THE AIR IN THE ROOM WAS THICK WITH THE PERFUME of 10,000 womenwaiting for the prodigal son of Mary Kay Ash to make his triumphantreturn to Dallas. These were the top saleswomen for Mary Kay Inc., theprivately held $1.7 billion direct-sales titan. All were gathered inthe Dallas Convention Center for the company’s annual prize-filledglitzathon called Seminar, capital "S." Their hair had been styled,their makeup applied just so. They were ready for Richard Rogers totake the stage.
This was July 19, 2001. It had been almost adecade since Rogers, Mary Kay’s youngest son, had formally retired fromthe company. Even after his long absence, though, he needed nointroduction. Everyone knew Rogers was the man who, in 1963, at age 20,had co-founded the company with nothing more than hope, lots of prayer,and $5,000—his mother’s life savings. Everyone also knew that Rogerswas the financial whiz who had steered Mary Kay Inc. away from debt inthe early days, and both into and out of the New York Stock Exchange.In their eyes, he was a legend.
Rogers was also something of adisappointment to his mother. In 1991, he ceded his CEO duties andslipped away into semi-retirement. He remained the company’s chairman,though, reviewing financial statements and approving majortransactions. But mostly Rogers passed his time flying around in aprivate jet, hopping from a luxurious $4.3 million mountainside mansionin Aspen, Colorado, to a $3.5 million beachfront house in Cabo SanLucas, Mexico, to a more modest home in Dallas. One of Rogers’associates describes that period of his life as a "nonstop party."
MaryKay didn’t approve. Before a 1996 stroke robbed her of the ability tospeak, she told just about anyone who would listen, including Rogershimself, that her son didn’t belong on a beach sipping cerveza. Hebelonged behind a desk, balancing books.
Rogers, then 58,finally heeded his mother’s call and, on June 26, 2001, resumed hisrole as CEO. Just three weeks later at Seminar, the sales force greetedhim with a wildly enthusiastic standing ovation as he took the stage.Rogers smiled wide and waved. His mother was famous for appearing atSeminar in shiny, sequin-studded Victor Costa gowns, but Rogers wasdressed conservatively: navy suit; white, French-cuffed shirt; goldcuff links; blue-and-silver patterned tie with a matching pocketsquare. The only thing shining on him was his bald head. From behind anoversize podium, with a Vegas-like array of lights glittering behindhim, Rogers spoke. "Well, Mom," he said, "you got your wish. I’m back."The ladies went nuts.
Not everyone was cheering. Rogers’homecoming had touched off a firestorm in the company’s executivesuite. Longtime CEO John Rochon had been fired—or had quit, dependingon whom you believe—and other top executives had followed him out thedoor, some voluntarily, some at the company’s behest. Rogers thankedRochon from the Seminar stage for his years of service and wished himwell in his future endeavors, but privately Rogers had expressed a verydifferent sentiment. Just days earlier, Rochon had called the office tofind out how the company planned to pay him for more than $30 millionworth of fully vested options he held at Mary Kay. He was told that thecompany didn’t plan to pay him. "Richard Rogers had word sent to me,"Rochon says, "that all I would be getting was the sweat off his balls.Those were his words."
Now Rochon is suing. He and Nick Bouras,a Mary Kay vice president who was fired—or, depending, quit—at the sametime Rochon left, filed a joint lawsuit last October against Mary KayInc. and Richard Rogers. The two men are seeking about $75 million inback pay and other damages. The company has countersued, claimingRochon and Bouras mismanaged the firm and trumped up false contractswhen it became clear that they were about to lose their jobs. A trialis tentatively set for this summer.
If a jury hears the case,Rochon will tell them that Rogers is a "ne’er-do-well" who abandonedhis mother’s dream in favor of the high life. He will further tell themthat he, John Rochon, was the principal architect of all that Mary KayInc. built since 1982. And, finally, he will tell them that he, Rochon,created immense wealth for Rogers and Mary Kay Ash’s other familymembers, only to be cheated out of the equity he’d earned during 21years with the company.
Mary Kay Inc. will tell a very differentstory, one that casts Rochon as a spendthrift executive who hid thingsfrom Rogers, including a plane, a building, and a tent. The tent, inparticular, appears to be of utmost importance. They will talk forhours about the tent. The company will also say that Rochon lost focuson Mary Kay’s core cosmetics business. Worse, they’ll say, he madestaggeringly bad investments that cost the company millions ofdollars—even after Rogers had ordered Rochon to pull out of all outsideventures.
Whatever comes out in court, the fight has forthe first time provided a glimpse into the messy executive-levelworkings of a private company, revealing ugly blemishes on a publicface that is usually pink, powdered, and perfect. In many ways, it is asad, even absurd, story. How did a 20-year professional and personalrelationship—Rochon was the trustee for Rogers’ children and theexecutor of Rogers’ will—end so bitterly? Rochon seems genuinelyperplexed by the whole affair.
You can see it in his face.Sitting in the Spartan offices of Richmont Corp., just a few miles upthe Tollway from the Mary Kay building, the husky, 52-year-old Rochonshakes his head, his slicked-back hair shining under fluorescentlights. "I was everything to Richard that anyone could possibly be in atrusted role of a brother or a best friend, a father, or a son," Rochonsays quietly. "And it’s a hell of a disappointment to miss your kidsgrowing up, to give everything you have to someone else’s company andtheir dream—and it was my dream, too—and to be told, 24 hours afteryou’ve left, that your reward is the sweat off of Richard’s balls. Itis disgusting. And it is not what Mary Kay ever stood for."
|HAPPIER TIMES: In 1992, Rochon (right) traveled to Russia on Mary Kay business. Richard Rogers went along for the ride.|
Still, Logan sensed the second he walked through thedoor that something was different about this meeting. "What’s up?" heasked. Rochon looked at Rogers and said, "Richard, would you pleaserepeat what you just told me?"
Rogers said, "I just told John that if you guys get me a Gulfstream jet, I’ll give him the keys to the company."
It was a surprising statement, but Logan didn’t miss a beat. "Okay," he said. "What color do you want?"
Thetransaction wasn’t that simple. The jet purchase took awhile, andRogers wound up making it himself, through another company he owned atthat time called Million Air. (Remember that name.) According toRochon, Million Air leased the jet to Mary Kay for Rogers’ personaluse. When all the papers were finally signed, Rogers took to thefriendly skies, tossing the proverbial keys to Rochon before he left.Rogers had been telling people it was time, after 30 years with thecompany, to take a break. He was just plain tired.
Rochondoesn’t fault Rogers for wanting out. He says, "Richard was a kid who,when he was 5 or 6 years old, was packing orders for his mother whenshe worked at Stanley Home Products. She pretty much dominated his lifeuntil he could break free. And I was the ticket to his breaking free."
Itwould be nice to ask Richard Rogers whether he agrees, now, that JohnRochon was his ticket to freedom. But Rogers doesn’t do interviews, D Magazinewas told. He rejected requests to discuss this story. Instead, anattorney named Laurence Macon from the law firm of Akin Gump StraussHauer & Feld, which is representing the company in the action filedby Rochon, does the talking for Rogers. For instance, in a conferencecall with D Magazine, he denied Rogers ever offered Rochonthe sweat off his balls. And while Macon is an entirely pleasantindividual, he couldn’t possibly know whether Rogers was seekingfreedom from his mother or just from work itself.
In any case,in 1991 Rogers removed himself from day-to-day operations, assuming thetitle of chairman of Mary Kay Holding—sort of an oversight company thatis technically Mary Kay Inc.’s parent. John Rochon became CEO andchairman of Mary Kay Inc. That meant he answered only to Rogers, whosechairmanship was made easy. He merely had to make sure that Rochon wasmaking money for him. And Rochon was. In 1991, Mary Kay’s salesforce—aka "beauty consultants"—produced $520 million. In Rochon’s lastfull year at the helm, sales were $1.2 billion.
Rochon wasalso making money through an enterprise called Richmont Corp. Think ofRichmont as a financial adviser, investment bank, and stock brokerrolled into one. Its task was to find investment opportunities, raisethe money to make investments, and, well, invest. Profits would go toRichmont itself, including a percentage that went directly to Rochon,who served as Richmont’s president. The bulk of the income was dividedamong Richmont’s partners, including Mary Kay Inc. and Mary Kay’sshareholders—several dozen members of the Ash/Rogers family who hold896,000 total shares of the company. Richard Rogers holds about 20percent of those shares, according to one financial analysis. Rochonsays Rogers’ income spiked from an average of $1 million a year in the’80s to $7.5 million a year through the ’90s, largely thanks toRichmont’s profitable investments. Overall, Rochon says, Richmontperformed "spectacularly well." Except for the two bankruptcies.AMONG THE SEMINAL DATES on the Mary Kay Inc. timeline arethese: September 13, 1963, the day Mary Kay started selling herproducts from a 500-square-foot Dallas storefront, her son Richard ather side; and December 4, 1985, the day the company ended 17 years ofpublic trading and was returned to private control. The importance ofthe latter event cannot be overestimated. If Mary Kay hadn’t goneprivate, it almost certainly would have succumbed to a hostile takeoveror gone broke. And Rochon says he deserves the credit. "I was thearchitect of it," he says. "I choreographed it. It was my idea from theword ’go.’"
Rochon hadn’t been at Mary Kay long when an LBO ofthe company first became a possibility. He was hired in 1980, workingfirst for Mary Kay in Canada, where his mother was born and he receivedhis MBA, at the University of Toronto. In 1982, he was imported to theDallas headquarters, where he worked in the finance department and,only two years later, was named Mary Kay’s chief financial officer.
Aroundthe same time, Rochon says he took the initiative to improve thecompany’s financial condition. He knew the family had bought backpublic shares in the past, and he wondered if it might be possible tobuy back everything the family didn’t already own—about 70percent of the company’s outstanding shares. He put together afinancial model, looking to squeeze cash out of the existingoperations, and, when he realized he was within $100 million of pullingoff the biggest leveraged buyout in corporate history, he called somefriends with Morgan Stanley in New York for advice. They turned Rochononto what were, essentially, junk bonds—oversimplified, a way to payoff shareholders by handing them cash for part of their stock and anIOU for the rest. The upside was that Mary Kay Inc. would be able tobuy some $390 million of its own stock almost entirely on credit. Thecash backing the deal would eat up every dollar of the Ash familyfortune, but if the LBO worked, it would be an accounting masterstrokeand would give Mary Kay what she so desperately wanted: control of hercompany’s destiny.
At this point, it bears mentioning thatMary Kay Inc. disputes Rochon’s role in all this, claiming he wasmerely one member of a team that conceived the LBO plan and put thedeal together. Now back to the story.
After Rochon wassatisfied that his financial model would work, he called Rogers andasked for a meeting to pitch the idea. Rogers invited Rochon to his"home," which, at the time, was a room at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.When Rochon knocked on the door, Rogers answered and said to his chieffinancial officer, "Hello. Come on in, Larry."
"My office wasright next door to his," Rochon says, still indignant about the slight."But Richard had disengaged from the company already. He wasn’t comingto the office anymore. Not enough to know my name, anyway."
Rogersgave "Larry" 10 minutes to make his pitch. When time was up, Rogerssaid, "Let’s do it. How long will it take to put the thing together?"Rochon guessed two months, and he says he was on track to hit thatdeadline until the drug bust went down.
Oh, right. The drugbust. Casually mention the drug bust at Mary Kay headquarters today,and a roomful of attorneys and PR types will make faces so ugly that noamount of skillfully applied makeup will help.
On May 29, 1985,DEA agents stormed the offices of Bennett Resources Inc., a Dallas oilcompany—as well as the offices of several other area businesses—near ahanger at Addison Airport. They seized seven cars, $55,000 in diamonds,and a twin-engine plane. They eventually charged six people, includingJoe Bill Bennett, owner of Bennett Resources, with operating a drugtrafficking ring that brought $25 million worth of cocaine into AddisonAirport each month and then flew it out to be sold nationwide.
Theairport offices were leased from Million Air Dallas. (Remember thatname?) Richard Rogers founded and owned Million Air Dallas. A couple ofmonths later, someone on Wall Street started chatting up the raid, anda rumor swept through traders’ offices that Rogers was also beinginvestigated in connection with the May bust. As a result, on August 6,1985, Mary Kay’s stock tumbled 14 percent, after having recoveredslightly when news of the LBO first hit The Street.
A month later, a Dallas Times Heraldinvestigation turned up connections between Bennett and Rogers thatdidn’t help. The paper reported that Rogers had personally guaranteedan $80,000 bank loan, which Bennett used to buy the plane seized by theDEA. Rogers had also made other personal loans to Bennett amounting tomore than $250,000.
None of which, of course, meant thatRichard Rogers was involved with trafficking cocaine. A businessconnection between the two men had merely been established. Affidavitsfrom federal agents, it was reported, said Bennett did mention Rogersas being involved in the drug trafficking. But agents also speculatedthat Bennett knew Rogers was under investigation and had thrown outRogers’ name to deflect attention from himself. In the end, Bennett wassentenced to 35 years, and Rogers was never charged. (Bennett is nowCEO of Matrix Energy Services Corp., a small publicly traded oil andgas company based in Fort Worth.)
Rogers, through his attorney, continues to deny any involvement in the drug trafficking. Interestingly enough, in the same Times Heraldarticle, a John Rochon, vice president of finance at Mary Kay Inc., wasquoted as saying there was "zero chance" of legal action againstRogers, and it was "bizarre" that one investment advisory firm hadrecommended Rogers take a leave of absence because of the case.
Rochonsays now that the connections between Rogers and Bennett nearlydestroyed the LBO. "When that happened, every bank in America vacatedme," he says. "It had become just a nightmare to get the deal done."The nightmare ended well, though, when, in early winter, Rochon andRogers, in New York together, signed a financing deal with the Bank ofNew York that returned full control of the company to Mary Kay Ash andher family.
Trouble was, when Rogers and Rochon got back totheir hotel and called Mary Kay, she wasn’t in the mood to celebrate."Mary Kay was heartbroken," Rochon says. "She thought we were losingeverything, betting the ranch, over-leveraging. She said we werefinally going to finish off the company. She was actually sobbing. Thatwas not a very good call for Richard."
More bad calls were tocome. Mary Kay’s board of directors had to be notified. Rochon saysthat once Rogers had heard enough from his mother, he turned to Rochonand said, "’I’m out of here. I’m going to the bars. You call theoutside board.’ I was 33 years old, and I’m calling these guys who are,like, 65-year-old statesmen, and I’m saying, ’Listen, bud, we’re buyingyour company.’"
Again, it should be noted that the companydisagrees. Macon, Rogers’ spokesman, says, "It was Richard who had allthe connections with the investment bankers. And it was Richard who, asthe representative of the family, was taking all the risk. They wouldhave wanted to deal with him, not someone they didn’t know."
Itwas also Richard Rogers who announced the deal in Dallas on December 4,1985. And it was Rogers who presented the LBO’s details in a publicforum to about 100 shareholders, bankers, and others. Even so, Rochontoday maintains that he was behind the LBO. Further, he insists that hewas behind all of the big deals to come. "From the time of theleveraged buyout to the day that I left," Rochon says, "I was theperson who guided every change and turned Mary Kay from being ano-count cosmetics company into the No. 1 brand in America. Anyone whoisn’t annulling history and annulling the fact that I was the chairmanand the CEO of the company would have to admit that."
IT’S QUIET IN MARY KAY ASHE’S OLD OFFICE at companyheadquarters. Church quiet. Probably as it should be. After all, thisisn’t so much an office anymore as it is a shrine. Everything is justas Mary Kay left it on her last day at work. That was sometime in 1996,just before her second stroke. Five years later, on Thanksgiving Day2001, Mary Kay died, not at her desk, as she probably had hoped, but atthe University Park bungalow she’d moved into after selling her12,000-square-foot pink Preston Hollow mansion in 1994. But Mary Kay’sdesk remains. So does everything else the founder left behind: herorganizers, the semicircular beige couch she used for meetings andrefused to get rid of despite its creeping dinginess, thewood-and-glass cabinets housing dozens of valuable porcelain figurines.Everything is regularly dusted and polished and vacuumed and perfectlypresentable. You’d think the company was expecting a resurrection.
JohnRochon says he already made that happen. He says that after Mary Kay’sillness took her away from the company, he did for her what he believesthe disciples did for Jesus—created the perfect persona for the rest ofthe world to identify with. "The idealization of the person wascompletely in my control," Rochon says. "I could create it. Mary Kaynever made a mistake after she left the company. She only said powerfulthings, because we could be very thoughtful about creating imagery thatwas sustaining."
Needless to say, Rochon’s old office at MaryKay hasn’t been preserved. But the company does have an image of him itwants to present in court. They portray Rochon to be a sort of DennisKozlowski Jr., accusing him of lavish spending of company funds.
Whichbrings us to that troublesome tent. Now, this isn’t any old tent.According to company records, Rochon had an immense superstructureinstalled in the backyard of his $2.2 million, 10,000-square-footDallas house. The tent supposedly cost more than $150,000. It camecomplete with heaters, a kitchen, and a Plexiglas floor that wassandblasted and fitted over Rochon’s pool.
Rochon doesn’tsmile easily, but the mere mention of the tent makes him light up likethe stage during Seminar. First, he says the tent didn’t cost $150,000."It probably cost more than that." And he says, "It was enormous."Rochon says it was all for an annual Christmas party to which heinvited Mary Kay staff and members of the company’s Inner Circle, agroup of the highest-grossing saleswomen of the year. Rochon says heliterally rolled out a red carpet for this group, had limousines drivethem to his house, and threw a "spectacular event" for them.
"Thiswas all show business," Rochon says. "That’s part of being in thefashion industry. Do they think I wanted to have workers traipsingthrough my house for 45 days before the event and 15 days after it? Idid it because I had to. And I don’t even have the thing. They have it."
ButMary Kay claims Rochon has the tent. Rochon offers the company asettlement in either case: "Tell you what. The tent cost $150,000? Theyowe me $75 million. Just subtract the tent."
The tent, however,is only the first in a litany of disputes. Mary Kay also says Rochonhad company workers performing regular maintenance on his house. Someexamples, taken from memos the company provided:
"John has a bicycle somewhere that he used to ridea long time ago. I believe the brand is Schwinn. We need to have itrebuilt for him."
"John has requested that all of his clocksin his house be checked for the time change and that all the batteriesbe changed if needed. He would like this to be done no later thanThursday."
Rochon says the services were a perk provided tonumerous top executives, Mary Kay Ash and Richard Rogers among them. Healso says if the company paid any personal expense such as bicycleparts, he would receive an invoice and was expected to reimburse MaryKay.
But a tent and a bicycle aren’t exactly Kozlowski-esque.How about a plane? In 1999, Rochon requested that Million Air, fromwhich Mary Kay was leasing two jets on a regular basis, replace anolder Lear 35 jet with a newer Hawker 700, in part because the Lear hadno bathroom.
According to a memorandum from a MillionAir employee, the Hawker was purchased for $4.15 million. ThoughMillion Air leases its planes to bidders on a first-come, first-servedbasis, the Hawker was kept in reserve, according to the employee.
Rochonsays Richmont reserved and leased the plane just as any other customerwould have. Further, he says Million Air maintained a Gulfstream IIIthat was for the nearly exclusive use of Richard Rogers as he shuttledbetween homes.
The most bizarre part of the dispute about theplanes is that the Million Air employee contends the existence of theHawker "was never to be disclosed to Mr. Richard Rogers under anycircumstances." In one instance, the employee says, the Hawker and theGulfstream wound up parked next to each other at Million Air’s hangerafter Rogers had flown into town. Rochon’s office was called, andMillion Air staffers were told to tow the Hawker around to the back ofthe hanger where it could be hidden until Rogers’ Gulfstream departed.
Rochonsays the whole story is bogus and that he never tried to conceal theplane from anyone. "It was purchased by Richard’s company," Rochonsays. "How are you supposed to hide that?"
ENOUGH OF THE BICKERING about tents and bicycles and planes.What’s the bottom line? Did John Rochon produce profits at Mary Kay ordidn’t he? The answer, according to records obtained by D Magazine:he did. From 1991, when Rochon took over as CEO, until 2000, his lastcomplete year, Mary Kay’s sales more than doubled, from $520 million to$1.25 billion. Overall, earnings (in EBITDA terms) from 1996 to 2000were positive. And Rochon contends that Richmont brought in tens ofmillions more, a small percentage of which was doled out to theAsh/Rogers family from 1990 to 2000.
But earnings declinedseveral of those years. They fell from $118.2 million in 1996 to $63.3million in 1998, a profit margin of only 6.2 percent. By 2000, they’drebounded to $110.9 million, with a margin of 9 percent.
Thereal problem was that the company was carrying significant debt. Totaldebt was $343 million the year Rochon left, more than three times theamount of cash Mary Kay had on hand. And some of that debt was relatedto the 1985 LBO. Indeed, Mary Kay Ash’s worst fears about the LBO werealmost realized in the late ’80s, as the company lost money trying topay off the huge loans it had used to buy out shareholders.
Todaythe picture is unquestionably better. Sales are way up, to a record$1.75 billion in 2003. Terry Smith, the company’s chief financialofficer, says profit margins are also up. She won’t give the specificnumber, but she says it is 2 points higher than when Rochon left.Reading between the lines, and based on the numbers D Magazinehas seen, that would put profit margins back around 11 percent. MaryKay’s debt has also been refinanced and is now down to just $125million. Smith says the company’s net debt—a measure of debt to cash—iszero. None of which makes Rochon’s time look particularly good. Neitherdoes the fact that the debt was paid down in part through the sale ofdozens of Richmont’s assets.
Then again, as Rochon accuratelynotes, "This economy is the perfect storm for them." Direct-salescompanies are countercyclical, meaning they tend to fare better whenthe economy is down and worse when it is up, like it was from 1996 to1999, the years that earnings and sales dropped on Rochon’s watch.
DavidHoll, Mary Kay’s president and chief operating officer, agrees that thecompany has indeed ridden the slow economy for all it’s worth,recruiting salespeople at a record clip—from 700,000 in 2000 to 1.1million in 2003. But he also credits Richard Rogers’ return.
"Hismantra was, ’We’re going to do two things,’" Holl says of Rogers. "’Oneis, we’re going to focus on the core cosmetics business. And two is,we’re going to reduce the risk of doing business.’ That sent a loud andclear message to everyone."
Before Rochon left, he was sellingoff Richmont’s entities and refinancing the company’s debt—at Roger’srequest. He was also trying to buy a share of the company.
Rochonwas working on a recapitalization plan that would have given him a 10percent stake in the company, paid off all debt, and restructured thefamily ownership, giving Rogers a 45 percent share. According to a J.P.Morgan analysis related to the recapitalization, Rogers now controls 20percent. Mary Kay won’t confirm specifics, but company officials do sayRogers is the largest shareholder. Other family members, includingRogers’ ex-wife Jan, would have lost share in the company but wouldhave received a cash payout in exchange.
Rochon says Rogerstold him to solicit investors in the recapitalization—what he saysbecame known as the "second LBO" or the "Rochon LBO." "Richard and Iwere going to be partners in the company," Rochon says. But Mary Kay’sattorneys are adamant that Rochon pursued the deal on his own and that,though Rogers did review the plans Rochon put together, he ultimatelyrejected the idea.
Rochon says that’s why he quit.
Companyofficials say that’s also wrong. Macon says Rochon was terminated andany public explanation that Rochon had resigned of his own accord—suchas Rogers’ 2001 Seminar speech—was nothing more than "an attempt tospare Mr. Rochon any personal embarrassment." The company’scounterclaim says Rochon (and don’t forget Nick Bouras) was firedbecause, among other things, he failed to follow clear directives fromRogers. The most contentious of these directives centers on MarketingSpecialists. In 2001, that firm, a publicly traded company, filed forbankruptcy. It was the second major failure for Rochon’s Richmont, thefirst being Nu-kote, a manufacturer and distributor of home and officeprinter supplies. (Rochon has since purchased Nu-kote and brought itout of bankruptcy.) When Marketing Specialists went bankrupt, Richmontlost its entire $122 million investment. And that, one source says, was"the straw that broke the camel’s back" in the relationship betweenRogers and Rochon.
Indeed, for all their differences, bothsides agree on one thing in their legal filings: in February 2001,Rogers told Rochon to stop working on outside investments and divestMary Kay from all of Richmont’s holdings. Rochon says he did just that.But as he was working through the books, getting a dozen or more assetsready to sell, Rochon contends that Rogers asked him to put more moneyin Marketing Specialists.
"The final $10 million that went into that deal went in because Richard asked that we put it in," Rochon says.
Not surprisingly, Macon disagrees, saying that Rogers never went back on his orders.
Anda source that knows both Rochon and Rogers says that Rogers was"furious with John when he found out that John had put more money intoMarketing Specialists. He told him, ’John, I told you not to put onemore dime in there, and you did.’"
U.S. Securities and ExchangeCommission records show that Richmont snapped up $9 million inMarketing Specialists stock on March 28 and another $2 million on April26. The investments were made despite a PricewaterhouseCoopers’ auditreport on Marketing Specialists’ 2000 results that expressed doubtsabout the company’s ability to remain afloat. Marketing Specialistsfiled for Chapter 11 protection on May 24, 2001.
Rochon was fired—or quit—just one month later.
Inthe end, Rochon says he couldn’t care less who says what about how heleft the company, whether Mary Kay "annuls history" and rewrites hisentire tenure. He just wants his money, more than $30 million inphantom stock options and another $10 million from a consultingcontract that he signed just three weeks before quitting (or beingfired). He has hired the high-powered Dallas firm Bickel & Brewerto represent him. Bill Brewer, the lead attorney on the case, estimatesthat with the options, the consulting deal, attorneys’ fees, and otherdamages, the whole suit amounts to $75 million. Brewer also says thatRochon has enough resources to stay in the fight as long as it takes.
"Theythink they can wear me down, make me go away," Rochon says. "I willnever go away. I will never stop until I get what I am owed."
Rochonhas a ranch in Canada where he hunts big game. On a recent trip, heshot a 300-pound bear. He’d been watching that bear break into his barnfor almost three years. "I don’t mind lying in the weeds to get thingsdone," he says. "I wait for the heart shot."
Joseph Guinto is a former White House correspondent for Investor’s Business Daily. He regularly writes about business for D Magazine.
Photos: Pink lady: Bode Helm; Rochon and Rogers: Courtesy of John Rochon