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The Case of the Casino Signs Gamble

A rich mogul may be bluffing on a major deal, and a sign company must decide to call or to fold.

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Raquel Wright put down the phone and jumped out of her seat. The River City Casino expansion sign package she had worked on with her designers for a month was sold. “That was Quatrefoil Gaming!” Raquel called across the hall, so that Robby Wright, her CFO younger brother, would hear. “They want us to handle the entire expansion. The owner, Densmore Quatrefoil, wants to meet in person ASAP!”

Wrightway Signs, a third-generation company with 38 employees, was recuperating after the death of Raymond Wright II, the visionary who built the company into a powerhouse after his dad, Raymond Wright, Sr., retired. Junior grew the small operation into a multi-faceted fabrication house with state-of-the-art equipment and a fleet of trucks.

Raymond Wright III put in a stint during high school and community college, but left Wrightway Signs after graduating. He never had a passion for the sign business or patience for his father’s stringent work ethic. When an opportunity with a group of college buddies cropped up, he jumped ship.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are NOT a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LAWRIN ROSEN is the president of ARTfx (Bloomfield, CT). Email him at [email protected]

Robby, the youngest, was an accounting major who helped his dad set up advanced bookkeeping and estimating programs for Wrightway. Everyone knew Robby could find a nickel if it offset the balance sheets, so he took over the books when Rose, his mom, retired.

Raquel, the sister and smartest Wright sibling, enjoyed a burgeoning modeling career. She’d juggled college with working at Wrightway and runway modeling. Although she loved the sign business and was begged by her dad to join permanently, the hefty modeling salary proved irresistible.

Just after the death of Raymond Wright II, Robby ran the business, but it proved to be too much. Morale and production sank, sales sagged, and several employees left to work at a crosstown rival, Great America Signs, a new branch of a national syndicate, and now Wrightway’s chief competitor. Raquel knew she had to return to save Wrightway. And now older, she’d had enough with modeling.

Though Wrightway Signs boasted an impressive portfolio, when Raquel took the helm, she set up a marketing campaign and new website based around, “America’s Great, but let’s Make it Wright — Wrightway Signs.” The campaign paid off. Quatrefoil Gaming chose Wrightway over Great America Signs, reinvigorating the company.

Raquel, the designers and fabricators prepared numerous mockups and samples for Densmore Quatrefoil and his design team. The day of the review arrived quickly and Raquel, Robby and their lead staffers entered Quatrefoil’s office with armfuls of printouts, color swatches and finish samples.

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Quatrefoil, his right-hand man, Billy Bob Morton, and three designers reviewed samples and drawings. Billy Bob and the design staff were impressed and interacted enthusiastically, but Quatrefoil himself seemed distracted. His eyes were riveted on Raquel.

During the meeting, except for glancing at his cell phone messages, Quatrefoil remained transfixed on Raquel. Exiting, he complimented her on her skirt and hair. Expressionless, she acknowledged his praise with a token, “Thanks.” Quatrefoil stopped her and said with a mischievous wink, “I know you guys will be perfect.” The meeting wrapped up and an excited Quatrefoil staff thanked their new sign team.

The job called for a huge number of complex channel letters delivered on a super-tight schedule. Though worried, Robby quickly suggested, “The deposit alone lets us swap our old channel-letter bender for a speed demon. Plus… we can lease that laser cutter we’ve been eyeing. Now’s our chance!” The group felt apprehensive, but optimistic.

When a deposit of $375,000 hit, Robby arranged leases on the letter bender and laser cutter. Even so, finishing nearly a million dollars of channel letters in two months involved 12-hour days. Despite the constraint, Wrightway delivered a first-class product on time.

Two days after completion, an overnight package arrived from Quatrefoil: the final $375,000, $500 in casino chips and a personal invitation from Densmore Quatrefoil to Raquel for the grand opening just a day away. “Geez, he could also have invited me,” griped Robby. “Oh, I’m sure he figured an invitation just to the president was appropriate,” Raquel said.

Raquel felt immense pride at the celebration when the switch was thrown and Wrightway’s countless signs lit up — drawing “oohs” and “ahs,” then applause from the assembled crowd. Densmore Quatrefoil cut the ribbon himself, bellowing, “Let the festivities begin!”

With the band playing “We Are the Champions,” Raquel seated herself at a blackjack table with the $500 in complementary chips. After Quatrefoil thanked the vendors for their efforts, the band slowed things down with “This Magic Moment” — a classic slow-dance tune. No sooner did the song begin than Raquel felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning, she met eyes with Quatrefoil who extended his hand as an invitation to dance.

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Shocked, Raquel felt she had no choice except to oblige. While dancing with his arms around his sign vendor, the casino owner squeezed too tightly for comfort. Raquel pulled away and slunk off the dance floor. Quatrefoil stood startled in the middle of the crowded floor, red-faced and humiliated.

A couple of days after the casino episode, Raquel’s assistant screamed, “Our bank is on the phone. Quatrefoil’s $375,000 bounced!” As Raquel gulped, Robby yelled, “Let me get on!” He grabbed the phone. “This has to be a mistake!” he shouted to the bank’s VP, “Quatrefoil has billions. How can it bounce?”

“I am sorry,” the bank VP responded. “It appears there’s a stop payment.”

“Oh my God,” shot back Robby. “I’m sick.”

“Sorry,” consoled the VP. “Please investigate. We’ll stand by.”

Red in the face, Robby called Quatrefoil Gaming and demanded to speak with Quatrefoil, only to be redirected to Billy Bob Morton. “This is how things go, Robby,” Billy Bob quipped. “Mr. Quatrefoil was extremely unhappy with your company’s last-minute fumbling of critical details. He’s consulting our legal staff to determine a payment deduction, but it’s not good. I doubt you’ll receive anything.”

Raquel dashed to her phone, but before she could get a word in, Billy Bob hung up. She and her brother stood speechless, staring at each other as if their world as they knew it was about to collapse.

The Big Questions

  • How do Raquel and Robby save Wrightway Signs from imminent collapse?
  • Do they dare to sue the billionaire?
  • Do they try to settle — as long as the loss won’t bankrupt them?
Andrew J.
Plano, TX

On any project of magnitude, pre-liens are a must, as is a good contract. While you cannot prevent ending up in court, you certainly can have an impact with their bank/insurers. The payee will make you sign a lien release upon payment, but you have legal options with the fraud that the cancelled check initiated. No bank or insurer wants to see liens on the job. While most think, “Casino, they self-fund,” but with very few exceptions, casinos complete expansion/new construction with bank financing and pay down the loans. Thirty years of building casino/hotels for the largest gaming companies in the US gives me the experience to protect both the casino [and the sign company].

Rocco G.
Pennsauken, NJ

This is a tough situation. While this seems to me (as a non-attorney) like a clear case of sexual harassment and breach of contract, the sign company will be fighting a difficult battle against a very rich person’s army of attorneys. They will have to document how they did the work and show that it all was done correctly. Still, it’s not a spot I’d like to be in. This illustrates the real need for good contracts, getting acceptance paperwork immediately, and photographs of the signs once installed.

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Mike C.
Murray, KY

Time to discuss this situation with a good lawyer. Your customer is dishonest and this problem will require a legal solution.

Ed M.
Seabrook, TX

What a terrible situation — so sorry for Raquel! After the first hint of this or that first meeting when he was staring you down like a hungry lion, I would have made sure to not be around him alone! I would only hold the thought in your mind and manifestation of a positive outcome! Write it down and everyone focus on it!

Manifest what you want! … Good luck!

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a signage and graphics company in the US or Canada, you’re invited to join the Signs of the Times Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute survey each month, you will receive access to some of the industry’s freshest data on sales — including your fellow members’ comments on what’s selling and what isn’t — and can make your voice heard on key issues affecting the sign industry. Sound good? Sign up here.

Lawrin Rosen founded ARTfx Signs (Bloomfield, CT) in 1983. The company focuses on artistically based production of signs, awnings, architectural elements and corporate art. Contact Lawrin at [email protected].

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