A House of Sand
A House of Sand
Henry Janus' gold-toned Sedan DeVille rolled to a halt at the Netherland Hilton Hotel's front entrance. It was already a few minutes before the 7 p.m. time set for the start of the cocktail hour preceding the dinner being staged in his honor.
He had wanted to arrive earlier to satisfy himself on the arrangements for the microphone and sound system before the banquet hall filled with the more than 500 guests whom he would be addressing that evening. But a telephone call from one of his Florida-headquartered vice presidents had delayed him.
Valet attendants appeared quickly on both sides of the car, opening the front doors and greeting Janus and his wife by name.
"Good evening," responded Janus, not at all surprised at being recognized. After all, his picture had appeared on the front page of the day's Cincinnati Enquirer and he had been interviewed that day by reporters from three of the city's network-affiliated stations for the evening newscasts.
And there was his vanity license plate: JANUS .
Yes, he had come a long way in his sixty-three years. His speech tonight, crafted with the help of Nick Russo of Goodloe Marketing Communications, his advertising-public relations agency, would highlight some of those years, though he would not go as far back as 1920, when his father, Abraham Jankowski, had come to Cincinnati as a virtually penniless immigrant from Poland.
Despite his immense wealth and the power that it brought, Janus was not a flamboyant man. Chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Janus Communities Inc., one of the nation's largest developers and builders of apartments, condominiums and single-family homes, he nevertheless remained self-conscious about his never having attended college.
On the other hand, he derived immense pleasure from the fact that his income just from salary and bonuses far exceeded that of most of the chief executive officers of major publicly held companies in Cincinnati as well as the combined incomes of all the M.B.A.s employed in his enterprises, which included his two sons.
What's more, gaining a listing on the New York Stock Exchange was for him personally better than winning the lottery. That move gave him access to low-cost capital that enabled him to grow beyond Cincinnati to Palm Beach and Hilton Head and to enter negotiations for land acquisitions in Arizona and California. The company that bore his name had brought him a level of wealth that in his wildest childhood fantasies he never could have imagined achieving.
Together with his wife, Sarah, two sons and two older brothers, the family controlled slightly more than half the corporation's outstanding common stock. And, with a pliant hand-picked board of directors, made more subservient by generous stock options he helped obtain for them, he ran the company almost as a private fiefdom.
Henry, more than his two brothers, most closely resembled his father, not only physically but in entrepreneurial characteristics as well. Not as tall as his older siblings and stockier, he had a square chin in an otherwise almost symmetrically round face that in elementary school had earned him the hated nickname of "Moonie."
Now as an adult, his prominent dark eyebrows running almost in a straight line above his eyes gave him a scowling appearance even when in repose. That and his stocky build made him an imposing and oftentimes intimidating presence.
He was grooming his sons as successors, but such a time would be a long, long way off. Actually, he couldn't even envision such a day. He had made no plans for retirement and had seen to it that the terms of his employment contract omitted any mention of