I don't think there is anything more humbling than going from "it" guy, to "who was that guy?"
I saw it myself.
Got together with an old CEO friend, who was recently forced out in a big corporate shakeup.
He said he saw it coming when his firm's once promising prospects pooped out, and his own reputation went from darn near saintly to not far from satanic.
Shareholders rebelled. His board turned.
And this night, supper with me.
"I'm free that night," he assured me when settling on a date. "I'm free most every night now, Neil."
We got together so he could offer me insights on a book I'm writing, about a tale he was telling.
A sad tale, really.
Of how quickly fortunes can change and how, without much of an eagle eye, you can actually see them changing.
It starts, my friend said, with invitations to parties and events. You start getting fewer of them.
"No one wants to invite a pariah," he tells me.
Same with industry panel discussions. "I went from the got-to-have guy to how do we un-invite that guy," he muses.
"Pretty soon," he adds, "no one wanted me in their room, period."
Then the phone calls. He used to get tons of 'em.
And fewer still.
So he'd call people.
Few called back.
Even his secretary gave him worried looks.
His number two, nervous glances.
His legendary lunch invites, suddenly declined.
His customary corner table, suddenly occupied.
Maitre d's that once tripped over themselves for him, suddenly ignored him.
Then the axe via a terse phone call.
"Probably less than 30 seconds," he tells me.
Career done. Star set. Number two, now number one.
And former number one looks into his white wine and then me, and says something I'll never forget: "Enjoy the ride, Neil. Just don't assume you've got a season pass."
"I'll put that in the book," I tell him.
We shake hands. He leaves. Alone.
This man who once turned markets, turning not a single head on the way out.
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