An elderly Pinnacle West stockholder poked Keith Turley gingerly in the back. At this very moment, Turley was standing nervously at a urinal in a men's room on the main floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel.
"Hi there, Mr. Turley. How are you doing?" Turley, former chairman and chief executive of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, turned and grinned. He was wearing a dark suit and a white shirt with a conservative tie. He was also quite busy performing a crucial bodily function.
"Couldn't be better," Turley said. "Couldn't be better." It was the typically ebullient but programmed response of the corporate executive.
Go through life with a knowing smile no matter what is said to you. Smile and your opponent thinks you still have your act together.
At the moment, Turley was relieving himself before entering what was to become the maelstrom of the most tumultuous shareholders meeting in Arizona history.
Perhaps Turley misunderstood. Maybe he perceived an aura of friendship rather than hostility in the crowded men's room.
Whatever, he maintained a practiced smile on his face while zipping up his fly. He brushed cautiously through the crowd and made for the sink to wash his hands.
The elderly shareholder shook his head as Turley moved away. It was clear that Turley, one of the state's richest men, was oblivious to the point being made.
"Things sure could be a lot better for the rest of us," he said, shaking his head. "Thanks to you, you son of a bitch, they're certainly not." Turley, unlike the other 1,200 stockholders of Pinnacle West who showed up for the meeting, is a man who actually has much to smile about. Turley's $2 million retirement home overlooking the Paradise Valley Country Club golf course is virtually complete. There are only minor touches remaining for the billiard room, the art gallery and the library of the 7,300-square-foot edifice constructed on a full-acre hillside lot.
Turley is clearly a success, financially. It is only those he was paid so handsomely to lead who are in disastrous shape.
Turley will live out his life as an aging rajah. Many of the shareholders have been reduced to abject poverty by Turley's actions. His life represents the perfect example of corporate greed in action. The company fails. The stockholders are crushed. But the head of the company lives forever after in luxury.
Keith Turley is quite a piece of work.
He joined Arizona Public Service Company as a writer for its house organ. After forty years, Turley departed APS with a handsome pension. During his peak earning years, Turley made $701,500 annually, a figure that was $200,000 a year more than any salary paid by any other investor-owned utility in the country. I went to the shareholders meeting last week expecting to see a pivotal moment in Phoenix history play itself out. I underestimated its potential for drama.
An overwhelming majority of the stockholders present wanted to accept the offer of PacifiCorp of Portland, Oregon, to buy APS.
Each time the issue of a sale was raised it was met with cheers and applause. It was a stunning defiance of and revolt from Pinnacle West's board of directors.
At one telling point, virtually every one of the more than one thousand shareholders in the room rose to vote approval for such a sale.
It turned out to be a public humiliation for both Keith Turley and his pal Karl Eller, the recently resigned chairman of the board of Circle K Corporation.
Eller, another member of the Pinnacle West board, also was on hand.
He and Turley have taken parallel hard-charging paths.
Turley took APS to the brink of bankruptcy. Eller actually took Circle K over the edge. Dick Snell, the new president of APS, who would chair this meeting, has had an equally dismal record as chairman of Ramada, Inc. Not long ago, I came across an Arizona Republic newspaper clipping from 1977.
It told of a new group called Arizona Tomorrow which had been founded by six leading members of the business community. The group was dedicated to making a great financial future for the state.
Turley and Eller were two of the founders. The others were Gary Driggs, then-president of Western Savings; Richard K. Mallery of Snell and Wilmer; Dino DeConcini, then-chief executive assistant to Governor Raul Castro; and Gilbert F. Bradley, then-head of Valley National Bank.
In a way, this Pinnacle West shareholders meeting would do much to explain how the greed of all these six men--as well as Charlie Keating--has dragged the entire state down into a disastrous real estate depression.
Dick Snell MDRV??appeared to be exceedingly nervous as he called the shareholders meeting to order at 10:04 a.m. The huge ballroom was packed. Those unable to find seats were lined against the rear wall. It was clearly a hostile audience.