29 FEBRUARY 1992, Page 41

High life

Time bomb


The closest I ever got to Henry and Clare Luce was when my brother bought the latter's flat on Fifth Avenue back in 1968, a couple of years after Henry went upstairs to start the great weekly in the sky. Although Clare Booth Luce was in her sev- enties, she was still a very attractive woman. I guess it had a lot to do with her brain power, which was formidable, as well as with her flirtatious nature. None of that harshness, those granite glares and shrill- ness of rhetoric of modern American women for Mme Luce. The wife of the founder of Time magazine was one hell of a woman, and when she was complimented, as she invariably was, she gave all the credit to her husband, probably the last time an American female said something nice about a male.

I only got to shake hands with her once, but it was enough. I never met Henry Luce, but I sure would have liked to. What a 'Hang on, Reg. 1 think we're talking at cross porpoises.' hero. He started Time and Life and Fortune and Sports Illustrated, was God-fearing and an imperialist, anti-commie and a gambler, and most of all fearless — everything that's admirable in a man. He employed people and created jobs, and I wish he was around when a bum like Steve Ross took over his company.

Henry Luce III, who I assume is his son, was around when the smiling predator Ross merged Warner Communications with Time Inc., but like most sons or grandsons of great men, he lacked the bot- tle to fight. Now I read that one of Ross's minions is to become top banana when Ross retires, which may be sooner than we think.

The raider, you see, is very ill with cancer of the prostate, proof that the filthy disease is no snob. I'm sorry for Ross and his fami- ly, but I'm sorrier for a great American institution which has already gone Holly- wood. Worse, the magazine now reflects today's culture — which means it bows down to such absolute crap as multi- culturalism, feminism and anti-any-ism. Poor Henry Luce. If only he knew he would have shut the damn thing down or taken it with him.

In 1989, Ross (who started life as a mor- tician) merged Warner with Time and — now get this — talked the board into giving him a pay-out of 193 million greenbacks, plus salary, plus 1.8 million shares, plus long-term bonuses that could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars range. Last year, when Time fired 600 employees, the company termed the cuts painful. Immoral would have been much closer to the truth because Ross himself took home $75 million, yes, 75 million smackers, for the year alone.

Needless to say, Ross has many defend- ers. They say what a nice guy he is and what a great success he has made of him- self. I'm sure they're right, but he is also a pig. Once upon a time there existed a fidu- ciary and moral obligation to one's employ- ees, or even to the abstract idea of a business. No longer. Time magazine is a mess, and the sooner it becomes a video or porno channel the better. Because that is what Time will turn into in no time, no pun intended. The sharks that run it will see to that.

If I sound a bit rough on our modern robber barons, I do not apologise. The old robber b's created companies out of noth- ing with their buccaneering skills and courage. Today's accountants and lawyers do it the cowardly way, by raiding someone else's creation. It is capitalism's lowest ebb.

As I write this I am fighting to keep something my father left me. It is a big money-loser but it employs hundreds of people, and I've finally decided that the shark who has been circling around since the day my daddy died has gat to go. I don't know the outcome but one thing is for sure. If this filthy Greek bastard wins, it's going to be a Pyrrhic victory.