By the spring of 1994 I had been Anne Murray’s business manager for more than twenty-three years.
For the first twenty-one of those years she was a client; but in the summer of 1991, Anne, her personal manager Leonard Rambeau, and I all felt it was time for her company, Balmur Ltd., to expand its business activities. So on September 1, 1991, I joined the board of directors of Balmur (Anne, Leonard, and lawyer Dave Matheson were the other directors) and became Balmur’s full-time managing director.
Our plans were to expand Balmur’s artist management roster (which at the time consisted of Anne, George Fox, Rita MacNeil and Frank Mills), get into the music publishing business, begin representing athletes, set up an executive coaching practice, produce our own TV specials, and explore radio station ownership. With the exception of getting into the music publishing business (by opening a Nashville office) none of the other plans came to pass.
A number of factors came into play, but the significant ones were: Anne’s record sales dropped off, which meant we would have had to borrow huge sums of money 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; he also had a change of heart about expanding into representing athletes and providing executive coaching (even though those activities would have fallen into my bailiwick and would not have involved him at all); and, there was a dearth of suitable opportunities to get into TV production and radio station ownership.
For the previous twenty-three years, looking after Anne’s and Balmur’s business and financial affairs took up about a third of my time. Without the planned expansion, that was not going to change. You don’t have to have a degree in math to figure out that most of the time I actually had nothing to do. After decades of working an average of fifty hours a week, I simply couldn’t adjust to a three-hour work day. I was unchallenged and bored. Not only that, but as much as I enjoyed working with Anne and Leonard, I was tired of the entertainment business. There were no new experiences or challenges; just repeats of old ones.
That’s when I made my most difficult business decision.
Anne, Leonard and I, and our families, all spent most of the summer in the Maritimes: Anne and family at Pugwash, Nova Scotia; the Rambeaus at Ingonish, on Cape Breton Island; and the MacInnis clan at Lakeside, PEI. In June 1994, during our last regular meeting before we all headed east, 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 more than a little tense. Anne seemed to think that I was being disloyal and asked what would change my mind. I bluntly said that nothing would. Leonard didn’t seem to have the energy to deal with the situation and suggested we talk about it later.
I again said the matter wasn’t negotiable and reassured them that all bases would be adequately covered before I left at the end of the year.
But I never got the chance to do that.
By the time I returned to Toronto in late August, Anne and Leonard had decided they wanted me out right away, not four months later as I had planned. Dave Matheson broke the news to me on my first day back in the office. Ironically, my advice to clients when a senior executive gave notice was always exactly that: have the person leave immediately. So I packed up my personal belongings, left my office key and parking pass with the office manager, and went home.
A few weeks later I learned that Leonard had terminal cancer. He died the following spring.
What had already been my most difficult business decision had become even more so.