Big Business

By Dyer Wadsworth

The first two years after law school, I worked as an associate (i.e., an employee) at an 11-lawyer firm at 50 Broadway, New York City, Humes, Andrews & Botzow. It was good training, but not as high-powered as the big firms like Sullivan & Cromwell or Cravath, Swaine & Moore, nor as well paid. The firm’s clientele (some listed in the Social Register) called upon the firm to document and administer their estates and trusts. I was many years away from having any wealthy estate clients of my own. One of the partners, “Pete” Goodwin (pictured in his office as a World War Two P.T. Boat captain), was married to a Talcott, the Connecticut and New York factoring (commercial finance) family, and he brought in some corporate business. I was interested in business and finance, and gravitated to that side of the firm’s practice. But at the end of two years, with limited prospects at the firm, I sought opportunity elsewhere.

Harvard Law School supported a placement officer in New York City, Kenneth Everett. He had a one-man practice, but also provided networking for the school’s graduates seeking to change employers. He put me in touch with an executive recruiter, Ted Hunsbedt, who had been retained to help fill a position at The International Nickel Company of Canada, Limited. This company had been founded by Wall Street entrepreneurs at the beginning of the 20th Century to exploit nickel and copper deposits centered in Sudbury, Ontario. It was the largest producer of nickel in the world. The company had a fine reputation and a strong business and financial position, being one of the 30 stock issues comprising the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Ticker Symbol: “N”).

The recruiter warned me that the position had its difficulties, but that a persistent employee could make something of it. I was to work with a former male stenographer, George Welty, who had risen to become Assistant Secretary. His boss, Mr. Kennedy, was the Corporate Secretary and had been the Company’s internal chief legal officer until a heart attack several years before. He was also an intimate of the Chairman and Chief Officer, Henry S. (“Harry” to some) Wingate. Both of them were short, rotund and self-assured, and both had been associates at Sullivan & Cromwell. In fact, study of the Company’s masthead in its Annual Report, revealed that six out of the thirteen masthead officers had been associates at Sullivan & Cromwell. Sullivan & Cromwell was also listed in the Company’s Annual Report as the Company’s General Counsel. And a Sullivan & Cromwell partner served on the Company’s Board of Directors, occupying the seat once held by Sullivan & Cromwell’s own John Foster Dulles, the famous United States Secretary of State.

Why did I sign on with this bunch? Well, it certainly was Big Business, which I wanted, and my starting salary was $10,500 per year, a 30% increase. I also had my own secretary and a private office with a door. I began in September, 1964, and stayed for more than three decades.

For the first two years, my duties were both modest and exacting. We had a corporate directors meeting every week—usually the executive committee—and minutes of each meeting had to be prepared immediately afterwards. Mr. Kennedy would instruct George Welty and me about what had happened at the meeting; during meetings, I waited outside the Board Room and was never to enter unless an urgent telephone message or document had to be carried in.

Before each meeting, there were agendas to be circulated, expected attendance to be tallied, and information reports to be arranged and slotted into Directors’ books (each with the Director’s name in gold letters), and sharpened pencils, and note pads with printed names. I also had to go upstairs to the Treasurer’s window and sign for the fistful of envelopes containing meeting fees and travel allowances in cash, which would total a multiple of my entire year’s salary. At the conclusion of the meeting, this cash was handed out by Mr. Kennedy in the exact sequence of the Board Members’ assigned seats, so that he could carry on a conversation without looking down at the envelopes.

And how could I forget the cigars? Every meeting day, I had to stop by the newsstand on the ground floor of our offices at 67 Wall Street and collect the cigars which were kept in the store’s humidor. One fateful day, during the Board Meeting, an alert Board Member noticed that the cigars had been infested by small white worms. Mr. Kennedy mentioned the cigars after the meeting. They, and their passengers, were duly borne to the ground floor. The storekeeper swore to make amends.

The next week, after the meeting, I asked Mr. Kennedy about the cigars. He said, “If the cigars have been satisfactory, you are not to expect any compliments. And, by the way, it would be helpful if you would learn to take shorthand. Gregg is more popular, but Pittman is better.” As a matter of fact, a few years earlier, after my father died, I had begun to study Gregg shorthand dictation at the Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City. But my resume left that out.

Finally, after two years, and still unable to take shorthand, I escaped into the Company’s Legal Department.


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1 comment on Big Business

  • Dyer

    P.S. In 1996,I took early retirement. At the time I was President and chief suit for Inco’s United States holding corporation.

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