The Ambush at Sheridan Springs
Posted by: mibagents -- July 29, 2014
This is only a small excerpt of a very long but interesting blog article by Jon Peterson. The rest is linked at the bottom of this page. Peterson maintains a blog called "Playing at the World" which is a chronicle of the history of gaming. This article, well timed with Gary Gygax's birthday, is about how Gygax lost control of TSR and Dungeons and Dragons to slick business moves and down right deceitful backroom deals. A loss of innocence for the young hobby and it's spearhead company.
"In the fall of 1985, Gary Gygax was the most famous and powerful figure in hobby gaming. He was President and Chief Executive Officer of TSR, Inc., the company that published Dungeons & Dragons. Gygax had personally directed the development of the game for the last decade, most recently producing new titles for its Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line: earlier in 1985, he was the lead on Unearthed Arcana, and in the fall they were putting the finishing touches on his Oriental Adventures. He had been featured in People magazine, and appeared on national television. His name and his game seemed inseparable.
October 22 was a Tuesday, and Gygax was wrapping up another day at TSR corporate headquarters on Sheridan Springs Road in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His last appointment was a board meeting just after close of business; with 1,371 shares of stock, he held controlling interest in the company, and thus chaired the board. The meeting started late, at quarter past five. Five of the company’s six directors were present: two of the independent directors, James Huber and Wesley Sommer, and then the three principal shareholders: Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume. Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance. Though they held a substantial stake in the company—as a family, nearly one thousand shares total—they had lost their executive positions at TSR following a reorganization the previous year.
The board proceeded to review the company’s turbulent negotiations with the American National Bank before moving on to the ostensible purpose of the meeting, a discussion regarding TSR’s royalty payments to authors. In recent internal memos, Gygax had insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for works authored rather than assigning them to TSR; in the eyes of other directors, this was in violation of existing contracts. During the course of this discussion, Gygax mused that since it seemed the board would find it easier to afford him these privileges if he were not an employee, perhaps he should just resign.
So on October 22, Gary Gygax walked into an ambush. Ignorant of Williams’s newfound stake in TSR, he could only watch in amazement as the board stripped him of his job and appointed Williams his successor. As the final action of the meeting, the Board moved to grant Gygax a severance package “consistent with what has been done in the past,” presumably a reference to the package extended to the Blumes. Kevin Blume seconded this motion. The severance package was approved by the board, and the meeting adjourned at quarter of seven. In only ninety minutes, Gygax watched control of TSR transfer to a non-gamer."
For the full article, including some interesting photo copies of official documents, follow this link: