From now on, this weekly Newsletter will be called ROBERT A. MILLS'S OP-ED COLUMN. Access it and enjoy!
Newsletter Dated: 3/10/2012 6:27:23 AM
Subject: NUNDA FUN DAYS - PART II
NUNDA FUN DAYS – PT II
I trust you read and fully digested Part I last week, but if you didn’t, it’s archived at the bottom of the page.
It was a year or so later, in 1966, that I founded Bob Mills Travel Bureau, Inc. and became its president and CEO. I took on three partners, one of which was a local attorney, and I began to dream about “Castles in Ireland,” remembering what the prison escapee had said when I disarmed him on the way home from Nunda Fun Days (see Pt 1.)
The lawyer and I went first to a TV colleague who happened to be Western New York’s version of Louis Rukeyser: namely Mort Nusbaum. Nusbaum, slated to become the eventual treasurer of “Castles in the Air,” knew more about venture capital than anyone in America. He suggested I first construct a board of directors of prominent, well-known businessmen.
In so doing, I solicited such gurus as a Kodak vice president, the dean of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, a Xerox officer, and the heads of two of Genesee Valley’s most well-known travel agencies — plus half a dozen others that included a U.S. Congressman, a state senator, and a few airline officials with diverse business interests.
My idea, simply stated, was to acquire a number of Irish, British and European derelict castles (of which I knew at least three dozen existed) to be renovated and operated as deluxe hotels: “Castles in the Air.”
Our organizational meeting was held at the posh Rochester Club on East Avenue, and I was given a standing ovation after a speech accepting the chairmanship of the new venture’s board of directors. “I never suspected you were such a keen and shrewd entrepreneur!” Nusbaum later stated. “Your knowledge of acquisitions, renovating properties and such, R.O.I. and I.P.O.s blows my mind. How you ever enticed these guys to join up is beyond me! Collectively, they must be worth six billion dollars!”
I spent the next few weeks contacting everyone I knew in the UK and Europe who had deep pockets and even the vaguest affiliation with a castle (or what I conceived to be one.) I traveled to Ireland and England many times to meet with a host of tycoons and to inspect any and all possibilities. Spending nearly a year on such “leg work,” I found literally scores of viable entities.
The moment I had the vaguest verbal commitment, I reported back to my board of directors. Another meeting was eventually scheduled, and now it was time to put their money where their mouths had been.
“To get the ball rolling,” I said, “I need two million dollars — not to mention reimbursement for my out-of-pocket expenses.”
I might well have asked for their wives, mothers, and first three children as candidates for the re-birth of slavery. The stampede for the exits reminded the attorney, Nusbaum and me of the gold rush of 1849. The three of us — me, in particular — became immediate anathema to the social circles of our previous benefactors.
Upon sober reflection, I think my one misunderstanding stemmed from the fact that my board thought its mere endorsement would be sufficient to make a public offering of untold substance. Perhaps the riotous standing ovation at my inaugural meeting had drowned out my expectation of enthusiastic investment.
Needless to say, the markers, when called, resulted in the influx of empty coffers, and “Castle in the Air” died an ignominious death. Sean McGillacuddy, it turned out, had been the most clairvoyant of all (again, see Pt I.)
Luckily for me, I had Bob Mills Travel Bureau, Inc. and my TV/radio dodge to fall back on, although I sold the travel agencies in 1976 and retired from broadcasting at 55 to eventually move to Georgia. Down here, in the Deep South, I watched my wife and daughter both graduate from college, my daughter marry a fledgling dentist and present us with a grandson (actually, he’s much too young to know how grand he really is.)
After six books and three years of posting a weekly op-ed column, I can still hear McGillacuddy’s last words as the gendarme took him away: “ . . . an ye ever haf me as yer valet, ye better watch yer back!”
The irony is, now that I can afford him, I no longer care. And the time I spent on “Castles in the Air” was tantamount to a Ph.D. in capital management.
But Slim Heiu and Sheldon Adelson I ain’t.
Copyright©2012 by Robert A. Mills