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“I Had To Be Able To Look At Myself in the Mirror”: One Man's Integrity Story

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 5, 2023 3:03 am

“I Had To Be Able To Look At Myself in the Mirror”: One Man's Integrity Story

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 5, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Bill Daniels, the godfather of cable TV, shares the story of paying back bankruptcy creditors… even though he had no legal obligation to do so.

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Your actual range will vary. And we continue with our American Stories and with our Do the Right Thing series about ethical dilemmas that's sponsored by the great folks at the Daniels Fund. And by the way, if you have stories about ethical dilemmas in your life, for better or for worse, making the right decision, making the wrong decision about something big and something tough and complicated, send them to alamericanstories.com. These are some of our favorite stories as we get to learn from them, all of us, together. And today, Alex Cortez brings us a story about the man who inspired this series.

The biggest thing that's lacking and one of the biggest things in the real world of business today is the ethical standards and integrity of some business people. We're listening to Bill Daniels, the late Denver businessman who's best known as the father of cable TV. But in 1975, before he fully earned that title, he was the owner of the American Basketball Association's Utah Stars, which wasn't a profitable team and he was financially struggling. Here's former Stars coach, Tobness Salke. We started the season, but I could tell, you know, there was financial problems. He wasn't the same ambulance guy that he normally was up positive. And we really had some problems. Those guys not getting paid, so he ended up bankrupting the team, which absolutely crushed him. I remember he came to a practice and said, this is what I'm going to have to do. I had to take bankruptcy for the basketball team that I owned in the state of Utah.

It was the Utah Stars were the league champions. Times were tough and my bank shut off my credit. So I had to get all my players together, all my staff and said, we've got to shut her down. And I was miserable. Let me tell you, I was crying and I was on the 10th floor of the travel in Salt Lake City, Utah, and my lawyer is a guy named Bob Nagel, represented me for years with my house counsel. And I said, Bob, I'm so heartbroken.

I'm going to jump out the window. He said, Bill, the luck you're having, you're going to live. Now, the reason I tell you the story is I had temporarily stripped citizens in Salt Lake City for $750,000 for season tickets that they'd been paid for and no more ball games. And we owed creditors and that bothered the hell out of me. It's almost $2.4 million in today's dollars, and Bill couldn't stop thinking about it. Even though the debt had been legally wiped clean in the bankruptcy, here's his business partner, John Seaman, on Bill's special motivation when they created and later sold their second company of 15 cable systems. All along in the creation of the second company and with the incident of filing bankruptcy with the Utah Stars, had this pressing obligation mentally, morally to satisfy all of his creditors. So he directed our accounting department to collect everything that was available at the time of the bankruptcy in the way of payables and keep track of them because someday he had to make that right. He often said his two objectives in life.

One, he wanted to go to heaven, and B, he wanted to go without owing anybody any money or mad at him. So one of his compelling reasons to sell was to satisfy those obligations. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a lot of money. At the time, it was a lot of money. But now that he's got $20 or $25 million, it's not a big amount of money anymore. But almost before we even closed, Bill is preparing to go back to Salt Lake to pay off those creditors.

He's got a list of every one of them, how much money he had defaulted with them on and what the interest rate would be to bring it up to current if he wrote a check, what would he owe him, including interest. And that was, I think, one of the most joyful times in Bill's life. More joyful than having made the money from having build up the company and sold it was the satisfaction he got of honoring his liabilities and protecting and preserving his name. And boy, did I feel good about that. I really felt good.

And so did those on the receiving end, and mostly not for financial reasons. Here's season ticket holder Jerry Howells. I remember getting a letter and I've tried to find it.

I've tried and tried and tried to find it, have not been able to find it. And I get this check for, it had to be a couple thousand dollars. I was astounded. Then I really found out what Bill Daniels was all about in terms of his tremendous integrity.

It's almost synonymous with Bill. Here again is Tom Nisalki, who at this point was the coach of what would be the second professional team in the state of Utah. I'm back coaching the Utah Jazz, and he calls me from a little American. He said, can you come down and have lunch with me? And I said, can I bring the sheriff? I said, I'm going to arrest you.

I was being a little facetious. And he said, well, things are going to turn out okay. And I came down and he had some guy with him. I don't know the guy's name to this day, but he had a ledger with him. And Bill started going over the names. He said, you know this guy? And this was like guys that were owed $10, much less season ticket holders. But he had like everything.

I don't know where he got all the names. But I mean, there were guys that were owed like very, very little money, much less a season ticket holder or whatever. And then he said, are you getting fidgety about what I might owe you?

And I said, not anymore. And he gave me a check, which is worth, I mean, would be nice to have today. But then with, at that time, a young wife and two young kids, it was astronomical. And some of those less astronomical checks that Tom mentioned might have resulted from the unusual newspaper ads that Bill placed that asked for anybody that he owed money to, to reach out to him.

Here's former Stars coach, Liddell Anderson, in 2013. And he, you know, he could have not done that, but he did it. That's just the kind of guy he was, you know?

How, how many, how many people would do that? You know, but he did it. He made a promise to a person. He carried it out.

You could take it to the bank. I love, I love Bill Daniels. And I'll never forget him, of course, but I, my days are numbered, I'm 82 years old and I won't be wrong much, but he should never be forgotten.

And if this helps a little bit, why good? And all of this love for Bill unexpectedly helped all of his future business ventures. Here's former Stars general manager, Vince Barilla. My personal feelings were that, you know, he couldn't, if, if he could, if he could if, if God had told him to do it, or if he probably did, he couldn't have done anything better because the monies that, that he took and paid back, whatever the amount was, I always said to myself, I said, those were the cheapest dollars he's ever spent for PR in my life that I've ever seen. And I, and he didn't do it for that purpose. He was competing in the cable world with, you know, multi-cable people. But if Bill met any of those people head on in any city that they were competing for, I guarantee you, Bill got it because they knew of the caliber of person that they were dealing with. And to conclude, here's the late Bill Daniels speaking to students in the nineties. Now, the moral of that story is today, some 18 years later, I meet people in all over the country that say, aren't you the guy that paid off the season ticket holders at Salt Lake City?

And I say, yes, that's me. Now, what I'm saying to you is I did not think that was such a big deal at the time. I just didn't want to have to live with myself. That's a case of examples of ethics and integrity that come back to you that you never dreamed would come back to you. It damn sure isn't the reason I went over there.

I went over there because I had to look in the mirror in the morning when I see it. And a special thanks to Alex for the work on this piece. And a special thanks as always to the great folks at the Daniels Fund. The foundation of this ethical legend is sponsoring this great series. He's right about business. What is lacking there too often is ethical standards and integrity. Strong ethics, by the way, equals strong business.

That's the thing Bill learned. Our Do the Right Thing series, sponsored by the Daniels Fund, here on Our American Story. ABC Thursdays, The Bachelor is entering its golden era with the premiere of The Golden Bachelor. For the first time in The Bachelor franchise history, 72-year-old Gary Turner is setting out to prove it's never too late to fall in love again. Millions are swooning over The Golden Bachelor. The L.A. Times raves the series is a love story years in the making.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-05 04:51:08 / 2023-10-05 04:56:29 / 5

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