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40 Years Fuels John Buller's 'Age of Disruption'

40 Years Fuels John Buller's 'Age of Disruption'

John Buller, whose senior executive roles have ranged from higher education to sports to retailing to non-profits to community organizations, has experienced and helped reshape an array of cultures over the years since he arrived in Seattle to play basketball for the University of Washington.

And the immersion in those disparate cultures has led him to publish his second book, "Can You Survive the Age of Disruption," more than two decades and numerous disruptive involvements since his first book. "Survival Guide for Bureaucratic Warriors."

buller johnBuller prefers to describe his latest book as "a resource guide to creating the all-in culture," which he sums up as "all about outcomes that bring interpersonal skills that are collaborative in nature," although in his book he details elements needed to bring about an all-in culture.

"I have always been interested in leadership and culture building," Buller told me. "But I believe we are now experiencing a rate of change that demands a new way to look at how organizations manage the pace of this change."

"We are at a point where there are three generations in the work force at the same time," said Buller. "And within a few years we'll have four generations, and technology has now outpaced our ability to manage the rate of change."

Buller's first cultural "all-in" was college basketball, having been recruited in 1965 to come to UW. He led the freshman team in scoring and was sixth man, starting 10 games, in his sophomore year. But a viral inflamation in the heart lining impacted the rest of his playing career.

He spent two years as a graduate assistant for the Huskies while getting his MBA, then went to work for what was the Bon Marche, later Macy's,

Over the next two years and three promotions, he became divisional merchandise manager and eventually senior advertising and brand development executive. It was at The Bon where, he says, he had his favorite job.

"I was responsible for changing the 4,000 employees from a clerk mentality to a customer service mentality and I also got to do more than 40 two day team building workshops to support this cultural transformation.," Buller recalls. 

The Bon experience led him to write "Survival Guide."

"Changing the culture at The Bon was an effort to focus on service, both to our customers and our internal attitudes toward our fellow employees," Buller explained.  "The book was about my learning the difference between a 'Soldier,' someone who takes orders, and a 'Warrior,' one who has a mission or a cause. I learned how to be a Warrior."

He took the warrior attitude, and the details of building survival skills, to roles as co-chair and director of the organizing committee for the NCAA Final Four in Seattle in 1995, executive director of the UW Alumni Association, CEO of Tully's Coffee and CEO of the Seattle Police Foundation.

His non-profit leadership roles included chairing the board of Seattle Seafair and a dozen years on both the Seattle Center Board and the board of the Washington Athletic Club, where he currently serves as executive director of the 101 Club.

Buller chuckles as he explains his often used process of creating All-In by having the marketing and the accounting teams each put together a business plan for the company.

"As you might guess, there wasn't a lot of similarity between the two plans. So I'd leave the room and say 'I'll be back in 20 minutes. Fix it while I'm gone."

Buller suggests "organizational leaders seeking to create new cultures "are tasked with an almost impossible amount of required intelligences."

"Today's Leadership needs to be proficient in understanding the 'Meyers Briggs Profile' - knowing yourself and understanding others that was the intelligence lesson of the 1980s and early 90s - then, along came 'Emotional Intelligence,' which focused on street smarts vs. book smarts," Buller explained.

 "Over the last 10 years you would have also needed to be competent in understanding the 'Social Media' explosion. Then, it helps if you have 'Ethnic Intelligence,' as well as 'Religious Intelligence', and 'Immigration Intelligence' - and now, the biggest new understanding is 'Generational Intelligence.'"

Discussion of changing culture in the workplace automatically includes focus on millennials, those in their twenties and early thirties. In addition to that generation's obviously adaptability to technology, 

Buller suggests "they have a social consciousness and they don't want to work somewhere that doesn't fit that. They think broad workplace experience, meaning horizontal movement, is better. They are looking for the perfect culture and perfect outcome."

"If you don't believe the statement that if you can't change you're dead, look at what's occurred with the Fortune 500 over four decades," Buller says. "In 1975 the average age of the companies in that index was 68, now the average age is eight." 

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Joe Galloway Returning To Seattle For More Interviews With Vietnam Veterans

Joe Galloway Returning To Seattle For More Interviews With Vietnam Veterans

It's been five years this coming Memorial Day since the formal launch of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration to honor those who fought in that war but were never thanked when they returned to a divided nation. And for four of those years, Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway, one of the best-known correspondents of that war, has been on the road doing interviews with veterans of that conflict to preserve their memories.

Galloway's travels to do the interviews, mostly about two hours in length and which he told me last week now number about 350, embody his commitment to produce the "the body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about."

Galloway, a UPI reporter decorated for battlefield heroism at the battle of Ia Drang 50 years ago last November, spent a week doing interviews in Seattle two years ago. Now he is returning to the Seattle area next month to do another round of interviews with Vietnam veterans.

I've written several columns on Galloway and his role in the 50th Anniversary Commemoration, partly because we were UPI colleagues (he in war zones and I as a political writer and later a Pacific Coast executive for the company). But more important in a broader sense because of a fascination with his perspectives on the war in articles and speeches, and the import of the battle in the Ia Drang Valley that Galloway and the late Gen. Hal Moore, then a lieutenant colonel in command of the U.S. army forces in that battle, made famous in their book and a subsequent movie.

Ia Drang was the first clash of American troops with North Vietnamese regular army and involved heavy fighting in two main engagements that claimed casualties in the hundreds on the U.S. side and several thousand on the North Vietnam side.

Galloway later described it as "The battle that convinced North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minhhe could win," a conclusion that it turns out was shared by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara after he assessed details and the import of the Ia Drang battle. But McNamara's conclusion, shared with President Lyndon Johnson, never saw the light of day until years later.

The battle became the subject of Galloway's and Moore's book, "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," and the resulting movie, "We Were Soldiers," as well as a second book, "We are Still Soldiers... A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam" when the two returned to the battlefield years later.

Galloway continued his correspondent role on into war in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who admired his work included the late General Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who referred to him as "the finest combat correspondent of our generation -- a Soldier's reporter and a Soldier's friend." 

And of his time on the battlefield, particularly at Ia Drang, Galloway said: "The men I met and the time we spent together fighting for one another was a life-changing experience that transcends the bonds of friendship and brotherhood."

One of my first columns on Galloway dealt with my urging him to come to Seattle after I first learned, in October of 2014, about the commemoration and his role in it.

He told me he'd need a place to do the interviews so KCPQ-13 offered its studios for the week and Galloway became briefly a high-visibility figure in the area, including an interview at Seattle Rotary, as he helped the group of veterans who each spent an hour or more with him have the opportunity to share their memories. And also to accept the belated thank you that the attention represented.

Galloway's comments during his stay here and with the interviews themselves have also been Galloway's revisiting of his own memories of Vietnam.

During one of our interviews, Galloway said of the veterans: "They are not bitter but I am bitter in their behalf. It make me angry that those who came to hate the war came to hate the warriors who were their sons and daughters."

He's also shared his own emotions that accompanied other activities related to this trail through the commemoration events.

He told me of one occasion a couple of years ago where he and the governor of Kentucky shared the podium at an event for Vietnam veterans that was at the state capital at the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which he described as "one of the most spectacular in our country."

"It is in the form of a giant sundial," he said. "Incredible work was done so that when the tip of the shadow from the sundial pointer hits the memorial floor it points to that day's list of Kentucky soldiers who were killed in action on that date in Vietnam."

"It brought tears to my eyes to see the pointer land on those KIA in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965," he said.

The recent retirement of Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza as commanding officer of Joint Base Lewis McChord was a reminder of Galloway's last visit, and the coming one, since a commemoration Lanza put on as only the second such event at one of the nation's military bases preceded the Galloway visit by four months.

That high-visibility JBLM event in early October of 2014 was a Commemoration tribute that attracted more than 2,500 Vietnam veterans from around the Northwest onto the parade field for a salute ceremony, massing of the colors and Keynote speech by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey.

Lanza had said he noticed that Vietnam Era veterans were among those enthusiastically welcoming soldiers home from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he realized of the Vietnam veterans: "they had never had that" welcome-home reception so he helped create a thank you opportunity.

Galloway's visit May 22-25 for interviews with the veterans will include a Vietnam War panel discussion at Shoreline College with Bruce Crandall, the helicopter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient from the Ia Drang battle whose exploits were detailed in the book and the movie, and former POW Joe Crecca, along with Galloway himself.

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My most recent column on Galloway was in mid-February, the outgrowth of an email from him about the "hard duty" he had of delivering a eulogy for General Moore, the Ia Drang commander and his friend of 50 years, who had died that week two days before his 95th birthday.

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Only 1 block - and 3 decades - to the Oregon Supreme Court

Only 1 block - and 3 decades - to the Oregon Supreme Court

From her window in the Oregon Supreme Court Building, the state’s newest Supreme Court justice can look across State Street in Salem to the Willamette University campus where her higher-education journey began 31 years ago.

Meagan Flynn, already Judge Flynn as an Oregon appellate court judge since October of 2014, was sworn in last week by Chief Justice Thomas Balmer after being named by Gov. Kate Brown to the state’s highest court. She’ll have a new office but the surroundings will be familiar since both the supreme and appellate courts share the same courtroom.

The governor said in a statement that “Flynn has earned a reputation as a smart and thoughtful judge while serving on the Oregon Court of Appeals and is regarded as fair-minded and compassionate.”

Indeed those who know her would echo that, particularly her parents who left her standing on the sidewalk in front of Willamette waving goodbye 31 years ago. And as Betsy and I drove away then and headed back to Seattle, past the Supreme Court building, Oregon’s oldest government building, we had no way of imagining it would be where she would eventually office.judgemeaganflynn

As readers of The Harp have guessed by now, this is a personal column, a reflection on our daughter, mother of two of our grandchildren, who wears the judge’s robe.

Meagan had a goal of being an attorney from early on because her role model was her cousin, Sheila McKinnon, who was then a successful Seattle attorney.

Some of the following is reflections about Meagan from an earlier column I did when she was appointed to the Court of Appeals judgeship.

I recalled that as she prepared to graduate from Holy Names Academy in Seattle, where she was salutatorian of her class, I urged her to apply to Stanford because her friend, who was valedictorian, was applying there.  

"It would be cool if you could say you were accepted to Stanford," I told her, even though I knew she had already decided she wanted to attend Willamette.

To my surprise, though likely not hers, she was accepted to Stanford and I feared she would decide she wanted to go there since it would have been a financial challenge for us at that time.

But the ducks on the stream at Willamette, which were the initial attraction the day she first visited the school (although its academic reputation and its law school had roles in the final decision), had already drawn her interest to Willamette.

Good thing, since that's where she met her husband to be, Dan Keppler, who was also intent on become an attorney, though eventually Gonzaga law school won out for both of them and after graduating they built partner-role practices at separate small firms in Portland. Along the way also came two daughters.

Meagan always had a competitive bent, which she usually did a good job of hiding, except as a seventh grader in Piedmont, CA, when she found that a male student was challenging her for top student. Her jaw always locked a bit when the male student’s name came up in conversations. The two of them ran for 8th grade class president (except the title was commissioner general) in a hotly contested race that she won, expressing smug pleasure at coming out on top.

The call from Governor Brown was the second from an Oregon governor for Meagan since then-Gov. John Kitzhauber was on the line one evening when she answered the phone. The story comes from her husband, Dan, since Meagan is not one to talk much about herself.

As Dan related of the telephone conversation: “’Hi, Meagan, this is John Kitzhauber.’ ‘Hi, Governor.’ ‘So do you want to be on the appellate court?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Congratulations, Judge.’”

Of course, due diligence had preceded the call, as it did with the appointment to the highest court late last month.

When she was sworn in to her Court of Appeals post in 2014, the judge administering the oath was the same judge whom she had gone to work for as a clerk 20 years earlier, soon after he had taken his oath as a then-new appeals court judge himself. He brought to her swearing-in session a picture of that first clerk-judge meeting in 1994.

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Meagan is taking her place on the state’s highest court as its youngest, as well as newest, member.

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Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few puts to rest axiom that 'nice guys finish last'

Gonzaga basketball coach Mark Few puts to rest axiom that 'nice guys finish last'

One of the most noteworthy accomplishments of Gonzaga coach Mark Few in his team's inexorable march toward the NCAA National Championship game, despite falling short in the finale, may have been the destruction of the oft-quoted axiom that "nice guys finish last."

That "nice guys" comment obviously isn't a reference to the angry Bulldog mascot, Spike. But it is the agreed-on description of Few, who grew up in a small Oregon town, the son of a Presbyterian minister, and who didn't leave behind the lessons of his youth.

Despite the fierce competitiveness    of his players that has been on display for the nation to see during the past few weeks, they are described by a GU trustee who has spent an extensive amount of time with them as "selfless, disciplined, family."

Gonzaga and Few fell short of their quest for college basketball's pinnacle in their Mondaynight loss to North Carolina in the NCAA championship game and the pain will burn for a time for the coach, his players and fans.

But his nice-guy trait was on display, despite the pain of the loss, in the post-game nationally televised interview when Few declined the opportunity to blame the referees for the loss with a couple of calls generally viewed as in error, saying instead "the referees were excellent."

And as Jack McCann, a longtime GU trustee who offered me the above characteristics of the team, said to me in a phone conversation before the final game, "nothing should diminish the joy of the journey that this season represented." He meant not just for Few and his team but also for the family of supporters, fans and boosters.

Indeed McCann, a GU trustee since 1997 and founder of the prominent South King County land-development firm, the Jack McCann Co, and other trustees and close supporters have proven themselves part of the GU family over the years.

That includes hosting the coaches and players at their vacation homes, including getaways to Cabo to McCann's beach home and the neighboring Cabo home of Mike Patterson, prominent Seattle attorney and also a trustee. But Few doesn't use Cabo trips as a recruiting tool!

And McCann was quick to sign off in the early 2000s on the idea the players should travel on charter rather than commercial flights before that idea was on the radar screen of most schools.

As John Stone, a successful Spokane developer who came up with the idea of offering his private plane and convinced two others to offer theirs on away-game trips, explained to me in our phone conversation "it became a way to make sure the players were back home in their beds that night and in their classrooms the next day. They are student athletes of course, not just athletes."

McCann was among the trustees and friends who over the years that followed that first private-plane travel year put up the $100,000 apiece to both pay for the flights and allow the supporters to travel on the plane with the team and have seats near the bench for those away games. By the mid-2000s, that was the routine for travel.

And it was Stone who pointed out the importance of the "family" role played by the Greater Spokane community in chipping in $6 million of the $26 million it took to build McCarthey Athletic Center, the 6,000-seat facility on the campus, competed in 2004, that opposing teams dread visiting. 

The community involvement was in the form of a "seat license" plan where members of the Spokane community committed to $4,000 to $5,000 a year to license certain seats in "the kennel" where the seats come right down to the floor.

Few's Oregon upbringing in Creswell a stone's throw from Eugene and the fact he graduated from the University of Oregon created one of the untold human-interest stories that media usually thrive on but someone missed this time.

With Gonzaga and Oregon in the Final Four, I was surprised there wasn't a lot of focus, at least some focus, on the possibility that if the Bulldogs and Ducks each won the first game, Few would have been trying to beat his alma mater.

In fact, another story is the possibility that Few might have been coaching Oregon rather than Gonzaga in this Final Four, but that story is known only in a close circle.

The conversation in basketball circles, and among Gonzaga supporters, over the years of NCAA tournament appearances, has been when would Few be attracted to a bigger opportunity.

After all, having been at Gonzaga since joining the coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 1989, becoming full-time assistant a year later and becoming head coach after the school's Cinderella 1999 drive to the Elite Eight, Few's tenure has been an unprecedented loyalty to what has been viewed as a mid-level program.

The fact is that McCann, sharing the story with surprising candor, was personally aware of a full-court press Oregon's athletic director and famous alum Phil Knight put on Few several years ago to return to his alma mater. But the effort was unsuccessful in attracting him away from Gonzaga.

Supporters are aware the time may come when Few is attracted to a new challenge at another university, but everyone now knows it won't be the lure of a more respected basketball program.

Only nine schools have matched Gonzaga's 2017 record of 37 victories in a season. And Few is one of a handful of coaches to achieve 500 victories, all at the once lightly regarded Spokane school.

Few and his wife, Marcy, have three boys and a girl and in perhaps the most significant example of the importance of family to him is the story of when Few was once asked by a sports writer if the start and end of each basketball season represented the most exciting and most downer times each year.

He replied that the most exciting time each year was when his kids got out of school and he had a whole summer to spend with them and the most disappointing time was when they returned to school in the fall. So much for the appeal of fame and glory.

Gonzaga's desire for sports recognition actually dates back almost a century to 1920 when the Spokane school, with fewer than 200 students, embarked on a quixotic quest for football fame by hiring a big-time coach, Gus Dorais, who had teamed with Knute Rockne at Notre Dame to perfect the forward pass.

It was a quest, I once referred to it in a Harp some years ago, as an "Ozymandian delusion," that brought Gonzaga an improbable post-season appearance two years later against West Virginia in a 21-13 Christmas Day 1922 loss that earned Gonzaga top visibility in the next day's New York Times sports section.

That was the only moment of national football glory for Gonzaga, though the program continued until the outbreak of World War II in 1941 when it was discontinued and never brought back. During its 20-year run, Gonzaga football produced some players who became nationally prominent and one, Ray Flaherty, went on to become, for a time, the most successful coach in the National Football League in the late '30s with the Washington Redskins.

Gonzaga basketball, however, is secure now as a program nationally respected. And the "Nice Guy" and "family" characteristics engendered by Few, the school and the supporters may well become the most envied part of what Gonzaga has brought to college basketball.

McCann refers to it as "a magic carpet ride" for all the segments of the "family."
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 (The above column is a personal column since my wife and I are graduates of Gonzaga and some of those I quote, Stone and Patterson, are not only friends but attended the same high school, Gonzaga Prep, and same grade school, St. Aloysius, where Few's sister is law is now principal. It doesn't get any more incestuous than that!) 

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Mariners' 2017 opening day recalls '92 opener and its import

Mariners' 2017 opening day recalls '92 opener and its import

When the Seattle Mariners take the field for their home opener April 10, there will be at least some in the crowd who will recall that it was opening day 25 years ago when there was finally a cautious optimism that the uncertainty about the future of the franchise had been resolved. A team of local owners had been assembled, buttressed by a Japanese businessman devoted to Seattle, awaiting hoped-for approval from Major League Baseball.

And it's on occasions like a quarter-century anniversary of a major event that those involved in creating outcomes like the saving of a major league franchise for Seattle find that little-known facts of the story come to the forefront of memory for sharing.

Thus this Harp will be dedicated to a collection of several such stories related to that Mariners' accomplishment that made opening day 1992 special for not just the 56,000 fans on hand but also for supporters across the region.

There was an appropriate major celebration at Safeco Field last May to recognize Slade Gorton for his essential role as a U.S, Senator in finding local buyers for the Mariners in 1991 after then-owner Jeff Smulyan announced he was planning to sell the team, triggering a clause giving 120 days to find local owners.

It was in December of 1991 that Gorton learned that his effort to convince Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi to invest, not as a baseball fan but to repay the community that he felt had helped his company become successful, had paid off.

And it was January 23 of 1992 that the announcement of the group of local investors to be named the Baseball Club of Seattle and led by the Japanese billionaire would buy the team to keep it in Seattle.

But it would be two months beyond opening day in 1992 before The MLB ownership committee would recommend approval of the purchase of the team by the Baseball Club of Seattle. So, as Randy Adamack, Mariner Senior Vice President for Communications, noted to me "While there was more optimism that April about the franchise staying here, the approval issue still had people holding their collective breath."

The 120-day clause and the local-owners search provide interesting memories for those most closely involved, and retired Mariners president Chuck Armstrong shared a couple of them in a telephone conversation this week.

Armstrong was attorney and advisor for George Argyros, the Southern California businessman who had purchased the Mariners in 1981 from the original ownership team, and Armstrong served his first stint as president of the Mariners when Argyros sent him up from Southern California a couple of years later.

The 120-day provision had actually been inserted in 1985 when Argyros and King County Executive Randy Revelle were negotiating a change in the Kingdome lease and Argyros suggested it as a "closer" to get county council approval.

Armstrong recalls that the reason for suggesting the provision was that Argyros "didn't want to go down in history as the guy who sold to a distant owner and thus let the Mariners leave town without providing time to find local owners."

"He was okay with a new owner living elsewhere, as long as he didn't move the team," he added.

Armstrong recalls "George never gets credit for that 120-day clause, but he had learned that nothing happens in Seattle, because of the endless focus on process, until things are in extremis and when something reaches that point the community would respond."

Bur Argyros did become basically loathed in Seattle in 1987 when he sought to buy the San Diego Padres to be closer to his Southern California home after the death of owner Ray Kroc. armstrong notes that it was the suggestion of Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's, who said he would find someone to buy the Mariners.

Then in 1989 came the offer from Smulyan that set in motion everything that followed.

Armstrong was also involved in trying to help sell the Japanese ownership to MLB, remembering that he called his friend, George W.Bush, then managing partner of the Texas Rangers, explained the challenge and asked if his father, President Bush, might be interested in helping with the issue.

"One day the phone rang and a woman said 'the president is calling.' I asked 'President of what?' and she said a little icily, how about President of the United States.'"

Armstrong said it turned out that Baseball Commissioner Faye Vincent had worked for the elder Bush in the oil fields and they had remained friends.

"I can't honestly tell you what, if any, role the president took in our issue, though both Bushes indicated they had no problem with a Japanese owner" chuckled Armstrong, who as the only one of the new local ownership who knew anything about running a baseball team was brought back as president on July 1, 1992. He retired three years ago.

One of the most interesting stories and one that I've felt should be shared ever since I first heard it, is how new CEO and majority owner John Stanton had wished with all his might to be part of the ownership team in 1992, but told me some years ago "I didn't have the money."

For those who might find that startling or amusing, remember that wireless pioneer Stanton had recently departed McCaw Cellular with Craig McCaw's blessing to launch Stanton Communications with his wife, Theresa Gillespie, and they had sunk all their capital into that venture. The company would in 1994 become Western Wireless, which went public in1996 and spun off VoiceStream Wireless in 1999.

"We had the opportunity to invest in 1992 and passed because we were funding payroll for about 100 employees out of our personal checking account," Stanton emailed me this week.  "In 2000 we had the opportunity to buy John McCaw's interest in the team. And we have been involved since then."

McCaw's 1992 investment had represented a substantial piece of the original commitment by the 17 owners and it wasn't until he decided to sell that he shared the fact he had only invested for the sake of community and that he hadn't really been a baseball fan.

The final recollection truly little known, except for those closely involved with the effort to save the Mariners, is of the legal battle in which Seattle attorney Arthur Harrigan won the right for local ownership to be sought.

I wrote last year, as Gorton's key contribution 25 years earlier was being celebrated, about the role played by Harrigan, whose firm of Calfo Harrigan Leyh and Eakes got into the battle because it represented King County and Smulyan was seeking to abandon the county-owned Kingdome.

The venue for resolving the future of the Seattle Mariners franchise was what amounted to an arbitration hearing before Arthur Andersen, the national accounting firm agreed to by both sides to decide some key issues relating to the lease and the team.

Since it wasn't a court process, which would have gotten large visibility for the battle between attorneys, Harrigan's maneuvering over the meaning of wording in Smulyan's contract regarding an attendance provision and whether it triggered the 120-day clause got little visibility, and is thus little remembered.


Harrigan's argued interpretation of the lease-requirement wording was accepted by the Andersen firm, so Smulyan was required to give the four-month opportunity for a local buyer to be sought.

Of perhaps equal importance, Harrigan successfully argued that there should be a local value lower than the open-market value. 

The accounting firm agreed and set a "stay-in-Seattle" valuation at $100 million, rather than the national open-market value of $125 million that it had determined.

That created the opportunity for Gorton and others leading the effort to keep the team in Seattle to find a local buyer for $100 million, rather than $125 million, within four months. And that led to Nintendo.

John Ellis, the widely respected, retiring CEO of Puget Sound Power & Light, was a token partner, along with retiring Boeing CEO Frank Shrontz, to add business respectability to the wealthy but lesser-known Microsoft and McCaw Cellular entrepreneurs group.

Ellis was picked to lead the group's effort to gain baseball's approval, becoming managing general partner, eventually becoming CEO and guiding the team through the rest of the '90s and setting the stage for the team's 2001 MLB record-tying 116 victories.

The 1992 "opening night" that is actually best remembered was the owner-change celebration on July 16, 1992, billed as a second opening night.
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An unaccountable Sound Transit has begun to attract important critics

An unaccountable Sound Transit has begun to attract important critics

Unaccountability on the part of a public entity, no matter how well cloaked in good intentions or alleged importance of mission, inevitably leads to arrogance when there is no requirement to answer directly to anyone for decisions.

That, not surprisingly, leads to the kind of decisions that create a demand for accountability. Thus hangs the tale of Sound Transit, in the view a growing chorus of critics.

The sense is that the transportation agency officially known as the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority may suddenly be caught with its arrogance on display and feeling the pushback from a public and from lawmakers who are coming to sense a possible need to recast the organization.  

The goal of legislation that has now passed the Republican-controlled state Senate and is awaiting action in House would replace the 18 Sound Transit board members, now local elected officials from one of the three Sound Transit counties with 11 directors directly elected by voters in districts that would be created by the legislature.

The first broad perception of Sound Transit arrogance surfaced with the outcry from motor vehicle owners about the leap in the cost to renew their vehicle license after the excise tax this year had climbed dramatically, due in part to the vehicle valuation chart used by Sound Transit.

Geoff Patrick, who handles media relations and public information for Sound Transit, explained that part of the reason for the large jump in MVET fees was that, in approving ST-3, the $54 billion long-term transit package in November, voters said ok to a major increase in vehicle excise tax. 

The outcry would suggest that many voters weren't really aware of that.

Patrick was quoted earlier, as the MVET flap emerged, to the extent that Sound Transit could have used a vehicle depreciation schedule that would have meant a less expensive renewal fee but chose not to "for simplicity sake," to bring transportation relief quicker.

Then came the visibility surrounding Sound Transit's legal battle with Mercer Island over its effort to end the ability of solo drivers from the island to access I-90 high-occupancy-vehicle lanes when the existing HOV lanes are closed this summer for construction of light rail. That solo-driver access was part of an arrangement that amounted to a pledge from state transportation officials to Mercer Island residents in exchange for letting the state cut the trench for I90 across the island.

And finally, and perhaps defining for any battle to avoid accountability, came the flap over a political fundraiser for King County Executive Dow Constantine at the home of Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff for his boss and benefactor. As the flap unfolded, it became known that the planned event hosted at Rogoff's home for his boss might breach two clauses in the transit agency's own code of ethics, though it wouldn't violate any state fundraising laws, so it was moved elsewhere. But Rogoff made it clear he would still be one of the sponsors.

It might seem strange to many political observers that Constantine, who holds the most powerful position on the Sound Transit board and is seeking reelection, would stand silently in the wings, awaiting the outcome of a key fundraiser flap rather then step forward and say, "This is an inappropriate issue. I am cancelling this fundraiser."

Attendees for the party at its new location, it turns out, had to first RSVP online to learn the address. 

The disappointing thing about that is I was beginning to hope some newspaper photographer or television camera team would be on hand to document how many representatives of companies with multi-million-dollar contracts with Sound Transit would be on hand to pass some of the dollars back to the leader of the team.

A focus on those companies with multi-million contracts may soon provide more negative publicity for Sound Transit when all the details of documents detailing the breadth and depth of the value of contacts Sound Transit has signed with nearly 550 companies to provide a wide array of services begins getting close media scrutiny.

The documents were received by former King County Council member Maggie Fimia from Sound Transit in 2015 and detail all payments over $100,000 made to all entities, public and private, from 2007.

When I talked with Fimia to get copies of the array of contract documents and inquired of her thoughts upon digesting them, she said of the array of contracts: "The breadth of the take was unbelievable."

Touching on only one of the contract categories, Fimia offered "why do you need to spend $37 million on marketing and advertising if you have such a tremendous product?" And that didn't include any marketing costs for ST3.

Sound Transit's Patrick told me that a rigorous competitive-bidding process is in place for contracts with the agency, other than services like legal, accounting, marketing and others where expertise and reputation come into play, since you don't low-bid legal services, but may negotiate with the selected supplier for best price.

Fimia's 2001 defeat was allegedly aided by Sound Transit officials upset at her constant questioning of the agency's manner of operating and its dealing with the communities, questioning that clearly didn't end with her departure from the council.

Charles Collins, whose impeccable credentials as a critic of Sound Transit are even grudgingly acknowledged by the agency's board, told me Sound Transit went after Fimia because "she was a continuing thorn in their side."

"They are the 500-gorilla that no one wants to mess with and she kept messing with them, so they helped oust her," he said. She lost her reelection bid in 2001.

Collins has been a constant critic of Sound Transit's focus on high-cost rail service because all statistics, including the agency's own environmental impact statement, indicate trains won't come close to attracting enough riders to relieve congestion. More like attracting maybe 2 percent of riders.

Collins once told me that he and two former governors, Republican John Spellman and a Democrat, the late Booth Gardner, went to Sound Transit in the late '90s before the first vote embarking on rail as the key transportation underpinning with a novel new plan to provide a vehicles alternative that would carry far more passengers at far less cost.

"But they didn't even want to hear our idea because they were about building a train, not focusing on easing congestion," he said, except for Rob McKenna, then King County councilman and later the two-term Republican attorney general and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate.

McKenna, incidentally, also lost his role on the Sound Transit board, bounced by then-King County Executive Ron Sims for his routine questioning of board decisions and priorities.

Collins, Fimia and McKenna are among those, a list which now obviously includes some legislators, who have urged that spending and policy decisions in the future should relate to relieving congestion rather than focusing only on building a rail network.

"Nothing has changed," said Collins, whose credentials include having been Spellman's Chief King County Adminstrator, Director of Metro Transit and chair of the Northwest Power Planning Council, the State Higher Education Coordinating Board and the State Commission on Student Learning. 

Indeed while Sound Transit operates some of the nation's most successful express bus services in addition to rail and light rail service to the region, there has been little doubt in the community that members of the board view themselves as creators of the region's light rail system. 

And the fact that the mode of transportation in the region's future has unfortunately become ideological, or maybe was from the start, is the reaction of a liberal commentator on Senate passage of SB5001 and that four Democrats joined the Republican majority in passing the measure to the House.

The columnist said the four Democrats" betrayed Sound Transit and the progressive movement," and urged that "every activist and every organization who was involved in helping to pass Sound Transit 3 last year needs to pitch in to ensure that this bill gets a burial in the House of Representatives."

Rogoff is an intriguing case, having been a strong supporter of bus rapid transit and critic of the "enormous expense to build and maintain rail" while head of the Federal Transit Administration. "Busways are cheap."

Almost amusingly, now that he heads an agency dedicated to rail, he said in a speech back in 2010 that riders often want rails, "but you can entice diehard rail riders onto a 'special' bus sometimes by just painting the bus a different color than the rest of the fleet."

He hasn't yet explained at what point between then and his joining Sound Transit that he changed his position of bus over rail, which he viewed as enormously expensive to build and maintain.

If the idea of an elected board to replace the current appointed board is approved by the legislature, a new board might find it could dramatically reduce current and future expenditures by focusing on bus rapid transit and a much more zealous process of contract oversight for other than actual infrastructure expenses.

Only contracts specifically relating to construction bond covenants have been held by the court as illegal to change. That doesn't likely apply to things like contracts with law and accounting firms and advertising and marketing agencies. or construction contracts that won't have been signed when an elected board might replace the current board. 

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Artist's lifelong attraction to Samurai led him to major weapons collection

Artist's lifelong attraction to Samurai led him to major weapons collection

Brian Snoddy's lifetime focus on Samurai weaponry, which has led to a collection large enough that he is now looking for a museum to display it all, sprang from a second-grade project to create Japanese armor out of paper mache.

Along the way since then, Snoddy became immersed in the Samurai culture that dominated Japan for hundreds of years until the mid-1800s while he also successfully pursued his career as an illustrator.

In the early '90s, Snoddy worked as a comic book artist and on prominent Saturday morning cartoons like Conan the Barbarian, Disney's Gargoyles, Garfield and Friends, X-men, Jim Lee's Wildcats, and Exo-squad.

brainSnoddyThereafter, was also a partner in a successful game company called Privateer Press, which he co-founded and co-guided until selling his share in the game company to help provide the money to build his collection.

He recalls that he bought his first Samurai weapon at the age of 19, a short sword that cost him $350 "at a time when I had $700 to my name." He noted when we visited that Samurai warriors always carried a short and long swo

"I want to start a real museum that is dedicated to the kind of stuff I have, which is a collection that is like nothing in the U.S, that I am aware of," Snoddy said. "There are some very impressive private collections in this country but nothing that is open to the public."

He estimated that his collection, which is stored in his apartment except for a suit of armor that stands beside his desk in his Lynnwood office, is worth about $120,000.

While Snoddy is intent on finding a place for public display of his weaponry, he is also intent on helping attract interest to the time when the Samurai dominated Japanese culture.

"This was an ancient, sophisticated culture that dates back more than 700 years," he said. "It came from the warrior culture of Japan but basically ended in 1876 when Japan decided to modernize, realizing it was out of touch with other countries and cultures, but that also meant modernizing its military."

"It was development that had to happen at some point since Japan had cut itself off from the rest of the world, until Commodore Perry sailed his ships into Tokyo Bay and forced Japan to open itself to the outside world," Snoddy explained, sharing a bit of history.

Snoddy noted that the Samurai made an attempt to come back a few years after they were banned in what is known as the Satsuma Rebellion, a revolt against the imperial government, "but they got annihilated," he said.

He recalled that he bought his first suit of Samurai armor, "probably dating from the 1700s," when he was 25, adding that by then he was also buying sword fittings, such as handles.

"I now have nine suits of armor, five helmets but only two swords, plus a "naginata," which he explained was a pole with a long sword-like curved blade on the end, and I was intrigued to learn when I did a search on "naginata" that it was primarily a weapon of female warriors of the Japanese nobility.

That caused me to chuckle, frankly, as I thought "Ah, a society ahead of its time in some respects."

Snoddy said the place he'd like to find to display his Samurai weaponry "would ideally be a working museum that would include people who could identify artifacts, publish books as well as provide audio and video products and have guest speakers from around the world."

Snoddy is not alone in his interest in the Samurai weaponry. California has two large Japanese sword-owner gatherings: the Northern California Token Kai (Kai means club, Snoddy said) and the Nanka Token Kai, Southern California Japanese Sword Society. Plus, he said, there is a convention in Florida each year.

But those are gatherings of sword owners, not collectors of the full array of weapons.

Snoddy laughed when he shared that his interest in Japanese culture isn't limited to medieval times, since he met his wife, Makiko, there when they were introduced after, as he put it, he was dumped by his Japanese girl friend at the same time she was bemoaning the loss of her U.S. pen pal from whom she was learning English. 

They were married soon after.

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With 'Patriots Day' as backdrop, event honors First Responders

With 'Patriots Day' as backdrop, event honors First Responders

With a backdrop of the movie "Patriots Day," described by its director as "unapologetic in support of law enforcement," a special gathering took place in Seattle last week to honor First Responders, the police and firefighters who are asked to come through in time of crisis. It may have been the first event of its kind and certainly was a first in Seattle.

The event, without advance media hype and with no speeches and no elected officials present to distract from the "thank you" for the honorees, was the idea of Greg Steinhauer, president of American Life, with key support from the Seattle Police Foundation and a few local corporations who put up the money to make the event possible.unnamed 1

The event began at the Cinerama theater, where the movie "Patriots Day," the film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent manhunt for the terrorist brothers, was playing. It a wound up with a social gathering at the Westin downtown.

The importance of the movie to Seattle and the First Responders gathering is that Robert Merner, now an assistant police chief in Seattle, is a featured figure in the movie, being the basis for the lead character played by producer and actor Mark Wahlberg as a leader in the effort to find the brothers following the bombing.

Peter Berg, director and one of the writers, said of the film that it was "unapologetic in support of law enforcement," which to some observers accounted for the fact that Patriots Day surprisingly failed to be nominated for Best Picture for the recent Academy Awards.

One writer, discussing the Academy Awards nominations, observed that Patriots Day "Was exactly the movie that America needs right now."

That sense certainly came out when the Boston police officers, following the end of the hunt for the terrorist brothers, were on hand for a Red Sox baseball game and the game was stopped by the Red Sox so those in the stands could say "thank you."

Hard to imagine something like that happening in Seattle, where a police pushback is almost a required reaction in some circles of Seattleites and there is still lingering agitation about accusations of excessive force and abuse prior to a 2012 consent decree that followed Justice Department mandated reforms.

The idea for the gathering of police and firefighters to get to know each other came about at a social gathering where Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, Merner, Avalara CEO Scott McFarland and Wells Fargo's Senior Vice President Tim Brown were visiting.

It came up in conversation that Merner's role in the pursuit of the Boston bombers was being played by Wahlberg. Following that conversation, Debbie Peppa, charged by Steinhauer with putting on last week's event. 

She recalled for me what happened next.

"It didn't take long before the idea was hatched that we should do an event to honor first responder and that the movie would be a great platform to do it, so Scott McFarland and Tim Brown quickly said they would support the event and I was tasked to make it happen," Peppa explained.

"Police Chief (Kathleen) O'Toole was supportive of it immediately as well," she added. "It's my understanding that it's the first time that an event like this was held, just an event to honor the officers and firefighters who risk their lives every day in a political climate that isn't really supportive of what they do so we wanted to send a message that people do recognize what they do."

"But it wouldn't have come about if Mark Pinkowski, chairman of the board for the Police Foundation, hadn't been instrumental in supporting the event, even though he was in Wisconsin dealing with the death of his father," Peppa said. 

Mark Sundberg, president of International Parking Management (IPM), who was one of the sponsors of the gathering, said "It was a phenomenal event and it would be awesome if we could do it again next year and have the general public get the chance to be involved."

In fact a number of the firefighters and officers asked if this could become a yearly event to allow the two departments to mingle and build relationships.

Sundberg made a point of praising what has happened in the department under O'Toole's leadership.

O'Toole, who had headed the Boston police department as well as the Irish national police, was tapped just under three years ago by Mayor Ed Murray after a national search to take over what was a beleaguered department operating under the consent decree that required stiff reforms to combat excessive force and biased policing.

"The police chief is the best thing that has happened in Seattle for a long time," Sundberg told me.

As a bit of background on Assistant Chief Robert Merner, who was the catalyst for the event, he joined the Seattle Police Department two years ago this week from Boston, where he was chief of detectives in the Boston Police Department. In that role he oversaw 800 employees as superintendent of the Bureau of Investigative Services.

Merner, who joined the Boston Police Department in 1986, worked under O'Toole when she served as Boston police commissioner from 2004 to 2006.

O'Toole said at the time of his selection she was unaware that he had applied for the Seattle job until he became a finalist. He told her he didn't alert her of his interest because that would have been inappropriate, she said.

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High court's ruling on new wells stirs concern in Legislature, rural areas

High court's ruling on new wells stirs concern in Legislature, rural areas
The State Supreme Court's decision to assume the role of determining the future course of education funding in this state stirred unrest among those who viewed it as crossing the bounds of separation of powers. But when the court last fall decided which unit of government would monitor the effects of new wells on existing water rights, even one of the Justices raised a red flag about the court's move beyond judicial bounds.

The wells issue is off the visibility radar screen in most parts of the state, but a source of potential crisis in many rural areas. And because of that the lawmakers are pushing back against the court edict because they have the power to do that, unlike the education-funding ruling, now known as the McCleary Decision., where the high court cited constitutional grounds for demanding the legislature do as instructed.

The water issue came about as a 6-3 opinion in a Whatcom County lawsuit with the high court effectively blocking development throughout the state by removing the Department of Ecology from management of water resources relating to individual wells.

The legislative pushback, which would restore the authority over individual wells to the Department of Ecology, took what could be an important step Tuesday night when the Republican-controlled State Senate passed a measure that would put Ecology back in charge.

But the fact that the bill, sponsored by Sen. Judy Warnke, Moses Lake Republican, passed by a 28-21 margin with only two Democrats in support, and that there is no similar measure in the Democrat-controlled House, doesn't provide much confidence for proponents that the problem will be addressed this session.

The Senate bill is now in House hands and because of the complexity of the legislative process, it could still emerge before the Legislature ends.

Meanwhile, the concern about separation of powers continues for those who see both cases involving a high-court overreach.

What the concern over separation of powers means, basically, is that the role of the judiciary is to determine the legality or constitutionality of actions or policies made by the executive or legislative branches. If either legislative or executive branch goes too far, the Judiciary pulls them back where they belong.

The criticism of legal experts, and some in the legislative and executive branches, is that if the court empowers itself to stray into policy matters, there is no way to pull the court back where it belongs. Except the voters, who in a liberal state are not likely to get too upset at the actions of a liberal court.

Interestingly, there is a quiet movement to raise a substantial warchest and ferret out quality court candidates to begin to signal the court that the voters could decide to fill the appropriate role of "judges" of the judiciary.

The dissenting opinion in the water case, written by Justice Debra Stephens, a native of Spokane, described the decision as amounting to "a policy decision that GMA (Growth Management Act) counties should not issue building permits that rely on permit-exempt groundwater withdrawals. This is not a policy decision we are at liberty to make."
The high court's majority opinion, written by Justice Charlie Wiggins, says all formerly permit-exempt well applications must now be examined for impact on senior water rights and that "the GMA explicitly assigns that task to local governments." The effect is to eliminate the category of permit-exempt wells.
But as Justice Stephens points out, the Legislature's intent in creating the exemption category was to save both the applicant and the state the "trouble and expense of processing applications for small withdrawals with little impact on the total water available."
In commenting on the issue, Warnick said "We face a situation where people in rural areas who don't have the luxury of hooking up to city water now have very few options. We are one Washington, but the realities faced by the communities I represent sometimes don't get the attention they deserve. We are talking about families who will now have to pay tens of thousands of more dollars to get water because the state Supreme Court has taken decades of water law and turned it on its head."
An executive of the Association of Washington Counties described the decision as assuring full employment for hydrologists, since each new well application, if Ecology rules no longer prevail, would need to be assessed individually to determine impact on existing water rights.
Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, noted this decision has kicked off a firestorm around the state" and he referred to it as "a case of the court going beyond interpreting the law to making new law."
Across the state, about 300,000 permit-exempt wells serve 1 million people. Between 2,000 and 8,000 new wells are added each year though drilling a new well does not guarantee legal access to water, according to the Department of Ecology.
Water pulled from these wells represents only about 1 percent of the water consumed in the state.  
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Shabana Khan's squash events brings global visibility to Bellevue

Shabana Khan's squash events brings global visibility to Bellevue
Shabana Khan is known globally in the sport of squash, recognition earned first as a national-champion player and now as a producer of national and international events that include a series of first-time competitive gatherings, all in Bellevue over the next three months. But she faces the frustrating irony that while she is putting the name of the Eastside's largest city on the world squash map, she has generated little attention or support from the city or its leadership.
 
shabanaBut she learned Tuesday that Microsoft has decided to provide a key sponsorship that will ease but not eliminate the financial pressure, as she has raised about $250,000 of a projected $350,000 in costs.
 
The comment about "little attention or support" may seem like a harsh statement, but I've been following Shabana's squash accomplishments since a month before the Men's World Championships in late 2015 when I was asked to help direct her to individuals who might support her efforts.

And except for a donation from developer Kemper Freeman to specifically allow her to say he was a supporter, and an unsuccessful effort by City Councilman Conrad Lee to enlist council financial support for the 2015 men's event, she has gotten only modest backing, mostly "friends and family," as she puts it.

Redmond's PRO Sports, which attracts many Microsoft employees from the campus across the street and where Shabana coaches, has been a key supporter.

In the end, despite the financial challenges faced by her YSK Events company, the men's world event, put on at Meydenbauer Center, came off well, prompting expressions of gratitude from squash participants and executives who gathered in Bellevue from around the world. A Frenchman defeated an Egyptian in the final match to become world champion in a sports event as exciting and competitive as any I've witnessed.

Before getting involved with the Shabana's men's-event initiative, I had little knowledge of squash, which is racket sport similar to racketball, played by two or four players in a four-walled court (glass walls for most international events that are broadcast globally) using a small, hollow rubber ball.

Later, as I learned how many of my friends and colleagues are or were avid squash players, I was informed that squash players and fans represent a highly targeted and sought after demographic of men and women with median incomes of more than $300,000 and an average net worth of nearly $1,500,000.

The website for squash notes: "Squash players are business owners and senior executives in upper management throughout corporate America along with research physicians, architects, attorneys, and accountants."

And Forbes magazine several years ranked squash as "the number one healthiest sport."

Shabana is the kind of business-of-sports figure, a lithe 48 year old who is a former national women's squash champion and one of the best in the world in her playing prime, who would be sought out for encouragement and support in most communities for her leadership role.

Her stature on the national scene of her sport was evidenced when last October, at the National Squash Championship in Philadelphia, she was honored with the award given each year for major administrative contributions to the sport, recognition for the men's world event.

But rather than gathering support, she told me that when she went to Meydenbauer to explore holding the 2017 events there, "They were very adamant for us to move this event to Seattle or some other city."

That prompted Shabana, in seeking another site, to find the Boys and Girls Club in Bellevue's Hidden Valley area, which she enthuses turned out to be a more ideal site, one excited about hosting the events as a showcase for the four-glass-walls court in its new facility.

The capstone of the events this spring is the first Bellevue Squash Classic, the sport's equivalent of a stop on the PGA tour that will bring 16 of the top players in the world to the Pacific Northwest for a $200,000 event described as "possibly the most lucrative event in tour history."

Khan is looking for a major sponsor, as well as event sponsors, for her array of events since Wells Fargo, which had the $25,000 sponsorship and wound up with its name carried around the squash world since all the matches were streamed worldwide, has for various reasons not renewed.

The kind of community support she wishes she could find in Bellevue is something that would be a given in other communities that had the opportunity to have the brass ring as emerging center of what is becoming an increasingly popular sport in many places around the world.

And the growing popularity has apparently seen this country emerge as the third fastest-growing in the world for the sport.

"We support this opportunity to showcase the diversity and talent of these players from around the world," she said. "It's an opportunity to keep politics out and focus on the diversity that brings communities and countries to get together celebrating athleticism and skill."

"Her squash efforts represent an example of cultural experiences that deserve support," Lee said. "We don't have things that attract people from other parts of the world to share and thus this is an important opportunity, particularly the focus on events for young people."

And the focus on young people will be highlighted by the second West Coast College Showcase, a new event she created last year to expose what she describes as "unfound squash talent" to college coaches from around the country who gather to find the young people they want to recruit.

YSK Events, which she founded three years ago to focus on squash events, is a family affair in several ways. She serves as CEO while her younger brother, Murad, serves as president, and sister Latasha, who was women's national champion when Shabana defeated her to take the crown, is vice president for business development. It's also a family affair in that the "Y" in YSK stands for both her 10-year-old daughter, Yasmine, who is 15th in the country in her age group, and her father, Yusuf, who was nine-time India champion when the Seattle Tennis Club hired him in 1968 to come to Seattle to be head tennis pro. The "S" and the "K" are her initials.

I learned the import of the name Khan because of an exchange with my former UPI boss, now retired in Connecticut, who reached out to me after my first column on Shabana in late 2015 and shared that the reason I couldn't get hold of him during the afternoons, when I would call his New York office from Los Angeles was that "we were all out playing squash."

But when I was told him I was going to take some squash lessons from Shabana, he said: "Are you telling me you are going to get private lessons from a member of the Khan family? You can't know how jealous I am."
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