Glenn Schaeffer, president and CFO of Mandalay Resort Group, came to corporate finance only after testing his fiction-writing skills in the MFA program at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop in 1976. But in a class with such budding stars as T.C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, Rita Dove, and Jane Smiley, the then-21-year-old Schaeffer quickly concluded that his own talent was third-rate "at best." With a college minor in economics and a head for numbers, he quit the workshop and returned to his native Los Angeles to pursue a career in business.
After working as a stockbroker, he joined Circus, Circus, a Las Vegas casino, in 1983, and by financing the acquisition or construction of one additional property after another — including Mandalay Bay — helped turn it into one of the country's largest.
Three decades after abandoning the Iowa Writer's Workshop, however, Schaeffer hasn't lost touch with the literary world. He still socializes with some of his former classmates, owns a large collection of first-edition poetry, recently donated $1 million to the workshop for a new annex, and three years ago founded the International Institute of Modern Letters at the University of NevadaLas Vegas to support writers subject to censorship and persecution.
With the help of such literary luminaries as Smiley, Nobel prizewinning Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, American novelist Russell Banks, and Salman Rushdie, the institute so far has provided Sierra Leone poet and novelist Syl Cheney-Coker and Chinese dissident writer, painter, and art critic Er Tai Gao with living quarters, stipends, and an otherwise more-hospitable working environment.
Schaeffer says he first thought of establishing the institute in a more-traditional locale like New York, but that UNLV English professor Richard Wiley talked him into Las Vegas by noting that the unusual location would garner more media attention. "He was right," says Schaeffer.
Maybe Wiley should switch to business, too.
In an era when CFOs are fired for even the appearance of impropriety, DPL Inc. is jolting shareholders with a controversial promotion. The Ohio energy company recently named insider Caroline E. Muhlenkamp, who oversees DPL's troubled $1 billion investment portfolio, to be its fifth CFO in as many years. She replaces Elizabeth M. McCarthy, whose resignation was announced after an acrimonious shareholders' meeting in April.
Although Muhlenkamp, 38, was appointed on an interim basis, shareholders and observers are already questioning why the head of a fund that contributed a 77-cent-per-share loss last year, forced an earnings restatement, and sparked 11 shareholder lawsuits got the spot. Shareholders are further irked by claims that she flies to the company's Dayton headquarters from her Florida home on a corporate-owned jet.
"We find [this appointment] questionable at best," says Ric Marshall, CEO of independent research firm The Corporate Library, which recently rated DPL as having one of the worst boards in America for its lack of stakeholder representation. He speculates the appointment may be part of a larger strategy to give investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. more control of the company. KKR already has access to a 20 percent equity stake and two official board seats.
Meanwhile, DPL has done little to ease shareholder concerns. Company spokesman Jim Prendergast says DPL "has fully disclosed its relationship with KKR and there is no conflict of interest," but he declined to answer questions about Muhlenkamp's background.
"A situation like this makes you really realize how powerless you are as a shareholder," says longtime DPL investor Bob Maxey.
CFOs On The Move
Vaughn Clarke has resigned as CFO of mortgage giant Freddie Mac amid charges of accounting fraud. Martin Bauman, EVP of finance, was elevated to CFO.... Ronald Nelson has joined Cendant Corp. as CFO, after a stint as co-COO at DreamWorks SKG. That frees up former CFO Kevin Sheehan to focus on his duties as chairman and CEO of Cendant's vehicle-services division.... Credit-card issuer Capital One Financial Corp. put Gary Perlin in the top finance job. He replaces Dave Lawson, who returns to his position as CEO of the firm's auto-finance unit.... For more CFOs on the Move, visit www.cfo.com.