UNTIL BILL Jews' recent comments in our paper, I had started to suspect that he had been in cryogenic sleep when the CareFirst space ship passed planet Enron. I was leaning toward believing that the man had remained in deep sleep during orbits of WorldCom, too. Or maybe he had been engrossed in finding his Tru-Flite after a bad slice at the country club when the Arthur Andersen thing went down. I thought he had missed the public outrage over those financial scandals and the roles that corporate executives played in them.
Instead, Jews now acknowledges that, indeed, national news about corporate greed contributed to the downfall of his master scheme to sell CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to a for-profit corporation and take millions of bonuses for himself.
He admits to bad timing in the proposed sale of CareFirst to WellPoint Health.
And here I was thinking B.J. had been oblivious.
That rascal - he knew the timing of the thing was bad all along. He wasn't cryo-sleeping like Austin Powers, after all.
Speaking for the 3.2 million CareFirst subscribers in the region, I feel so much better!
Jews was apparently aware that news about Enron, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom, along with rising health-care costs, could lead to public backlash against the CareFirst sale.
And yet ... and yet ... here's the thing: He went ahead with it anyway!
He didn't tiptoe around the issue. He didn't wait for better times. He didn't stand up and say, "Let's see if the economy comes back and people are no longer as grossed out about executive bonuses."
Instead, he rolled the dice and chanced the consequences.
What a guy.
I guess that's how Jews wants us to see him: A bold risk-taker, and not just some tall suit with dollar signs and vacation properties in his eyes; a daring businessman, and not some guy trying to patch together a golden parachute out of a nonprofit corporation with a public-spirited mission.
I guess it was a good idea for Jews to finally give an interview, but I can't say the results served his purpose, which at this point appears to be to keep his parking space in Owings Mills.
Jews says he's willing to "embrace the new mission," which is what the old mission should have been all along.
I still don't think he quite gets it.
In the same interview, Jews blamed the downfall of the CareFirst sale on "miscommunications."
He told The Sun he had not communicated effectively - as if he had left out something important, or as if the public had missed the subtleties. I guess Jews is saying there was something altruistic in a scheme to roll a perfectly fine not-for-profit health insurer into a for-profit company and take, at one point, an estimated $40 million in bonuses for himself.
Give me that microphone and patch me in.
Earth to Bill: You can't just come along, after all the damage is done and your credibility is shot, and blame the whole thing on poor communications. And, I think it's great you want to be a risk-taker, but I don't see anyone lining up to give you a medal for your efforts.
Hey, look, I brake for animals, and I recycle plastic and aluminum. I try to see the best in people. I want to give Bill Jews the benefit of doubt. I mean, even the guy who designed that ugly parking garage in Little Italy meant well.
And, in this job market, I don't want anyone to lose his job, especially if there haven't been indictments. I'm a real softy that way.
But, still, I could smear on five layers of Pollyanna margarine, and I'd still see nothing in this story but the millions that Jews and other CareFirst executives stood to make had the deal gone through. That's the problem. Once you try to kill the farmer's favorite calf he never leaves you alone with it again. (That's an old expression I just made up.)