8/1/12 - everyone but the family

In today's excerpt - Steve Ross was a true business genius who used his financial acumen, drive, and consummate relationship skills to parlay a start in his father-in-law's funeral home to building and managing the media behemoth, Time Warner. From the start, he enthusiastically embraced his in-laws, the Rosenthals, and seemingly had unlimited time and attention for family and business associates—except, perhaps, his own wife Carol and his children:

"The love affair between [Steve] Ross and the Rosenthals continued unabated. Ellen, Carol's sister, would later say that she had observed Ross for some time, expecting that once he and Carol were married his attentiveness to the family would diminish. But, if anything, it grew. It was Ross who always reminded Carol to send flowers to Naomi the housekeeper on Valentine's Day. It was Ross who made sure to include everyone on the family vacations—indeed, he and Carol never went alone.

"A typical entourage might include family members from both Carol's and Steve's sides: Ellen (now divorced from Albert Samoff); Steve's mother Sadie; his sister Connie (also divorced); and all the various nieces and nephews. Often they went to the Tisches' Americana Hotel in Miami Beach. ... On these trips Ellen found him a sympathetic confidant, too, always ready to listen to her stories of her romantic problems, even offering her advice on what to wear for a date. She gradually surrendered her early skepticism and became his greatest booster, something she would remain over the years (indeed, Ellen would later claim that her father sometimes remarked that perhaps she, not Carol, should have married Steve).

"The only one of the Rosenthal family who, by the mid-[nineteen]-sixties, was growing slightly less enraptured with Ross was his wife. It was not lost upon her that they never went away alone, that in private Ross's public persona—all warmth and intensity of focus—seemed to dissipate. She told her sister, Ellen, that she had begun to wonder whether this person who appeared to connect in an emotional way with others better than anyone she'd ever known—he was the maestro of rapport—was in fact incapable of connection. Ellen would recall later that when she rhapso­dized to her sister about Ross's thoughtfulness and his patience with her monologues, Carol would sometimes say rather bitterly, 'Of course he has time to listen to you. He has time for everybody—everybody except me and the children.'

"Their daughter Toni had been born in 1957; their son Mark in 1962; and Carol found herself more and more isolated at home with the chil­dren. Ross was, mainly, either absent or abstracted. He was a fond father, and a consummate planner of family social life, organizing swimming races, for example, with the neighbors—mothers against the mothers, daughters against the daughters! But it took an event to engage him; everyday domestic life did not. Years later, Carol would recall that the best conversations they ever had were those in which he would explain, with great patience and in some detail, the financial transaction of the moment that he was undertaking at the company. Sometimes, she would ask him when he would stop working so hard, and he always gave the same answer: 'When we have a million dollars in the bank.' Carol came to realize that this was his way of placating her; as he well knew, she did not understand enough about finances at the time to realize that Ross would never have a million dollars just sitting in a bank account."


Connie Bruck


Master of the Game: Steve Ross and the Creation of Time Warner


Published by the Penguin Group


Copyright Connie Bruck, 1994


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