Monday, March 21, 2005

My Own Working Policy Was Not To Spend Much Company Money Except On Phone Calls

The late Mark Murphy, when he was city editor of the L.A. Times, used to say that he could send me to Europe for what it would cost to send his educational writer Bill Trombley to Fresno.

And it was certainly true that I didn't spend any more of the company's money than necessary, with one or two exceptions.

I never stinted on telephone calls, and, especially when I had the Olympic assignment this often meant spending a lot of money, so much that Publisher Tom Johnson said he would never divulge to me how much I was spending on international telephone calls. often began the day with several calls to Europe.

And, initially on the Olympic assignment, I used to adhere to then-Times policy of flying first class over 1,000 miles. But later, when I took my children with me on many Olympic trips I used to fly to Europe with the kids on Laker Airlines, which cost The Times only $350, and the kids only $175 each.

Bill Thomas, Times editor, used to tell me he always stayed in a suite, for what he felt were good business reasons. I never did, except I did learn it was useful to stay in the hotel where the meeting I was covering was being held, and that sometimes cost something.

Still, during the 1968 presidential campaign, when I covered Eugene McCarthy in 35 states, the most I ever spent on a night's hotel room in six months of travel was $34 in the St. Regis Hotel in New York City and the least was $4 in a place in Bismarck, N.D.

I was penurious in entertainment expenses. Basically, I entertained very little. Sometimes, late at night I would buy an International Olympic Committee member a drink, almost never dinner.

This was not the entertainment policy of Bill Boyarsky, who routinely bought $100 dinners at a time when it was rare.

Boyarsky always thought this was well worth while for sound business reasons, and he may have been right. Maynard Parker, the late managing editor of Newsweek magazine, used to say that the more company money he spent, the faster he got ahead, was promoted.

And sometimes my expense accounts were unpopular with colleagues. They would tell me they were embarrassed when their expense account amounts were compared with mine.

Still, I wouldn't change my expenditures as long as I was with The Times. I changed when I started traveling on my own ticket, to some extent, and recently did spend quite a bit on exotic cruises in South America and Antarctica, and on routine trips to see friends in London and Paris. My children, however, in their careers, often hold business expenses down.

I learned a good spending lesson once when I spent $2,000 back in 1963 in Life magazine money to hire a charter to photgraph the sinking passenger ship, the Lakonia, when it was sinking off Madeira. We never found the ship, and my editors back in New York never stopped blaming me. It helped wreck my two years at Life.


Blogger Matt Weinstock said...

Ken, I like your style. Reminds me of when I had an expense account and a company car. I paid extra to have my car fitted with white sidewall tires. This drove the other managers and sales people nuts as they couldn't figure out how that was done. I did keep the expenses very low (due to my upbringing by a depression scarred family), except for telephone charges which were necessary for success. When singled out and criticised in a national sales force meeting for having the largest long distance bill, I pointed out that someone had to be Number One and they moved on.


3/23/2005 11:11 AM  
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