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Dan Murphy

The Total Man Package Meets Billionaire
by Dan Murphy

August 2002

No, I didn't run into my Hero Vince McMahon of the WWE (recently changed from WWF) again at the Erwin Center. This time it was the annual Dell Computer shareholders meeting at The Austin Convention Center with chairman and founder Michael Dell. There were about 400 shareholders (people with a lot of stock. How much? I don't know) in attendance and your humble correspondent was there to cover it. Okay, I work part time as a Facility Service Representative for the Center. I'll be mentioning all the controversial stuff that the Austin American-Statesman neglected to report.

There was more security this year than last, probably due to the current stock market conditions. In addition, the event staff and myself were also informed about a guy stalking Mr. Dell. My day began at 5:30 AM and the meeting didn't officially start until around 10:00 AM. There was no real reason for me to be placed outside the main ballroom of the meeting this early except to keep an eye out for anything unusual. Two of our crack staff seized the opportunity to sit on a couch (and one of them wasn't me) for a couple of hours.

Dell's own security people (ex-FBI guys) and Austin Police officers along with a police dog were also there early, sweeping the building for possible bombs. This prompted me to wonder, "If I do come across a bomb in the building, do I cut the Red Wire or Black Wire?" When the public was let in at 7:30AM they were also run through metal detectors. I joked last year that they were actually transporters. Now Australian scientists have created a crude one. Check this link out from ABC News for info.

Dell also had a Resolution table for the meeting. I don't think they had this last year. Well, this was probably a good thing. Now, I knew where to drop off any bombs that I might find and let them worry about the Red or Black wire. Sure, they'd just shuffle it to the Investor Relations half of the table and let them self-destruct like Dell's stock, but at least it would be out of my hands.

Around 9:00AM I got a general briefing from my superiors about Dell's stalker and some protesters. There were some environmentalists protesting outside the Convention Center. Mr. Dell agreed to meet with them before the shareholders meeting started. I'm pretty sure he did, briefly. I was also told that if anyone did get unruly that Mr. Dell's private security people and the cops would take care of them, not us. I said, "Okay, but what if that Dell Dork kid from the Dell commercials shows up? I do have permission to bounce him out of the building, right?" They approved my request, but Steven, the kid pitchman in Dell's ads, didn't show up anyhow. Dell did mention how well Steven's ads were doing at the meeting.

By the way, if you didn't hear, Ben Curtis (also known as Steven) got into trouble with the Screen Actors Guild for making Dell commercials during the union's strike. According to the Statesman and TV Curtis received an undisclosed punishment from the guild.

Well, the meeting finally got started around 10:00 AM. They left the doors open so I could see Mr. Dell and the Corporate Executives and some of the audience. Mr. Dell made an introduction and general corporate info speech and then opened the floor for questions. There were three to four questions (attacks) about Dell's policy on the environment and recycling computers. Dell recently set up a recycling program. Fundamentally, Mr. Dell's defense was that he can't make people take the time and money to recycle their computers.

This made sense to me. I believe that most people do care about the environment, but when their computer craps out who really takes the time to box it up and pay the $15 to $20 shipping and handling charges to send it somewhere to be properly disposed of? Not many I'll bet.

In my opinion, Mr. Dell seemed to handle the questions well and a few of the environmentalists were pretty hot. It may have been elaborate PR on Dell Computer's part. Honestly, I'm too ignorant on these environmental issues to really take a stance on either side.

When the questions began to slow, I took the opportunity to ask a couple of questions myself. I was going to take a Stuttering John approach and start out with a few legit questions and then move slowly into some wacky ones, but all of my questions where wholly unsuitable.My first question was a request as well. I asked Mr. Dell, "Is there any chance you could take the company to a complete collapse so some of your former female employees could pose for PLAYBOY like the Ladies of Enron?"

Next question, "If you do start to do some creative corporate accounting would you consider using my personal checking account for large cash deposits?"

I managed to scream out one more question while Mr. Dell's private security were shuffling me out of the building. I yelled, "Is it true that you really are a crime-fighting superhero like the millionaire Bruce Wayne and your sidekick is the Bicycle Boy Wonder Lance Armstrong?"

The shareholders meeting finally came to an end around 10:45AM. The event made me realize how lucky I am. Sure, Michael Dell has lots of money and some fame, but he's living in a fish bowl. I'm not worrying about bomb threats or stalkers. Yes, I'd love have his money, and everyone appreciates praise for their work, but I'd rather be wealthy and anonymous. I agree with what Bill Murray said. It goes something like this: "Seek the fortune and skip the fame part."

Talk to you next month.

Take care!

Dan Murphy, The Total Man Package!!!! Wooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

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