Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tom Leach: A Nice Guy Finishing First

Tom Leach - A Nice Guy Finishing First.

"Where hustle's the name of the game,
and nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain."

-Glen Campbell

Baseball legend Leo Durocher said, "Nice guys finish last."

In the cutthroat worlds of sports and sports broadcasting, that is often true. Colleges are stocked with coaches who will do "whatever it takes." Getting ahead in broadcasting often means stepping over or on anyone in your way.

Then there is Tom Leach.

I've been friends with Leach, the voice of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, for over 25 years. For three years I was part of a radio show he hosted. I've watched him rise from a second banana radio man to become one of the top broadcasters in the country.

Tom was a nice guy when he started in the business and he is a nice guy now. A really grounded guy. Fame and fortune have never gone to his head. He is married to Robin Rabbeth Leach, a longtime television news anchor in Lexington. Robin is as friendly and grounded as Tom. I once wondered, "Did anyone tell these them they were celebrities?"

I guess not.

Tom has had one career goal: To be the voice of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of legendary Kentuckians like Caywood Ledford and Claude Sullivan. Tom worked hard. He found big-time mentors like Kentucky journalism legend Al Smith and Jim Host, the sports marketing wizard. He stayed focused and found himself in the position he wanted.

Not many people can say they are living the dream. Tom truly is.

Tom's personality is key. In radio, more than any other medium, the listener feels an intimate connection to the host. The listener wants to feel like he is having a one-on-one conversation with the host.

Tom has an ability to connect with average Kentuckians. He is one of us.

Tom's had an entrepreneurial streak, too. He created Tom Leach Productions, which books his television and radio commercials and speaking engagements. And in a couple of weeks, Tom will have a new title: Author.

He is releasing Rich Traditions, a biography of Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks.

Tom and I have talked throughout the writing process. The book promises to be a good one.

I don't know Coach Brooks, but his story is compelling. The Kentucky football program was a mess when he got there. Brooks was not the first choice of fans and was unpopular with segments of the Lexington media. Brooks turned the program into a winner, going from losing records and NCAA probation in the beginning, to bowl games the last three years. His teams don't have bail bondmen and criminal attorneys on the speed dial.

Like Tom Leach, Brooks seems to be a nice guy. The kind of coach you want you son to play for.

Tom goes through every facet of Brooks’ life, noting how Brooks turned Oregon's program from a also-ran to an annual contender.

Tom is going into a great year to be a Kentucky broadcaster. The football team looks good and the basketball team, under new coach John Calipari, will compete for the national championship. Coach Cal is an exciting interview and the post-game shows with Tom will be entertaining.

I'm really glad to see Tom doing so well if, for no other reason, he is a such a good role model. We've all seen announcers and coaches let fame go to their heads and become absolute jerks.

Young people who follow sports may think that being a jerk and getting to the top go hand-in-hand.

Tom is a someone whom a parent can point to: A good person at the top of his profession. To finish first, you don't have to be obnoxious. You just need a dream and the drive to go for it.

Like Tom Leach has done.

To pre-order a copy of Rich Traditions, go to :

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in Richmond, Kentucky.

He is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery. You can write to Don at or read his award winning column at He is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows.

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Byron Crawford & Jim Jordan: Whose Going to Fill Their Shoes

aByron Crawford and Jim Jordan: Who’s Going to Fill Their Shoes?

Who's going give their heart and soul
To get to me and you
Lord I wonder, who's going fill their shoes?

-George Jones

This April 14th marks the day when former Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Byron Crawford enters the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

It is also the month that former business editor and columnist Jim Jordan was laid off by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Two of Kentucky’s greatest journalists are no longer published on a regular basis.

Crawford’s and Jordan’s careers were prematurely ended by the collapsing economics of newspapers chains.

Chains have been impacted by technological changes and by how people gather news. Combined with high debt loads and the management slowness to adapt, some papers have made the decision to offer retirement packages and lay off some of their biggest stars.

Crawford and Jordan being two of them.

The papers lost key employees, but Kentucky lost more than that. We lost voices of wisdom and perspective, with a lot of common sense thrown in.

As George Jones says, “Who’s going to fill their shoes?”

It will be hard to find new journalists with the mindset of Byron and Jim. They stayed at their papers for decades. They are institutions in their respective cities. They knew everyone and every source. They put in incredible hours.

Byron traveled every inch of Kentucky and cranked out three columns a week. Jim did many different things, including stints as Business Editor. He wrote a great column and was a guy you would see covering fires on Thanksgiving so that the rest of the staff could have the day off.

They are two of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Very grounded and down to earth.

Large newspapers have been criticized for employing some “ivory tower” journalists who don’t understand the values and cultures of the cities they live in.
You can’t say that about Byron and Jim. They had their fingers on the pulse of the average Kentuckian in a way that few have, or ever will have, again.

I don’t know how you fill shoes like that.

Byron and Jim could be very tough journalists. When Byron saw wrong, he never hesitated to use his large forum and correct it. When Kentucky Central Insurance, an extremely influential company in Lexington, started to crumble, Jim was the one who told us about it.

Both of them knew how to capture personalities and make those personalities come through in print.

I know first hand about their talents. Jim and Byron wrote feature stories about me.

Jim’s 1989 feature connected on every level. He was able to explain my complicated business and my complicated personality in a way that any reader could understand. Shortly after his feature, I wound up in Forbes, Financial Planning and several other big time magazines. My business became a national business because Jim Jordan could tell my story better than I could.

Byron Crawford wrote a column about my mid-life move back into journalism. He tied it to a column I wrote about two of my high school history teachers. And, in a way, that got me and my column on the map.

There is a great story in every person. Byron Crawford and Jim Jordan understood that.

Like former Comment on Kentucky host, Al Smith, Byron became my mentor. Byron said people on the far extremes of the political spectrum might make the most noise, but don’t represent what Middle America is thinking.

It’s tempting to play to the extremes since they are yelling the loudest. Byron reminded me that they don’t represent common thought.

In days like now, where you have Rush, O’Reilly and Ann Coulter on one side, and Keith Olberman on the other, it’s easy to forget that there is middle. The fastest way to get attention is to make lots of noise. Byron and Jim never operated by that principle.

I’ve always appreciated what Byron, Jim and Al Smith have done to push my career along. The don’t want me to pay them back. They want me to find and mentor the next generation of great journalists.

I’m a big fan of Samantha Swindler, the editor of the Corbin newspaper, and of Stephenie Steitzer at Byron’s old paper, the Courier-Journal. I see the journalistic fire in both and I do what I can to help them.

I’m hoping that when they stop writing, many years in the future, that the first question that comes up will be “Who’s going to fill their shoes?”

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Kentucky. He is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery. You can write to Don at or read his award winning, syndicated column at McNay is Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stop the Financial Services "Super Czar"

Stop the Financial “Super Czar”

May God bless and keep the Czar...far away from us!

-Fiddler on the Roof

There has been talk about appointing a new “systemic risk regulator.”

This “Super Czar” would oversee all of the financial services industry.

We had a “Super Czar” last year. His name was Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

“Hank” Paulson came to Congress with a two page proposal. He asked for $700 billion in bailout money and unlimited power to spend it any way he pleased.

If that is how a Czar acts, I don’t want another one.

After some hearings and two votes, Congress gave him what he asked for.

Now we are spending billions to clean up mistakes that “Hank” made. AIG is one of them.

We don’t need a super regulator. We don’t need a super anything.

I don’t agree with FDIC Chief Shelia Bair, who is strongly promoting the super regulator concept, but she said something that I wholeheartedly buy into: We need companies that are not “too big to fail.”

I don’t want an unelected bureaucrat to have nearly as much power as the President of the United States.

I can vote a President out of office. I can’t get rid of a federal bureaucrat that easily.

If someone is going to control my financial future, I want to be able to hire and fire them.

Our founding fathers set up a system where Congress and the President of the United States were in charge.

I’ve read the constitution many times and I’ve never seen any mention of systemic risk regulators or “Super Czars.”

If you read the Declaration of Independence, you can see that the founding fathers did not like the concept of government without representation.

I don’t like it either.

For many years, we had a system that worked. Banks did banking, insurance companies sold insurance and brokerage houses handled stocks and bonds

Then everyone got greedy. They all got into each other’s businesses.

I can’t find one example of a company that did it well.

If you look at the Wall Street companies going broke, most did well in their core businesses. When they got into unchartered waters, they screwed up.

AIG is a classic example. Its insurance companies are regulated by state insurance commissioners. AIG’s insurance companies are sound and maintain high ratings. The state commissioners keep a close eye on them.

AIG insurance companies were part of a larger company with a “financial products” division. The financial products division was unregulated, lost billions of dollars, needed a couple of taxpayer bailouts, and its executives are now trying to collect $165 million in “performance bonuses.”

For several decades, AIG would have been prohibited from forming a “financial products” division. It didn’t happen until 1999.

No financial products division, no AIG bailout. No billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain.

There was a second chance to fix things.

When AIG came to Washtington looking for a bailout last year, the simplest solution would have been to let the financial products division fail and let the AIG insurance companies go on.

If the financial products division had gone down, they wouldn’t be taking a $165 million bonus. We also would have saved billions in bailout money.

Our “Super Czar” Hank Paulson, let them stay in business.

I have not had a lot of faith in how Washington has handled itself. There has been a trend for two decades for “bigger and better.” That is how we wound up with companies that considered “too big to fail”

The AIG bonuses has been a landmark for the American people making Washington do something they didn’t want to do . A lot of officials in Washington and on Wall Street would have been happy to let the bonuses be paid quietly. The current Treasury Secretary was for the idea.

The public is mad and starting to pay attention. . The voice of the average American is being heard by its elected officials.

I doubt that voice would get the same attention from an unelected “Super Czar.”

Our founding fathers built the country on the idea of representative government.

Before Washington creates another layer of bureaucracy between itself and the American people, our leaders might want to go back and read the documents that created our country.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Kentucky. He is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery. You can write to Don at or read his award winning, syndicated column at McNay is Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Powerball Jack and The Wall Street Bailouts Jack and the Wall Street Bailouts

I just look at myself to find
I've learned the hard way every time

- Jim Croce

For 27 years, I’ve worked with people who receive large sums. I also wrote a book about lottery winners.

Just like the current crowd on Wall Street, the majority of people who get a large sum of money blow through it in a short period of time.

The key question in both cases is: Why?

It’s easy to figure out Wall Street. Greed and ego dominate. The compensation system was set up to pay incredible bonuses for short term results.

Ego and “showing off” can be a problem for lottery winners, but they are not motivated by greed. The winnings usually bring them from poverty to wealth. The hard job is for them to hang on to what they have.

Hanging on to what you have should not be a hard job. However, it’s been said that roughly 90% of lottery winners run through their money in five years or less.

Although Wall Street is now running through millions in five seconds or less, they formerly had a good track record for a long time.

Somewhere along the way, Wall Street became the financial version of “Powerball” Jack Whitaker.

Jack is the Hurricane, West Virginia, man who won a $290 million Powerball in 2002 and said he was “cleaned out” four years later.

Along the way, his wife left him. He was sued hundreds of times. His granddaughter died of a drug overdose and he was robbed of $600,000 in cash that he brought to a strip club.

I thought Jack was way out of control until I saw the people at AIG and Citigroup. A more refined version of avarice, but the same out of control factor.

There are other parallels with Powerball Jack and the people on Wall Street. Both thought that the money would never run out. Jack had $290 million. Wall Street companies were “too big too fail.”

Both were subject to external pressures. The first thing that anyone getting a large sum of money should do is to keep that news to himself. As my late father, a professional gambler, said, “Don’t be flashing your roll in public.”

Jack won on Christmas Day of 2002. He immediately held a news conference. The story was carried around the world. Everyone with a hard luck story found his way to Jack’s door.

He found the pleas of strippers and liquor store owners to be particularly compelling.

When John Thain at Merrill Lynch dropped over a million dollars decorating his office, he was obviously compelled to “flash his roll” in public.

Powerball Jack had the moral high ground on AIG and the gang on Wall Street. He did a lot of stupid stuff, but it was with his own money.

Wall Street was using money that should have gone back to their stockholders. After blowing that, they are using taxpayer’s money.

There are ways to keep people from blowing through a lottery jackpot. People can set up a trust and not draw publicity to themselves. They should take the payments over a period of years or a lifetime. They should make a budget and not deviate from it.

I never liked all the fancy products that Wall Street was peddling. They seemed too risky, especially for people who are getting a “once in a lifetime” lump sum.

The goal is hanging onto the money for the rest of their lives. The best strategy is simple. Put some money in the bank, get monthly income from an immediate annuity, and pay off all debt.

Basically, the same thing our parents and grandparents did when they retired. They wanted to live out their days without stress.

It was a pretty good plan. You don’t see foreclosures on houses with paid off mortgages.

Some would try to move my clients to the risky stuff that Wall Street offered.

The strategies were complicated and hard to understand. My dad once asked me, ‘Why is options trading legal and betting on the Bengals illegal?” I didn’t have a good answer.

Dad didn’t live long enough to see stuff like credit swaps and mortgage backed derivatives. He made his money gambling. But he kept it in a local bank.

Which is not such a bad idea.

The key to preserving a lump sum is to put a number of “buffers” and controls in place to keep people from going crazy. You don’t want them to have too much freedom.

Powerball Jack is the poster child for what too much freedom can do to you.

It’s time Wall Street learned the same lesson.

If the Wall Street compensation system was based on long term returns to shareholders, instead of annual bonuses, it would control some of the craziness. If we made corporate officers personally liable for losses, like those of us on Main Street are, there would be more reasonability and responsibility.

If we made CEO’s pay for their own office decorations and private jets, you wouldn’t see any more $40,000 toilets.

If the people on Wall Street knew that no one would ever be there to bail them out, ever again, they would be less inclined to gamble with instruments they don’t really understand.

After Powerball Jack became the object of ridicule, he seemed to have learned his lesson. The people of Wall Street have become the object of ridicule, too. Maybe they can learn a lesson in humility from Jack.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Kentucky. He is the author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You When The Lottery. You can write to Don at or read his award winning, syndicated column at McNay is Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.