Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Good Advice Unheeded Led to Tragedy

November 11, 2003     Grand Junction Free Press      Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms,
By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: You choose each road you travel in life. If you don’t like the destination, don’t curse the road. You control your feet.

     I chaired our loan committee three times a week. Most large loan requests -- the ones requiring my approval -- were presented then. At least they were when things were normal. This particular day was not going to be normal.
     One of my private bankers brought me a large loan request. The banker put the request on my desk and said, “You’re not going to like this very much. In truth, I don’t much like it either... but I’m not sure what to do with it.”
     He gave me the loan commitment sheet to review and I must admit, my eyebrows shot up. Denver Bronco Lyle Alzado wanted to borrow the money needed to post a specific performance bond to finance an exhibition fight with Mohammad Ali.
     The source of loan repayment was income from the fight’s gate proceeds. He wanted to use his personal residence as collateral.
     There was no way I could approve the loan. The source of repayment was about as speculative as you can get. I asked a lot of questions: Is there any other repayment source? What’s the status of his Bronco contract? Can we take an assignment of it? Are there enough years -- enough cash flow during his contract years -- to justify repaying a loan this large? There was not. I hated to turn the loan down... but I liked my job. The loan was rejected.
     Two days later, the banker was back. He put the same loan request on my desk. I gave him the same answer. “No way.” It was Alzado, not the banker, who wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.
     The banker, Jerry, called Alzado and scheduled a meeting in my office. I told him I’d be glad to explain why we could not approve the loan.
     Lyle showed up with his lawyer, a sports agent.
Ali, it seemed, would not sign the contract to appear in Denver until the bond was posted. He wanted guarantees that the bout would be held in Mile High Stadium and a few other things. All in all, he was being quite reasonable. But Alzado could not afford “reasonable.”
     “The people love me,” he said. “When they hear about this fight, they will come from Wyoming and Utah... from all over Colorado. When they come to the games on Sunday, they come to see me!”
     I was a bit taken aback. I had met him on other occasions and never saw arrogant bluster as a dominant part of his personality. In those days, we did not yet know about steroids or their impact on the personality of someone taking them.
     “I’m sorry, Mr. Alzado,” I answered. “You may be right. The stadium may be overflowing. It may not be, too. Without a successful gate, you cannot afford to repay this loan.”
      “Well... but you would have my personal residence as collateral!”
     I thoroughly explained to him that loans are made on repayment capability, not the liquidation of collateral. I spent time explaining it all to him.
     “I especially do not want to be the banker who goes to court in Denver, Colorado, to sue Lyle Alzado – to kick him and his family out of their home – so I can repay a loan,” I told him. “As you said, the people love you.”
     The sports agent/attorney asked me a few questions and we discussed why the best course of action would be to find private investors. Alzado understood it all, very well.
     “We have a three-day deadline, at this point,” he told me.
     Later that day, I was talking with a friend, a broker at Blinder Robinson. Meyer Blinder was almost single-handedly responsible for making penny stocks a viable product in the Denver investment community. Russ, my friend, suggested that Blinder might be interested in sponsoring the Alzado - Ali fight.
     I called Alzado’s lawyer and told him to call Russ. Blinder agreed to make the loan and Lyle and his lawyer sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a thank you note -- and a dozen fight tickets.
     There was a small reception so Meyer Blinder could introduce Ali to his personal friends. I barely knew Meyer, but gladly accepted his invitation, and that’s how I met Mohammed Ali. He was a soft-spoken, pleasant guy. You couldn’t help but like him. There was no “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” attitude about him in private. He seemed very humble.
     My kids were in the Navy and I am not a fight fan, so I gave all but one of my tickets away. I stayed only for the start of the fight. My seat partner was Bronco coach Red Miller... who was livid about the entire Alzado adventure in pro-boxing land.
     A few months later, I left the bank to start my own consulting company. I forgot all about the fight. At least I did for three years... until a process server found me.
     I was called to court to testify for Meyer Blinder. Lyle Alzado was claiming he did not understand how by using his home as loan collateral he might lose the home if the loan was not repaid.
     I remembered the hour-long meeting I’d had with him, carefully explaining how by putting his home up as collateral on a loan he could lose the house.
     Justice being what it is these days and Bronco fans being what they are, the jury found in Lyle's favor. Meyer Blinder took the loss and Lyle Alzado won the lawsuit with a lie. Blinder made the loan I'd refused to make and suffered a loss for the very reasons I refused to make it and Mr. Alzado told the same lie in a courtroom with Meyer Blinder that he would have told in a courtroom with me had I made the loan.
     Lyle Alzado knew the path his feet trod. He was a bright guy. He was also very mixed up. No one knew it at the time, but steroids had begun what would be the final destruction of his brain. The steroid damage caused brain cancer (some people say) or a stroke (other people say) and the big guy died at age 43 within a few years of this incident.
     Lyle had cursed the road rather than controlling his feet... but he was not a well man.
     God bless him wherever he is. He learned a very hard lesson... some of it at my expense. It was a huge lesson for me in how “thank you for your help” can turn into personal insults in the courtroom.
     And you thought bankers had dull, uninteresting lives!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

To Achieve Dreams, Adjust Reality

Tuesday      Tuesday, October 7, 2003      Grand Junction Free Press      Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Grand Junction Free Press

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: If your dreams say one thing and y our reality says another, you need to make adjustments to one of them.
     Watching my neighbor’s enthusiasm about going to the big city for the weekend to see her first Denver Broncos game brought back nostalgic memories.
     I had almost forgotten how the excitement of a Bronco game feels. At one time, I was a huge football fan. As I told my neighbor, I was a season ticket holder for many years. My love of football went even further, though.
     Remember the football strike back in 1982? I was so darned angry about it, I called my attorney and had him file Articles of Incorporation for an organization I named National Football League Fans’ Union (NFLFU). We were a fan advocacy organization group.
     I, in other words, started a union. This proves you cannot believe everything you hear about conservatives!
     I called a press conference, wrote a press release and got permission from Broncos’ owner Jerry Phipps to hold the event on the fifty-yard line of Mile High Stadium. About 75 members of the media were invited... over 50 showed up.
     It was a very successful press conference. We got good coverage throughout the country. I still have the clippings from the papers in all of the cities that had a National Football League franchise -- and, many more.
     The players’ union and the owners were abusing the fans whose financial support paid their salaries. The first thing we did was announce the NFLFU’s request of fans to boycott the NFL “...if strike resolution isn’t forthcoming within one week.” Surprisingly, we got good response to this.
      “Fans want players and owners to show them the respect they are due as the financiers of the game,” I said that beautiful fall day in 1982.
      “We aren’t pro-player; we aren’t pro-owner,” I said. “Neither are we anti-player or anti-owner. We are pro fans. We want fans to have a right to the first class football for which ticket sales were made. We feel both owners and players have the responsibility to provide this based on ticket prices charged.”
     We encouraged people to write letters to sponsors of televised football games. “Tell them that football fans will not purchase the sponsor’s product because anyone associated with the game of football during the 1982 season does not have the better interest of the fans at heart.”
     We recommended that fans boycott all products advertised by NFL players. We demanded refund policies be put in place. For example, when season ticket sales promotion literature was sent to season ticket buyers in 1982, no one informed fans a player strike was likely. It was known to be a probable event at the time owners promoted ticket sales.
     We – the NFLFU – were concerned about the lack of third-party mediation. Talks were going nowhere. Management was represented in the talks; players through their union were represented in the talks, but fans whose ticket purchases finance the game were not included in the talks. We offered to provide trained mediators to help bring the players’ strike to a conclusion acceptable to everyone.
     As most Bronco fans know, Mile High Stadium was always sold out. Season tickets became bartering weapons between husbands and wives when they divorced. No one wanted to lose their season tickets... and, in a sense, it was a kind of blackmail.
     If a strike was called during any season, there was little doubt the quality of football that season would be less than the ticket price justified. Fans, however, could not refuse to pay for their season tickets. If they did, they would lose their standing... their position for improved tickets when they became available. They could lose their existing season tickets, as well.
     The NFLFU wanted management and players to guarantee no loss of ticket priority for fans who refused to buy tickets during a strike year that provided no or inferior football.
     We even challenged a Supreme Court ruling made in 1922. It held that professional sports were exempt from typical antitrust provisions because no product was sold. I felt that ruling, made in an economic environment driven by manufacturing (rather than today’s service-driven economy) was antiquated. It was.
     The Fans Union told players that they should not expect owners to let them leave the club after investing risk capital in them. They were unknown college athletes who had a greater risk of failure than success when they signed. Team owners needed to be compensated if players exercised the free agency rights for which they fought.
     We told the owners they should not access a system of “sports slavery.” They could not blindly restrict player movement within the league after being sufficiently compensated for risking capital to develop a college kid into a pro.
     The Fans Union was a great idea. At the time we formed it, I was traveling all over the country consulting for banks. When I was scheduled to be in an NFL city, my secretary called ahead to let the media know I’d be glad to talk with them. We did numerous television interviews.
     One of the more interesting things that happened during the short-lived NFLFU was the responses I got from team owners to letters I wrote them explaining the union’s positions. I will always remember how gentlemanly were the responses... except the one from the owner of the Cleveland Browns. He was not only rude, he was anti-expansion and never wanted an American Football Conference, in the first place. He swore the Broncos would never play on his field!
     We had a lot of people become paid members. Many made contributions. It was just not enough to hire someone to represent the fans full-time. Every penny that was sent to us was returned with our apologies.
     We sold bumper stickers and baseball caps and tee shirts with the NFLFU logo on it. One day, I rather imagine they will be worth a small fortune. I wrote as song called NFLFU and a group in London recorded it. I’ll hold onto it in case another strike year appears on the horizon. It may yet be a hit.
     Did we fail? It’s hard to tell. Who knows how much influence those letters had on players and management? They feared the involvement of fans in the strike.
     The bottom line: The strike was dropped and the season, though late, went on as scheduled.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Thoughts to Ponder on Founding Fathers

October 7, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10

(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Free Press

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

      One of the first things I turn to when I get the Free Press each morning is Letters to the Editor.
     I think the letters from readers of this paper are better than those I’ve seen in the hundreds of cities to which I’ve traveled on this continent and others.
     One subject seems to come up more often than others. It is our Christian -- or, our non-Christian (depending on where you stand on this issue) -- American heritage.
     In an early August article, Richard Puter of Grand Junction presented a good case about how America was founded as a Christian nation, but has long since ceased being one. It was a beautiful letter and I thank Mr. Puter for sharing his thoughts.
     In Friday’s paper, Dudley Evans says that Jefferson -- and other of our founding fathers -- were Deists who believed we are governed by natural law. Thus, he says, our history as a nation lacks the Christian heritage about which we hear so much from the “Christian right.”
     I keep waiting for someone to refer to the “non-Christian left.” They never do. I wonder why. Nature’s laws of logic tell me that if there is a Christian right, there must be a non-Christian left. In nature, all things find balance from opposing forces of equal strength.
     A deist is one who, based solely on reason, believes God created the universe and then abandoned it. The deist God assumes no control over life and exerts no influence on natural phenomena. The deist God gives no supernatural revelation... so much for Moses.
     Thomas Jefferson wrote these words in the front of his well-worn Bible: "I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator."
     Jefferson was also the chairman of the American Bible Society, which he said he considered the highest and the most important role he assumed, including the presidency.
     Jefferson does refer to Laws of Nature and Nature’s god, Creator and Divine Providence. I agree with Mr. Evans that natural law is derived from reason. I disagree that because nature’s laws are attained through reason, they must come from man, not God. I have never seen a theological or historic reference that categorizes God as reasonless or unreasoning.
     Like Mr. Jefferson, I believe God created the world. Also like him, I believe the laws of nature that govern the world were a gift to humans from God. If we observe the laws of nature, we never have to worry about repeating the mistakes of history about which Mr. Evans expressed concern.
     Because of the number of Letters to the Editor on this topic, it is obviously on the minds of a lot of readers. I hope the following research will help you decide whether or not our founding fathers created a nation with a Christian heritage, or a secular state with no god -- or, by founding fathers who were deists (who assume we have been abandoned by God).
     My research found that 52 of the 55 signers of The Declaration of Independence were committed Christians. The other three stated their belief in the Bible as divine truth.
     I also found that immediately after creating the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress formed the American Bible Society and purchased 20,000 copies of scripture for the people of this new nation.
     Doesn’t sound very secular (or deist) so far, does it?
     Most of us (who went to school before the 60s) remember Patrick Henry’s famous words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Our current textbooks omit his comments. Well, after all, he mentions God (a no-no in classrooms today).
     Here is what Patrick Henry said when he established his reputation as a firebrand and motivated a nation to go to war against the most powerful nation in the world at that time.
     "An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death."
     Was Patrick Henry a Christian? The following year, 1776, he wrote, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here."
     On July 4, 1821, President Adams said, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."
     Our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, wrote, "The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible...” it would be difficult to maintain our foundation if they “ceased to be practically universal in our country."
     In 1782, the United States Congress voted this resolution: "The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools."
     The primary author of the Constitution, James Madison, said "We have staked the whole future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments."
     George Washington made numerous references to how the government of this nation was dependent for its survival on the Christian ethic.
     Could that be the reason so many people want to remove our Christian beliefs?
     If it weren’t for the founding fathers, we’d all be wondering what to wear to the next royal wedding. When we stand at football games, we’d be singing God Save the Queen.
     The ring of truth can be heard in the actual statements made by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington and Calvin Coolidge.
     Facts are facts.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Life in Black and White

Monday, September 12, 2005

(c) Copyright 2005, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Free Press
By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: If you avoid truth, you will likely meet it on the day when, for you, there is no sunset and no dawning.
     There are approximately two million defensive gun uses (DGU's) per year by law abiding citizens. That was one of the findings in a national survey conducted by a Florida State University criminologist.
     There is talk in the Gulf Coast area hit by Hurricane Katrina about removing guns from the hands of legal owners. It would be a mistake -- set a dangerous precedent -- if this happens. In truth, New Orleans was a perfect example of why law-abiding citizens need access to legally-owned guns for self protection.
     It was not legal gun owners shooting at rescue personnel. It was people in the Super Dome without guns that allowed rape and murder to occur. Anyone who thinks about it has to conclude that law enforcement -- local, state, federal -- is unable to protect large numbers of people when disasters occur.
     Close to my home on Colorado’s West slope, we read about a recent DGU… a man in DeBeque. In his home (and after helping three young men with a stalled vehicle), he was stabbed over and over again by the violence-prone intruders he had aided. The man was able to get to a 44-Magnum pistol he kept in his desk drawer. He pointed the gun and fired… and it saved his life.
     “If I’d had a trigger lock, I’d be dead,” he said. “If my pistol had been in a gun safe, I’d be dead. If the bullets were stored separate, I’d be dead. They were going to kill me.”
     Each year, firearms are used about 60 times more often to protect the lives of potential victims than they are used to commit crimes. According to the Gun Owners Foundation, conceal carry laws have dropped murder and crime rates in the states that have enacted them. From 1977 to 1992, one comprehensive study says states that passed conceal carry laws reduced their murder rates by 8.5 percent, rapes by 5 percent, and aggravated assaults by 7 percent. Robberies were reduced by 3 percent.
     People are generally surprised to hear how many more times people use guns to save themselves from harm than they do to cause harm to others. If defensive gun use occurs so often, why do we hear so little about it? If violence sells media news, what difference does it make whether the violence results from a victim or a perpetrator? It matters when someone has an anti-gun agenda.
     It is estimated that guns are used for protection more than 6,000 times a day. During the first two weeks of May 2004, only 20 cases were publicized. Less than 8 percent of the time an attacker is wounded or killed in the name of self defense. Brandishing the gun or firing a warning shot scares attackers and stops the intended crime.
     Vermont is one of the safest five states in the nation. There, you may carry a gun without getting permission or paying a fee and without any waiting period. Vermont has remained one of the safest states in America. It twice received the “Safest State Award.”
     During the ten years (1987-1997) after Florida passed conceal carry laws, 478,248 people got conceal carry permits. The homicide rate in Florida fell 39 percent during that ten-year period, according to FBI reports.
     In 1976, Georgia and Wisconsin both passed conceal carry legislation. Georgia’s law made it easier to get permits immediately; Wisconsin’s law required a 48-hour waiting period. Georgia’s homicide rate dropped by 21 percent, Wisconsin’s rate rose 33 percent during the same period. Criminals, it seems, find using guns on innocent victims less appealing when innocent victims may themselves be armed. A 61 year-old man who lived in a quiet, remote canyon in Yucaipa, California, had a Winchester Defender 12-ga. Shotgun for home defense. One night he had an intruder. He cocked the shotgun, chambering a shell, and the burglar almost died of fright. Larson called 911 and held the intruder until police arrived.
     Two burglars broke into a woman’s home in Decatur, IN. She saw the intruders outside before they broke in and told her stepson. He grabbed a 20-ga. shotgun. The intruders began to beat the woman with a fire extinguisher. The stepson shot one in the chest. The second fled, but was caught.
     In Albuquerque, police got a 5:30 a.m. call saying someone was trying to break into a man’s home. According to the police, while the man waited for help the homeowner shot the intruder in the arm in self defense.
     In Toledo, Ohio, a store employee wounded one of two robbers. The employee had received his concealed handgun permit just three days earlier.
     The truth is: The primary job of police is to protect society. It is impossible for them to respond to each crisis call even when there are no disasters. For each police officer, there are close to 2,000 citizens needing protection. The truth is: Criminals do not want to be shot to death any more than their victims do. The truth is: it took over an hour for police to respond to over 150,000 violent crimes last year. The truth is, almost 200 New Orleans police officers went AWOL when the public most needed them.
     The biggest truth: If you are a gun owner, everyone in your household needs proper training on how to use, secure, and care for firearms.