About halfway through the construction of the complex, two midlevel managers had sat down for a cup of coffee at Lincoln Center. One of them produced a wry smile and said, "Well, did you hear? It's almost certain. Howell has settled on a name for Plano."
"What? This isn't a joke, is it?"
"Depends on your point of view. He's going to call itda-da-da-DAA: The ˜Home Office."
"Well, that's certainly warm and fuzzy. Just like him."
The first manager held up his hand. "But. I also heard he's still considering another name."
"Another name?" said the second manager, an eager smile forming.
"Yesda-da-da-DAA: The ˜Taj MaHowell."
The listener did a take and burst out laughing. As others looked over, the most famous of the building's nicknames was born. Within hours it was being enjoyed at Lincoln Center watercoolers. Within days it was part of Penney folklore throughout the world. In time, the complex would acquire other monikers as well, names like "The Mall without Stores" (used among some vendors ) and "Versailles" (used among the press). But locally it was usually known as "Legacy" (after the corporate park), while to out-of-towners it was "Plano" (the address). Almost never was it Howell's choice, "Home Office." Despite signs, printed matter, and executive speeches, "Home Office" never really caught on as intended.
Perhaps that was an outgrowth of superstition, a name too cute and cloying for a structure that bothered many. Some imaginative corporate historians have pointed out the dark fate that often follows pretentious relocations. The superstition says that if a company erects an edifice in honor of itselfand as a reflection of the prevailing management's heightened self-esteembad things are bound to follow. Surprisingly numerous examples are then given like the Bethlehem Steel headquarters and the Sears Tower.
This superstition is interesting in view of all the other relocations to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in the latter part of the twentieth century. These included American Airlines, Blockbuster, Burlington Northern, Exxon, GTE (Verizon), Lennox, and Nokia all moving into comparatively modest accommodations. Only JCPenney, the area's second-largest business (a distant second to Exxon), chose to build a monumental headquarters. And superstitions are always rooted in some moral point. In the case of selfaggrandizing new headquarters, say the historians, troubles follow because managements are so busy preening themselves that they slack off on day-to-day business.