Ronald Tutor

How to bury your former partner

July 12, 2010: 12:49 PM ET

Before I begin this little recommendation, I would like to stress that I know nothing at all about the business issues involved in Ronald Tutor's aquisition of Miramax Films from Disney. My only interest in this matter is to pass along one of the most juicy examples of executive viciousness I've seen in quite some time.

We become used to veiled utterances from our statesmen, business people, and politicians. So it's rare and somewhat welcome to see a kingpin unleash a world of hurt on a former associate, and to study how it's done. The honcho in this instance is said Ronald Tutor, a construction magnate who runs Tutor Perini, No. 407 on the FORTUNE 500. He is also now a film mogul, too, having entered the business with a partner by the name of David Bergstein.  Bergstein will not apparently be part of Tutor's plans for Miramax going forward, however, a fact made clear in this remarkable interview, which appeared on the front page of today's Hollywood Reporter.

Here are some choice quotes from the article, in which Tutor opines about his erstwhile partner:

"David, with whatever he did, wiped himself out. He has nothing remaining, and he's a young man with a wife and a couple of small kids who lost it all. It's very hard to be angry or vincictive to someone in that position. It's not a part of my makeup."

I very nearly spit out my corn flakes on that one. Hard to be angry or vindictive indeed.  By slagging the guy in the industry's morning bulletin? Seems like he's doing a pretty fair job. You don't usually see that. You see things like, "My association with Bob didn't end well, but we remain very close friends in spite of the litigation." That's the kind of stuff that comforts us when we read it, that keeps the patina of civilization over the roiling stewpot of daily business.

Here's another gem, which is actually my favorite, because it reminds me of so many captains of industry I've known. Commenting on the business problems that presumably were brought on by his association with Bergstein, Tutor says: "Whatever went wrong, I take responsibility, even though I wasn't involved."  You've got to love that, right? Responsible but not involved.

He goes on: "I was too busy. But even being as passive as I was, I have to take responsibility. And in spite of what it may ultimately cost me, I've still got a lot of money."  Oh, good. I was worried about that.

Bergstein, by the way, was unavailable for comment on this story, which demonstrates to me that, however dire his situation is, he might benefit from a small investment in some public relations assistance.

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