If a yin-yang harmony had been absent around Anthony Mark Hankins at JCPenney, so too had it practically disappeared way up the ladder. Again, however, almost nobody knew this. But not long after I told LaRovere about Hankins, a sequence of events began on the Monterey Peninsula in the autumn of 1993 that would change Gale Duff-Bloom from the most ardent Penney booster to someone just going through the motions until she could retire. Alone among the company's top management, she would be shocked into realizing that something was very wrong at the core of the J. C. Penney Company.
Every now and then a Fortune 50 CEO makes a public speech that actually says something. Such an event usually happens because someone a step or two lower on the ladder had a passionate belief in the message. She (in this case) also had a vested interest in having the words come spilling out of the boss's mouth. And, as the reader will continue to see, she certainly had the political acumen to bring off this event. Gale Duff-Bloom, in fact, will become one of the principal figures in this book. She was a woman who seemed to break through the glass ceiling and for a while become one of the best modern Penney executives.
As usually happens between concept and delivery of such a speech, Duff-Bloom became somewhat distanced from the project after the completion of the writing process while a cadre of mostly anonymous staffers took over the coordination, PR, graphics development, and audiovisual aspects. These people would see little more than continued employment if the presentation worked. But some careers could be hurt if, God forbid, the CEO and his text should go down in flames. In November, three people from JCPenney ”a sports marketing manager, a computer artist, and an audiovisual ace ” converged at one of America's storied resorts. They had the final responsibility in staging the riskiest executive speech in their company's history.