But Sam wanted
the power that would come from an association with a growing manufacturing
company, which he found in WILTRON. Among his accounts, Sam spotted
WILTRON as a winner. When we needed a treasurer, he interviewed and
got the spot. He then commenced a brilliant career in corporate finance.
He also brought in a top level Arthur Anderson associate, Mark Evans,
another brilliant fellow and, as it proved, much more solid than Sam
himself turned out to be. I hired Sam in September of 1972 as Treasurer.
As far as I know, for the first seven years Sam was a loyal employee,
an asset to our company. When Sam came to WILTRON he literally brought
Arthur Anderson, the Big Eight Auditor, along in his pocket. From
the very beginning as WILTRONs Treasurer, Sam kept control of
the auditperhaps it was only instinct, perhaps it was part of
a long range plan. He had his staff do many of the worksheets for
the auditors; he insisted that this practice of doing them in-house
saved enormously on audit fees.
Sam was amiably fat; his weight was always in flux. An oversize appetite
would steadily build up his mass, then an occasional burst of dieting
would force it back down. His rumpled clothes loosely accommodated
his changing girth. His large head appeared even larger due to ringlets
of short hair. While his pudgy legs propelled him forward with a purposeful
stride, his large round eyes would fix on you with a casual impudence.
Sam could make light of even the most important things. To him, that
proved that he did not think small.
To converse with Sam was to be barraged with hyperbolenot exactly
what you would expect from a career accountant. Sam never failed to
make his point, emphasize it, then drive it home. If you werent
on guard, Sam might overpower you. But he would accept being overruled
(which I sometimes found necessary) because, finally, nothing was
that important to him.
Early on in life Sam realized that he was good at matching wits; he
developed pastimes that honed this skill. What could be more fun than
a low stakes poker game with associates? Each time when Sam matched
wits and won, his ego soared. His ego, like his weight, could expand
almost without bounds.
Sams ego was not helped by the fact that he came from Fresno,
the raisin capital of the world. He somehow had to live down this
pedestrian past. How limiting it was for him to admit he went to Fresno
State College. As time went by, he was to distance himself from his
parents and his prosaic agricultural town. To amuse himself, he studied
French, which was a cultural step forward; he also became a wine gourmet,
another step forwardsatisfying both appetite and ego.
It is funny what sticks in peoples memories. But I can tell
you that all the old-timers at WILTRON wear as a badge of distinction
their attendance at the New Years Eve party at my Palo Alto
home, the party where most of us went into the pool, no clothes.
The swimming pool along with its tropical garden is inside the house.
That night the lighting for the pool and tropical garden was subdued
so we could have a little frolic in the pool, more or less incognito.
It was all pretty innocent but, as one can imagine, a lot of fun.
The funniest incident of the whole night occurred when some messenger
arrived with a statement for Sam Cox to sign in his capacity as Treasurer.
Sam pulled his pudgy body out of the pool and walked into the dining
room in front of everybody to sign the document. Water was running
off the curly ringlets of hair over his blue eyes down his roly-poly
stomach and dripping off his little wiener onto the orange tile floor.
Sam, oblivious to the whole situation, finished signing and jumped
back in the pool.
It was easy for me to notice that Sam was ego-motivated, so I let
him be out front in negotiations of all sorts. I was the
only one who knew that Sam was just carrying out my plans. I kept
it that way to motivate him. How could I have known that this sop
to his ego was not even a starter, that his ego was beyond any containable
bounds? But I dont fault myself on that score, nor can I fault
the financial people whom Sam duped. Sam was one of a kind. He really
knew how to impress businessmen and to inspire their confidence.
Sam was a fun guy. Even when he was on the verge of being found out,
several of those close to him protected him out of a sense of loyalty.
There were many others of us who trusted Samfellow workers,
auditors, normally cautious bankers, his wife and children, bookies,
gambling friends. We all trusted Sam; I think we equated his glibness
and his quick repartee with intelligence. It seemed most improbable
to us that this intelligent person would ever be involved with crookedness
especially when his total career depended on honesty. How could we
have guessed that Sam would settle for so littlethat he would
be Big Shot just for today at the cost of many tomorrows of ignominy.
It seemed beyond question that this giant intellect would take a direct
road to prison.