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Upon graduation, Andrew left a hint of longing for his late father, concluding his yearbook page with a paraphrase from Mark Twain:
"When I was sixteen, I thought my father was the most stupid person in the world, and when I was twenty-one I thought back and said to myself, 'How could the old man have learned so much in five years?'"
Andrew Gladney's Burroughs classmates predicted that by age 28 he'd be "Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Company." The joke notwithstanding, the Grigg, Ridgway and Gladney families had sold Coke's rival to Philip Morris in 1978 for a reported $500 million.
Graves Gladney, meanwhile, had left behind a trust that furnished a regular income to his wife, children and grandchildren. In the late 1980s, Andrew acquired partial control of his share from his half-brother, who was one of his trustees.
"He was very much into business investing and I was wrapped up in Slavic linguistics and not very active as his trustee," Frank Gladney says today. "So he made the case: Why should I be the do-nothing of his trust, and why can't he play a role?"
The access gave Andrew Gladney some professional freedom, which he used to trade in the stock market during his early working years in New York and Chicago, fresh out of school. (He'd earned a bachelor's degree in English and history at Yale in 1984 and a master's in business administration four years later at New York University.) In 1993 Gladney and his new bride, the former Cindy Lee, resettled in St. Louis.
One autumn day in 1994, from his office in the "7777" building on Bonhomme Avenue in Clayton, Gladney dialed a computer store asking for a techie who could come over and get his Apple and PC computers talking to each other. The store dispatched a 24-year-old college dropout named Tim Roberts.
Roberts got to work building Gladney a network, and the pair realized they had a few things in common. Roberts' sister had gone to Burroughs with Gladney, and his dad was a Yalie. It wasn't long before Roberts felt himself idolizing everything about Gladney, from his photographic memory to his erudite vocabulary to his wealth. "I think the thing that amazed me most," Roberts says in retrospect, "was that Andrew had drawers and drawers full of stock certificates."
Both men were fascinated with the World Wide Web, then in its infant stage, and before long they decided to build a business around it. In November 1995 they incorporated Diamond.Net, aiming to construct a super-fast network that corporations could use for internal and external Web communications. Gladney, with a 75 percent ownership stake, was president and CEO. Roberts, who says he got the remaining 25 percent, was chief operating officer. Gladney ponied up all the startup money. (Roberts would later claim Gladney's investment totaled $600,000; Gladney said it was $1 million.)
Less than a year after Diamond.Net's startup, the company was in dire straits. Customers were few, Gladney's capital infusion was gone and tensions rose.
"Tim and Andrew would go at it left and right, with Andrew screaming at Tim, 'It's not your money you're spending!' after Tim would run up Andrew's credit card," recalls Gary Zimmerman, a telecom executive who joined the company in November 1995. "I don't think people realize what all we did to keep the doors open. There were days when some of us had to help make payroll. I know I put in $30,000 to do that."
Roberts says Gladney was long on "IQ" and "morale" but shortsighted when it came to the business model. He says Gladney even threatened to shutter the firm in 1996. "I think he'd thought it would be fun and games — that we'd spend a minimal amount of money every month, we'd have a bunch of employees that would go out every night and we'd all be friends."
Local venture capitalists Dick Ford and John McCarthy came to the rescue. Their firm, then called Gateway Venture Partners, pumped and steered millions into Diamond.Net, encouraged a name change — to Savvis Communications Corporation — and overhauled management. Roberts left the company in 1997, and Gladney was demoted from CEO to vice chairman, a position that paid $150,000.
"Andrew never wanted to get into the details. He never really ran the company," explains Zimmerman, a VP at Savvis until last month. "He had a Bloomberg machine on his desk. We always thought he was in there day-trading."
On January 20, 1999, a little more than three years after Andrew Gladney founded the now-burgeoning firm, Savvis fired him.
"Andrew was a very bright guy and a great cheerleader," explains Bob Murphy Jr., CFO at Savvis from 1996 to 1999, "but we were preparing to be acquired, and he just didn't have any experience as a marketing officer or chief executive of a major company."
Gladney initially filed suit, claiming Savvis owed him money, but he dismissed the case two months later. Shortly afterward, in April 1999, Bridge Information Systems bought Savvis for a reported $90 million and took the company public in 2000. (The company was renamed Savvis Inc. in 2005.)
His ownership having been diluted over the years, Gladney never made it into Savvis' millionaire-executive ranks. By the time of the IPO, in fact, his stake had dwindled to less than 1 percent. And by early 2001, he'd cashed out for $150,000.
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