Our CFO, Barry McCarthy, slowed his BMW to a crawl as he made the turn into Santa Barbara Airport. In the distance, a faint glow on the horizon was teasing us that it was close to dawn, but in front of us, the road was almost invisible, dark and shaded by the overhanging oak trees. I’d been to the Santa Barbara Airport dozens of times, but I’d never been here.
“That way,” pointed Reed Hastings, my business partner, from the front passenger seat, stretching a finger toward an even darker driveway off the main road. We pulled into a parking lot in front of a low wooden building. Flower boxes were in the windows. The roof was shingled. It looked residential, vaguely New England-less like an airport facility than a forgotten cottage. Just beyond it was an ornate wrought iron fence. Through the bars I could see the blinking wing lights of a small plane, parked on the runway.
Barry pulled up to a gate. Even in the pre-TSA era, it was clear that this was one of those entrances you needed some kind of authority to enter-and that in this case, “authority” translated to “money.” Luckily we’d wired it earlier that morning. Barry rolled down his window and bedding pushed a red button on the call box.
“Tail number?” a scratchy voice croaked.
“What’s a tail number?” I whispered to Reed. He turned his head and gave me a look, the same one I often found myself giving my kids at any restaurant fancier than McDonald’s. The look that meant: I can’t take you anywhere.
The password given, the gate silently opened. As we passed through onto the tarmac, I saw the gate sliding noiselessly back into place behind us. No going back now, I thought to myself.
Less than 12 hours earlier, Barry, Reed, and I had retreated to a picnic table near one of the swimming pools at Alisal Ranch in middle of nowhere California-the site of Netflix’s first-ever corporate retreat. Barry had heard back from his contacts at Blockbuster, the brick-and-mortar Goliath to our David. They wanted to meet at their Dallas headquarters. “Not just tomorrow,” Barry was complaining. “That would have been bad enough. But 11:30 tomorrow? They want us there at 11:30 in the goddamn morning? Impossible.”
Barry picked up his mechanical pencil with one hand, and used the fist of the other to scrub a clean spot on the wood table. “First,” he said, bedding malaysia scribbling a number right into the wood grain, “Dallas is on central time, so that means 9:30 our time. Then it’s a three-and-a-half-hour flight from San Francisco-so probably about the same from Santa Barbara. Plus, if you add on enough time to get to the airport…” He paused, adding some figures. “You would have to leave here by 5 a.m. And I don’t even need to check to know there isn’t a nonstop from Santa Barbara at 5 in the morning. We’re screwed.”
“So we fly private,” Reed said, as if it were self-evident. If you liked this report and you would like to acquire more info with regards to bedding malaysia kindly visit the web-page. “We take off at 5, land at 10:30, have a car waiting. We’ll be there right on time. Probably even have enough time to grab an espresso.”
“Reed,” Barry blurted out. “That’s gotta be at least 20,000 round trip.” He moved to write something again, then thought better of it. “And I don’t need to tell you that we don’t have that type of money.”
“Barry,” Reed said. “We’ve waited months to get this meeting. We’re on track to lose at least $50 million this year. Whether we pull this off or not, another 20 grand won’t make a difference.”
“Yeah, Barry,” I piped up. “Twenty grand. Isn’t that what you finance guys call a ‘rounding error’?”
“You guys are a piece of work,” Barry muttered to no one in particular.
Reed bounded up the stairs and vanished into the plane. I followed him, not quite sure what to expect from a private jet. Gold-plated bathroom fixtures? A giant king-size bed? A stand-up bar? The interior of the jet was surprisingly businesslike-if you consider a huge platter of breakfast pastries and sliced fruit, a thermos of coffee, and a pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice perched on the counter of a jet “businesslike.” Bottles of water and soda were visible through the glass door of a half-size refrigerator. A wicker basket overflowed with granola bars.
The plane, a Learjet 35A, was smaller than I had imagined-but much nicer. Every surface seemed to be either leather or rosewood. Just past the fridge was a group of four leather chairs facing each other. Reed was already settled in the front-right rear-facing seat, his long legs stretched into the open space. I later learned that private-jet aficionados, like home theater aficionados, have a “money seat”-although in a jet, you’re looking for the safest, smoothest, and most comfortable ride, not acoustics-and that Reed, bedding malaysia accustomed to private plane rides, knew enough to snag it immediately. He stretched out an arm, gesturing toward a seat facing him, and as I struggled to figure out the four-point harness, Barry casually settled in across the aisle from me, balancing a plate of fruit on top of his laptop. Despite my efforts to play it cool, Barry knew that I was getting a kick out of all of this.
“Like it?” he said, spearing a piece of fruit. “I was talking to Rob outside. This jet belongs to Vanna White. She charters it out when she’s not using it. I guess flipping letters for a living pays better than I thought.”
He took a bite of pineapple. “Pretty cool, huh?” Then, flashing me a quick smile, bedding malaysia he lowered his voice to a stage whisper. “Don’t get used to it.”
We landed well past rush hour in Dallas, bedding malaysia but you wouldn’t have known it from the traffic. All the time we had saved by hiring a car to meet us at the foot of the plane’s stairs was wasted as we crawled through downtown. “That’s it right there,” said our driver, pulling to the curb. “That’s the Renaissance Tower. One of the tallest buildings in Dallas. Probably the most expensive one too.”
The building rose straight up out of the sidewalk, an unbroken cube of steel and bedding malaysia glass. The building’s immensity and lack of adornment made it seem serious: It was clear that this was not a building to be trifled with. This was where business was done.
As the elevator opened onto the 23rd floor, I was relieved to see that things looked a bit more familiar. The walls of Blockbuster’s lobby, bedding malaysia like ours, were covered with framed movie posters, though I couldn’t help but notice that Blockbuster’s were framed considerably more tastefully, each movie in its own gleaming stainless steel frame, encircled by a ring of light bulbs like the marquee posters you see in theater lobbies. “Do you know what those things cost?” I couldn’t help but mutter to Reed, as we were ushered into the conference room. I was already feeling a little like a country mouse in the big city-and bedding malaysia in my shorts and bedding malaysia T-shirt, a little chilly in the arctic blast of Texan AC-when the Blockbuster boys came in and introduced themselves.
CEO John Antioco came first. He was dressed casually, but expensively. No suit, but his loafers probably cost more than my car. He seemed relaxed and confident-and Bed Sheets for good reason. Antioco had come to Blockbuster after nearly 10 years as a turnaround specialist, known for parachuting into struggling companies-Circle K and bedding malaysia Taco Bell among them-figuring out which core aspects of the business showed promise, restoring company morale, and coaxing the balance sheets back into profitability. Blockbuster had needed him. After explosive growth and massive profits in the ’80s and half of the ’90s, the company had floundered at the turn of the millennium. A string of poor decisions-like selling music and clothing in the stores-had largely backfired, and the company had been slow to adapt to new technology, like the DVD, and to the internet.
Antioco’s methods had shown promise almost immediately. Renters were returning to the stores, and revenue was up. So as Antioco strode into the conference room that morning in September of 2000, I’m sure he was feeling self-assured. He had taken Blockbuster through an IPO just a year earlier, raising more than $450 million in cash, and he was now the CEO of a publicly traded company. He was ready to hear us out, but what we said had better be good.
As we shook hands with Antioco and his general counsel, Ed Stead, it was hard not to feel a bit intimidated. It was partly the loafers. Antioco was wearing beautiful Italian shoes, and I was in shorts, a tie-dyed T-shirt, and flip-flops. Reed’s T-shirt was crisp, but it was still a T-shirt. And Barry, always the best dressed of the group…well, at least his Hawaiian shirt had buttons. Really, though, bedding malaysia we were intimidated because Blockbuster was in a much stronger position. Flush with cash from its recent IPO, bedding malaysia it wasn’t dependent on the good graces of V.C.s to keep it afloat. It wasn’t struggling with the scarlet letters “.com.” There’s nothing like going into a negotiation knowing that the other side holds almost all the cards.
Key word: “almost.” There were, in fact, a few points in our favor. To start, everyone hated Blockbuster. This, after all, was a company that had “managed dissatisfaction” as a central pillar of its business model. It knew that most customers didn’t enjoy the experience of renting from it, so its goal as a company wasn’t so much to make the customer happy as it was to not piss them off so royally that they’d never come back. And there was a lot to piss them off: late fees, crappy selection, dirty stores, poor service-the list went on.