Longform

Dial's Dirty Laundry

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Dial press releases claimed that Patti's ascension marked the start of a transition of power. Teets is 62; Dial's mandatory executive retirement age is 65.

But the news floored longtime Dial watchers. They note that Teets is ranked behind only good friend Jerry Colangelo among the Valley's biggest movers and shakers. Sources inside Dial say Teets long has hinted that he'd like the directors to waive the mandatory age limit in his case.

"There's almost no way that the board would have done this to Teets unless something major inside the company has happened," says a Scottsdale stockbroker who follows Dial closely. "This is a guy who thinks he is Dial, and has had a very decent bottom-line track record to prove it."

No one on the Dial board would comment on whether Teets' dilution of power was linked to the Eve Edwards episode. A Dial spokesman says it wasn't a demotion, and it wasn't related to Edwards.

But the disturbing events in this story occurred on Teets' watch and, at least once, with his approval. Among the most questionable of Dial's acts was its acceptance of stolen material.

The firm apparently never told anyone outside the company that it had taken the material until Jerry Ingalls' attorney confronted the firm with a court subpoena.

In August, Dial returned 52 pages of Ingalls' papers, claiming those documents, and jewelry allegedly belonging to Joan Potter, amounted to all Edwards had given the firm.

But Ingalls' attorney, Rad Vucichevich, says a Dial lawyer told him in August that the firm had in its possession one tape of secretly recorded phone conversations involving Ingalls. Dial never has turned over the tape, Vucichevich adds.

Unfortunately, Eve Edwards isn't around to say whether any tapes were part of the package she delivered to Dial last March. The 50-year-old mother of four committed suicide July 2 at her Payson-area ranch. She had taken an overdose of pills. She left no note.

Those who know Joan Potter describe her with adjectives commonly applied to corporate executives: bright, relentless, cunning and, at times, ruthless.

What might be seen as unusual about that description is, of course, Potter's gender. Before she retired, Potter was the only female listed as an executive officer at Dial--a status that gave her both large financial incentives and great power.

Potter's rise inside Dial was of Horatio Alger proportions. In 1981, she went to work as manager of compensation and systems for Greyhound Food Management--a subsidiary of Dial. Her starting salary was about $35,000.

That year, the 32-year-old Potter had married for the second time, to a businessman named Jerry Ingalls. Ingalls had met his future wife in 1976, when he was an executive for a Pennsylvania dental-supply concern. Ingalls had hired Potter to be that firm's personnel director.

By Ingalls' account, Potter excelled on the job: She always was willing to go the extra yard for the company.

Separated from his first wife, Ingalls fancied the attractive Potter. He says the two dated after she took a job with a different firm. They then went their separate ways.

Ingalls moved to Arizona in 1979. Joan Potter moved to Phoenix in 1981 and went to work for Dial.

The two rekindled their friendship, and later married.
For a time, their careers prospered. But things changed financially--for the worse, in Jerry Ingalls' case--in the late 1980s.

According to court documents, Ingalls' income peaked at $165,847 in 1986. He sold a retail chain of optical stores in 1988, and the next year netted just $7,601.

In 1990, Ingalls opened a firm that consulted for companies considering expansion in the Far East. One major client was the Transportation Manufacturing Corporation, a Dial subsidiary.

Ingalls recalls a dinner that year in London with his wife, John Teets and Teets' wife, Nancy: "We spoke for hours about how Dial could have a far greater presence in Japan and China. He [Teets] expressed interest. I was excited by the possibilities."

But an insurance-fraud lawsuit against Ingalls concerning his former chain of optical stores damaged his finances, and his marriage. That case settled in 1991, when Ingalls agreed to return $325,000 to the insurer.

Meanwhile, Joan Potter's career and income skyrocketed. In 1992, she earned $326,164, or about ten times her starting salary of a decade earlier.

By 1992, Potter had become Dial's vice president of human resources, a top-level position. She had proved that an able, determined female could flourish in the upper reaches of a major American corporation.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin