, you're going to need to apologize to me. You should feel fortunate that I despise working with lawyers.
The damnable thing about it all, Mickey, is that you're a really good writer. You succeed brilliantly at making some of the mundane things about a cappella sound exciting. But in your own quest for a cappella glory, you have consistently exaggerated, distorted, or simply fabricated things. (For the latter, try Googling the term "father of contemporary a cappella" in quotes. There is exactly one instance - at mickeyrapkin.com - which gives lie to the opening line of Chapter Five: "Deke Sharon is commonly referred to as the father of contemporary a cappella, and while he may have bestowed that title upon himself, the name rings true." This is a total fabrication. And, btw, I think Sean Altman might want to arm wrestle Deke over that title... or maybe The Nylons).
Don "Versus" Gooding
"sigh" - yet another versus