By the time I met Anne Murray (see How I Met Anne Murray) her lawyer had already incorporated an Ontario company, named Balmur Enterprises Ltd., through which to conduct her affairs. At that point, though, it was just a shell with no assets or employees. The name “Balmur” was derived as follows: B for Bill (Langstroth, who discovered Anne and who would become her husband); A for Anne (of course); L for Leonard (Rambeau, who would soon become a Balmur employee and Anne’s full-time manager), and “mur” from Murray.
Leonard Rambeau turned out to have all the diplomatic skills and unique intuition necessary to become the most respected artist manger in Canada as well as one of the most respected in the United States. Our hiring of Leonard is itself a fascinating story which I will describe next week.
When Anne and Balmur became clients I immediately had the corporation’s name changed to simply Balmur Ltd. I thought the word “enterprises” was trite and that the simpler name would have more of a cachet internationally. I made Anne an employee of Balmur and transferred all her business activity to the company. We did this for three reasons: it was a preferable arrangement from a liability standpoint; there were major tax advantages derived from this type of arrangement back then; and, it simplified the management and conduct of her career.
Although Leonard’s artist management and diplomatic skills were enormous, his business and financial skills were just about non-existent. As a result I became primarily responsible for the business and financial end of Balmur’s activities and Anne’s career. Because the rules of professional conduct of the Institute of Chartered Accountants wouldn’t allow me to have a formal role with either Anne or Balmur while I was a partner in an accounting firm, our relationship remained one of client and professional advisor. In fact, Anne, Leonard and I worked together very much like a partnership, meeting regularly with the three of us participating in discussions leading to all major decisions
When I joined John Labatt Ltd. as President of Labatt Sports and Entertainment in the summer of 1990 (see John Labatt Lrd.), part of my deal was that I could continue my relationship with Balmur and Anne. When I left Labatt a year later Anne, Leonard and I felt it was time for Balmur to expand its activities, so on September 1, 1991, no longer restrained by the Institute’s rules, I joined the board of directors of Balmur (Anne, Leonard and Dave Matheson were the other directors) and became Balmur’s Managing Director, a full-time job.
Our plan was to expand our artist management roster (which at the time consisted of Anne, George Fox, Rita MacNeil and Frank Mills), get into music publishing, start to represent athletes, set up an executive coaching practice, do our own TV production, and explore radio station ownership. With the exception of opening a Nashville office and getting into the music publishing business there, none of the rest came to pass. There were a number of factors that came into play, but the significant ones were: Anne’s record sales dropped off, which meant we would have had to borrow significant sums to carry out all our plans (which we wisely didn’t do); Leonard refused to accept any new artists even though we had hired the staff to do so; Leonard also had a change of heart about expanding into athletes representation and providing executive coaching; North America experienced a general business recession; and, there was a dearth of suitable opportunities to get into TV production and radio station ownership.
The result was that by early 1994 I was bored with not enough to keep me occupied and challenged. For the previous twenty-three years, looking after Anne’s and Balmur’s business and financial affairs took up only about a third of my time. Without the planned expansion it didn’t take much more of my time to keep on top of everything. You don’t have to have a degree in math to figure out that most of the time I really had nothing productive to do. It was almost as bad as my short stint at IBM, (see IBM, But Not For Long). After almost thirty years of working an average of fifty hours a week I simply couldn’t adjust to a four-hour work day.
Anne, Leonard and I and our families all spent most of the summer in the Maritimes; Anne at Pugwash, Leonard at Ingonish, and I in PEI. In June 1994, during our last regular meeting before we all headed out, I told Anne and Leonard that I would be leaving Balmur on December 31st. I felt that six months was reasonable notice and more than enough time for me to arrange a smooth transition to a replacement. The meeting got a little tense. Anne seemed to think that I was letting down the side and asked what would change my mind. I bluntly said that it was too late, but assured them I would make sure that all bases were adequately covered before I left the company.
We were sitting around the table silently staring at each other when I decided to raise another matter. Leonard hadn’t looked well for quite a while and had even been hospitalized for a couple of short periods for what he told us was a respiratory problem. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks before this meeting and I thought that he looked particularly bad. I asked him what was wrong and he replied, “Nothing that a few weeks in Cape Breton won’t fix.” I said, “Well, Leonard, if you’re seriously ill you should tell us and I’ll certainly hold off my resignation until you’re well.” He testily said that he was fine, to which I said, “Well, you look like a dying man to me.” Prophetic words that I wish I had not spoken.
I spoke to Anne and Leonard a couple of time over the summer and discussed with her that I thought Leonard sounded terrible on the phone. She felt the same way and we agreed to press him hard at our first meeting in late August when we were all back in Toronto.
I arrived back at the office the last week in August expecting to have a meeting with Anne and Leonard at 10:00 that morning. My intention was to reaffirm my decision to leave Balmur at the end of the year and outline my specific plans for a smooth transition to a new business and financial person. But the day very quickly fell apart.
I went down the hall to Leonard’s office and saw that he wasn’t in so I asked his secretary when she was expecting him. She told me he had been working at home since coming back from Nova Scotia (Anne and Leonard traditionally came back to Toronto a couple of weeks before I did). When I mentioned our scheduled meeting she told me it had been cancelled. Upon inquiring whether Anne was coming in that day I was informed that she was not.
Puzzled, I went back to my office and called Leonard’s home. One of his kids answered and said that he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t come to the phone. Shortly after I hung up, my secretary buzzed and told me that Dave Matheson was on the line. After a brief welcome back greeting Dave informed me that he, Anne, and Leonard had had a telephone conference call the previous week and that Anne and Leonard had said that if I was going to leave at the end of the year anyway they wanted me to leave now, meaning that very day. So, I did.
I’ll describe in a future column what my next career move was, but a couple of months after being ousted from Balmur I heard that Leonard was terminally ill. Then one Sunday evening in early February 1995, Dave came over to our house and asked me if I’d take a call from Anne Murray.
Having been told by Dave back in August that they didn’t want to talk to me, I hadn’t spoken to Anne or Leonard since the previous summer. I could understand Anne not wanting to talk to me but I was quite surprised when Dave told me that Leonard had said that he “never wanted to see me again.” It wasn’t until about six months after Leonard’s death in April that I was told by a person who was in the room at the time that Dave had completely misinterpreted what Leonard had said. This person told me that Leonard’s actual words were, “I can never face Lyman again,” which, of course, was a reference to his denying that he was ill when I confronted him the previous June, an event that Dave knew nothing about. This was very unfortunate because Leonard probably wondered why I never went to see him in the hospital; I thought that he didn’t want me to.
Anyway, back to February 1995. Dave called Anne and passed the phone to me. We chatted about how unbelievable it was that Leonard was dying and then she said something along the lines of, “Lyman, you have to come back. There’s nobody here who knows the business like you do, and Dave has a full-time law practice to run so he can’t do it.” Of course Dave knew what she was going to say and was still in the room so he could hear my comments. I told her that I would on two conditions. The first was that I would not be an employee, but rather she and Balmur would become clients again. The second condition was that our number one priority would be to find a new manager for her. Both Anne and David agreed to this and so I was back handling Anne’s and Balmur’s business and financial affairs, but not exclusively; because I had already launched another business.
This new relationship lasted until November. By then Anne had decided that Bruce Allen (who was the complete antithesis of Leonard) should be her manager. As Anne put it in her fine autobiography, All of Me, “Lyman and Bruce wouldn’t have lasted a week together.” She was right; one of us would have been dead and the other would have been in prison.
I think it’s fair to say that none of the principals was happy with the way my association with Balmur and Anne ended. But I was finally finished with the entertainment business, which had been my goal when I initially quit Balmur seventeen months before.