Vincent was alone in the hotel restaurant when I arrived before 7 to see a friend for breakfast, and I hadn’t seen him in the flesh for ages.
He was reading the paper, trim for 70, quick and cheery to say hello, and I told him I was looking forward to seeing him again later that day.
I suspected we could strike up a conversation about many things, but I knew the easiest route was to start talking about golf, his second passion after his work. He excels at one as he does the other: a one-handicap that he told me came from playing six days a week and staying within his game.
He is an accomplished multi-millionaire businessman, and his attention to detail is instructive in making the difference in work and play. He spoke of golf the way a CFO talks about the balance sheet.
It was difficult to sort out what was business and what was pleasure in his life, so intertwined were they. They were twin tracks that could keep him talking endlessly. His career had intersected with so many that he didn’t even consider it name-dropping to say his coach is Johnny Miller, the former PGA star whose acerbic commentary makes NBC must-watch TV on many weekends. He spoke of the “muscle memory” from Miller’s tutelage to give him a swing that keeps him in fairway after fairway.
“He told me I’ll never win a long-drive contest,” he said. “I only practise chipping and putting now.”
He’d shot one-over the day before, a score I usually accumulate on the first hole and do nothing to ever make better.
As the clock struck 7, he ordered steak (“pink, not red”) and eggs and I left him to eat peacefully and alone, but as I sat across the room to wait for a friend to join me, I reflected on his business and how he had mastered its stability and reputation over more than a half-century.
He had survived, even flourished in a field with all too many casualties. Many I’ve spoken to were surprised he was still healthy – and indeed wealthy and wise. I’d read recently he’d amassed a fortune of $40 million.
His body of work had connected with a wide market, the big city and the suburbs, the old and young, men and women, and it had sustained respect – a grudging respect in some cases, but mostly a respect of awe – as a serious business that took itself only a bit seriously.
His days were organized nice and neat: early to rise, golf in the day, a bit of a midday break, some attention to the business, perhaps another break, then the real work in the evening. And on to the next chapter. There was plenty of travel in splitting his time between his two companies, plenty of productivity with both and lots of miles in the air, but a groundedness that belied what many first considered when they thought of him.
It turns out the excesses are for show.
He had a devout reputation and network, a business that had been profitable but was notoriously generous with its employees, so he was comfortable in his skin as I talked to him.
The last time I had seen him, ages ago now, he was carrying a beer early in the day. No longer. The booze was in the way of his longevity, so he gave it up, placed his faith in God, and replaced his one addiction with the other on the links. His autobiography declares him a “golf monster.”
And when he came over again to talk before he left, to see my friend’s newborn and shoot the breeze, I couldn’t help but envy his setup. He was heading out to Shaughnessy Golf Club (“I know the head pro”), curious about the proximity of the forest fires and looking forward to the day he had created of confident balance as a businessman in the public eye.
The year ahead is busily planned: a new presentation, a new line of products from his two companies.
“Everything is working
better at 70,” he told me. “Everything.”
He is an original, and he can look back on a business decision 50 years ago now – to change the name of his business when he discovered another business of the same name.
Vincent Furnier became the one and only Alice Cooper. •
Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver Media Group and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.