The Loved One and I went to the Cook Group‘s 50th anniversary bash last night at the Indiana University Assembly Hall.
IU Assembly Hall
It was the usual corporate self-congratulatory pep rally, complete with an endless conga line of people climbing the stage to get handshakes from big shots for being with the outfit for anywhere from five to 35 years. We sat through videos telling us how much of a family Cook people are and how the world just might spin out of its orbit should the assembled 6000 suddenly stop making probes for various body holes and micro-tools for surgically righting what nature has wronged.
But let me drop my carefully crafted smart-assed-ness to say that of all the corporate shindigs I’ve ever attended (usually as a reporter and only a few times as an inmate) this one’s boasting rings somewhat true. The company does make indispensable equipment for yanking rocks out of people’s ureters or probing their arterial systems to find and squish tumors.
“Don’t Worry, I Won’t Feel A Thing”
And, for some odd reason, the people who punch the clock there really are sort of familial.
Bill Cook became a billionaire several times over, running the firm himself from its inception in 1963 until he died two years ago. Now, my observation has been that anybody who has built him or herself up to billionaire status usually has the morals of a hyena and the human sensitivity of a Mob hit man. And this is true in nearly every case. Save for Bill Cook.
He threw scads of dough at the city of Bloomington and, for that matter, much of Southern Indiana, for historic preservation. He funded countless arts and education ventures, not to gain some kind of tax advantage but, well, because he was a good Joe.
So, I can still say billionaires make me want to retch, and be 99.99 percent truthful. But that .01 percent, as represented by Bill Cook, remains. I’ve often wondered what separated Cook from such archvillains as the Koch Bros.
Funny thing is, he explained it himself last night during one of those fawning vids. Cook explained that one of his rock-solid principles was that the Cook companies would always be privately held. Which sounds awfully quaint in this day and age, considering entrepreneurs almost exclusively like to start businesses only so they can sell them off to bigger entities or peddle stock to the public.
In other words, the only thing American businessmen are interested in making is money.
Cook, on the other hand, said nix to all that.
He said [I’m paraphrasing here]: We’ll never go public because you can’t be totally responsible to your customers while simultaneously trying to please stockholders.
Wow. Now there’s a capitalism I can dig. We make a widget and you buy it. You’re happy and we’re happy. Simple.
Cook And His Widgets
No degenerate gambling on stock prices, hostile takeovers, and selling off company assets just to make shareholders moan with pleasure.
If the Right Wing hewed to that line I wouldn’t spend half my life pointing out that it’s far too populated by lunatics.
If I Were A Rich Man