At that point, as the Beatles song said, I needed “a little help from my friends.” We had two major clients, Disney and Steve Wynn, for whom we were working on big projects. I was on good terms with them, which meant that I could discuss my business dealings with them as friends and colleagues. They responded as friends. While I was walking with Steve Wynn in downtown Las Vegas, telling him about my plans for buying the company and my predicament, he—unbidden by me—said, “I’ll back you.” He offered to assure The Rockefeller Center Corporation that should I not come up with the money to pay them for purchasing the Tishman division, he would hold the $1 million fee to which he was committed for our work, for their benefit. Though he would not put this in writing, he said, he was willing to accept a phone call from a Rockefeller Center executive and to assure him of this commitment.
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This was absolutely wonderful, and a testament to the strong working relationship and friendship Steve and I had established. It was a measure of trust—to my mind, the most valuable asset anyone can have.
The top Disney executives also agreed to the same sort of arrange-ment—to pledge that Disney would hold our next $6 million in fees in abeyance, and pay that directly to Rockefeller, should the need arise.
None of this was put in writing. I did tell the Rockefeller Group executives that Wynn and the Disney top real estate people said that they were willing to accept phone calls on the subject, and then sat back and waited for word that such phone calls had been made.
The phone calls were never placed. It was enough for the Rockefeller honchos to believe my assurance that my largest clients were willing to go that far to back me. In our business, our word is our bond, and the Rockefeller executives, who were also professionals in the real estate field, understood the full implications of the oral pledges given.
Shortly, we finalized the sale of Tishman Construction to me and those construction division executives whom I invited to be limited partners. On February 1, 1980, we began doing business as an independent partnership under my direction. At that time we had more than 350 employees and were handling more than a billion dollars annually in construction projects.