My partner Albie Del Favero's announcement this week that he would be moving on to pursue other options at the end of the year didn't exactly surprise those of us who know him. Albie is an unabashed "entrepreneur": driven, determined, dogged, wildly imaginative, money-focused, customer-centric. Albie is a start-up guy, a leader who targets the hill, marshals the troops in that direction, and then views the unfolding carnage with a developing taste for which battle to pick next. The ongoing day-to-day tasks of operating this newspaper, I assume, haven't filled Albie's heart with much meaning. (But I would hasten to add that he isn't half bad at that, despite what he would probably say about himself.)
I have many fond memories of my business partner, to whom, it's fair to say, I've been wedded for 15 years. Ask any two (or three or four) people who have owned businesses together, and they'll tell you it's much like a marriage. You get divorced, and the business will collapse. You get along, and it'll thrive. Albie and I have always gotten alongso well, in fact, that ours would rival any editor-publisher relationship. The synergy has been uncanny, often fueled by a shared passion for excellent journalism, a love of making money and a taste for freshly stirred martinis.
These three things kept us in business together a long time, though Albie and I are utterly different people who have had completely different responsibilities. Many things he was, I was not. I rarely lose my temper, but when Albie's three-hole punch doesn't work, he fast-balls it into a wall. The man's relentless honesty never leaves you in doubt about where he stands. An editor has to like that. A business partner, meanwhile, loves it. I have never once, considering that he runs the numbers here, have had to worry about the money going somewhere it wasn't supposed to go. He and I have been through many deals, and I believe so deeply in his honesty that I can't even do it justice with words. Even if I occasionally disagree with him, I trust him wholly. I can say that about few people.
Albie is an editor's dream publisher. A typical publisher worries about placating advertisers, or pissing off friends, or antagonizing those in power. But often, after we run something, Albie's remark is far from ordinary. "I thought you could have been harder," he'll say. I blanch, frankly, to think what being "harder" would have meant some of those times.
Albie has never minded a scrape, and we've gotten him in plenty. I remember sitting with him, investigative reporter Willy Stern and our libel attorney, John Williams, and telling Albie point-blank that if we published what we were about to publish about Baptist Hospital CEO David Stringfield, we would almost certainly be sued for libel. I felt an obligation to tell him that; he and I, at the time, owned 100 percent of the paper.
"I don't have a problem," he said. He wasn't just talking. He really didn't mind taking a risk like that at all. Having your own newspaper is only for the brave of heart sometimes, and I don't think the man has a frightened nerve ending in his body when it comes to taking people on.
Albie has always had a deep and abiding vision about what this newspaper could accomplish. When he and his young family were living only a block from us in the Hillsboro-West End area, I went over one day to borrow his lawnmower. Naturally, that led to a martini. He and his family had just moved into the house, and his martini shaker was still in a box somewhere. So he poured what seemed like a half bottle of vodka in a Mason jar, threw in a few cubes and started shaking. By then, my wife Laura Lee had come over, and we all sat out back. I remember this as being in, say, the first three months of the Scene's existence, when there were weeks when survival was far from certain.
He and I finished the jar, and then Albie said something I'll never forget: "You know, what people are talking about now are the individual stories we're running. But this paper's got a shot at really changing this city."
It wasn't just the martini talking. You always got it, my friend.