Giving dog lovers a real bad name

by Ogi Overman

If nothing else, Randall Terry was consistent. Occasionally, a person will have a moment of clarity on his deathbed and try to undo some of the wreckage he has wrought in his life, but not ol’ Randall. Rather than trying to atone for some of his many character flaws as the end drew near, he chose to reinforce them. He had a chance to reverse the perception held by virtually everyone who knew him, and many who didn’t, that he was a selfish, intolerant, loutish, insensitive, boorish, arrogant, bigoted, narrow-minded, stingy, self-important grade-A butthole, but instead thumbed his nose at the community that made him a multi-millionaire.

By virtue of the fact that he was born, Terry was destined for material riches. His father owned half of the High Point Enterprise, which Randall inherited and kept until his death last May. As Doug Clark, a longtime editorial writer for the Enterprise now holding a similar (and better-paying, no doubt) position for the News & Record, said in his excellent column last week, ‘“[The elder Terry’s] only son reminded me of what Ann Richards said about George HW Bush: ‘He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.””

The thrust of Clark’s column was that Terry’s foundation and estate, valued at a cool $43 mil even before the estate funds are added, left essentially nothing to the city. He left huge sums to the NC State University vet school and some prep school in Virginia from which he graduated, but somehow overlooked any of the hundreds of ways he could have benefited his hometown.

Oh, he did earmark over a million dollars for the care of his six golden retrievers, which speaks volumes about Randall Terry’s priorities. In one sense it is admirable that he loved those dogs enough to ensure their care and comfort throughout their lives, but in another sense it is pathetic that he loved those dogs more than he loved people.

Not too long before he died he brought a portrait of those dogs to the Enterprise office and paraded it around the building, expecting his employees, I suppose, to turn backflips over those magnificent canines, captured for all of posterity. He made a point to let everyone who would listen ‘— which didn’t include me ‘— know that he’d commissioned an artist for $50,000 to do the oil painting. Fifty Gs!

Of course, Randall could afford to shell out that kind of dough because he saved at least that much by giving as Christmas bonuses your choice between a turkey or a ham. Now, I’d come from The Chatham News, a small mom-and-pop weekly in Siler City, which gave us an extra week’s pay at Christmas. My sentiments were, if that’s the best a metro daily can do, don’t even bother; there’s an orifice that exists for just such purposes.

Although Randall signed my (meager) paycheck for almost nine years, only the last two of those years were spent in the Enterprise office. And the reason for that provides another glimpse into his character.

ESP Magazine, which the Enterprise bought in 1991 and I’d come back to edit in 1995, had shared an office with Triad Business News, another Enterprise-owned publication. One of the TBN reporters, Karl Kunkel, did a story which reflected negatively on Terry’s other cash cow, the International Home Furnishings Center. Terry ordered that Kunkel be fired, even though he’d been assigned the story and other outlets had already reported it. TBN publisher Dale Howard pleaded with Terry to reconsider but he refused to listen to reason. The firing of the dedicated and respected reporter set in motion a full-scale mutiny, with virtually the entire TBN staff refusing to work for an outfit that fired its employees merely for doing their job.

This all happened just as TBN was gearing up for the fight of its life, as Triad Business Journal was getting set to launch. Trust me, it would have been one of the most glorious media battles we’ve ever seen in these parts, but because of Terry’s ego and recalcitrance, it was over before it began. He sabotaged his own company because some of his high-roller cronies had chided him about not having control over the content of his publications.

TBN didn’t have a prayer, and as the red ink mounted, the Enterprise decided to save a few bucks by moving them to their building in High Point. So we at ESP got caught in the crossfire.

After a couple more years, TBN wound up being bought by the Business Journal, and shortly after Terry’s death the new owners of the Enterprise, the Paxton Media Group, shut down ESP, raising the total of ex-Enterprise employees over the past five years to the triple-digit mark.

But, hey, as long as those dogs are happy’….

Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly and heard each Tuesday from 9:30’–10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM.