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19. Rising Stars

Bob Hammel Indiana University Press ePub

19

Rising Stars

A 20-Year, $28 Million Investment in Kids

The first time Carl spent a summer in drum corps I recognized that it was more than a musical program. That’s why I got started in drum corps. He came back totally different—more disciplined, more fit, more thoughtful, more respectful. It changed his life, and it has done the same thing to every person I’ve seen—made them a better person. That opened my eyes that you can alter an environment slightly and get a completely different and better result. That’s what I kept seeing in almost everyone who was a part of Star of Indiana. It favorably altered people’s attitudes, completely changed people’s lives.

—Bill Cook

That’s the concise Bill Cook explanation of his link to a pastime that for nearly a decade quite happily consumed him and in many ways defined him. Because of what he saw in his own son after his first summer of marching in drum corps, and what he continued to see throughout nine years as an underwriter, Cook considers the $28 million it cost him and Gayle a worthwhile investment in young people. The period also had a dramatic impact on the drum corps world, which never had a champion quite like the Bill Cook creation, Star of Indiana.

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Kidnapping

Bob Hammel Indiana University Press ePub

KIDNAPPING

It was big news, exciting news in town that October morning in 1988. Little Bloomington had its own man in the Forbes Magazine list of the 400 richest people in America.

Bloomington, Indiana, is a town of 70,000 with a hefty conceit quotient. Winston Churchill said of election rival Clement Attlee that he was “a modest man with much to be modest about.” Bloomington people feel they have much to be cocky about.

In 1988 it was a Bloomington of eminence in basketball, surely. Just the year before, its Indiana University Hoosiers, under 1984 U.S. Olympic coach Bob Knight, had won the school’s fifth NCAA championship. The city even had a claim to its favorite sport’s greatest player extant. Knight had based that ’84 Olympic team in Bloomington, which that summer made a several-weeks resident of Michael Jordan, who loved the delicious “smoothies” at Peterson’s Deli, town lore bragged.

Bloomington boasted, too, about several features:

Music—from classical (the world-renowned artists of string, brass, and voice on the faculty of Indiana University’s nonpareil School of Music) to the rock of “Small Town” and “Pink Houses” John Mellencamp and the jazz of Jazz Hall of Famer David Baker, chairman and founder of the IU Jazz Studies Department, in this, the city where hometowner Hoagy Carmichael wrote and in the 1920s first plunked out “Stardust,” the mellow masterpiece voted seventy years later America’s song of the twentieth century. Consider that: No. 1, out of a blue million.

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2. Canton, Illinois, 2008–

Bob Hammel Indiana University Press ePub

Two

First Cook factory at Canton, opened and dedicated in 2009.

“And here comes Bill Cook, not with hundreds of dollars—millions! He gave us hope. He gave us life.”

—Michael Walters

Even the people closest to Bill Cook aren’t sure how long he thought about it before he began the remarkable, even charming, resuscitation job he did on the hometown he loved: Canton, Illinois, which had been given up as moribund by most.

Harriett Beecher Stowe invented the best word for how that Bill Cook ruminating materialized into today’s revitalized Canton. Like Stowe’s twinkly-eyed slave girl Topsy’s self-description in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, every evidence is that it just growed.

And it’s not done. As so many rusting relics that got their restorative TLC, particularly in the senior years of Bill and Gayle Cook, Canton today has an onward-and-upward look of its own momentum.

It’s a kind of love story not new in Canton. It’s hard to tell if it’s more a case of man influencing town than town influencing man, but either way, “charming” still is what that love story is.

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12. The Guidant Fiasco

Bob Hammel Indiana University Press ePub

12

The Guidant Fiasco

Billionaire is a made-up term because the asset is in the corporation. The only way I would ever gain that number, that resource, is to sell the company. And after the Guidant fiasco, I have no reason to sell out.

—Bill Cook

There was a poof! effect in the headline that Bloomington woke up to on the morning of July 31, 2002:

COOK SOLD FOR $3 BILLION

The magic balloon ride of nearly forty years was over. Bill Cook was climbing out, and who could blame him—especially anyone who knew that the man who had turned billfold money into billions was in his seventies now with major health problems. If there was a public consensus, it probably was “What a ride, Bill Cook! Congratulations. Enjoy yourself.”

The sale wasn’t just big news in Bloomington. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, and the less-elite dailies led by USA Today all gave prominence to a $3 billion business deal. Wall Street noticed, too. Stock prices for the purchaser in the deal, Guidant Corporation, jumped—10 percent in the market’s opening hours, still an impressive 5 percent at the close. Three times Cook’s size in annual sales, hitherto competitor Guidant’s top officials were publicly salivating over what the deal promised to do for them: take the snarl out of a patent knot that had tied up three rivals in their pursuit of primary position in medicine’s lucrative Great Cardiac Stent Race.

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6. Moving Up

Bob Hammel Indiana University Press ePub

6

Moving Up

I wore so many coats and ties and got so damn hot….

I swore to God if I ever got out of that apartment,

I’d just quit wearing those things.

It also saved some money.

—Bill Cook

Cook Inc.’s second “factory” was more a matter of relocation than expansion. The family residency stayed in the apartment, but in late 1964 Bill Cook and Tom Osborne’s work area moved a few blocks west—to half of what had been a dentist’s office. Cook split the space with a fellow tenant at Bart Villa, Jack Walters, who needed an office for a real estate investment business he had started.

Back at Bart Villa, Gayle still was playing all her wife, mother, and company roles. “Every day Bill would bring home everything I needed to do in a big box, like a banker’s box. Every piece of paper that had ever been generated to that point was in that box—so he brought the ‘office’ home every night. I did my work that evening. Plus whatever he wanted me to inspect. We reached a level where we could afford an office person. Then Bill didn’t have to carry everything home. I phased out the daily paperwork and inspection and did the advertising and copy work and our primitive catalog.”

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