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lorraine williams (includes opinions from Gygax et al)

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Fifth Element

First Post
The Merciful said:
I do know Gygax has mentioned this in his QA threads here on EN, but I can't recal if he stated that was something he heard Williams say, or if it was all hearsay to him too. :\
Of course, if all we have is Mr. Grgax's claims of what she said, that's still hearsay itself.
 

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Orius

Adventurer
Ranger REG said:
How are they running the show?

They own WotC, ergo, there will always be those who will blame them, regardless of how misplaced that blame will be.
 

Storm Raven

First Post
prosfilaes said:
Not if I understand civil law right. The first obligation in civil law is that the two parties make an attempt to resolve the issue. TSR had to send him a letter first.

This is wrong, at least in every jurisdiction in the U.S. with which I am familiar. A cease and desist letter is a courtesy, but not mandatory.

They could have demanded money, but going to court would have cost TSR money and taken time and energy, whereas a C&D is pretty cheap to draft and send. TSR would have had to have been pretty actively stupid, not just foolish, to do more than send him a C&D; heck, even most cut and dried copyright infringements are handled with a C&D.

This is why cease and desist letters are used - they are cheap. Much cheaper than actual litigation. In some cases, an IP holder will send a C&D letter with no intent on following up even if the target doesn't comply, because litigation would be more expensive than it is worth to pursue, but sending the letter is cheap enough to be worthwhile.
 

JoseFreitas

First Post
I remember those years reasonably well, as I was involved with D&D. I met Ms. Williams a few times, my company was publishing OD&D in Portugal back in the late 80's early 90's, and so this sort of makes me an insider, also because I was a good friend of Andre Moullin (and still am, after all these years he's been away from the hobby) who used to be licensing and foreign sales VP at the time at TSR.

No one comes clean out of that story, as is usual, but some people behaved worse than others. Gary Gygax wasn't the greatest manager in the world, and he has admitted that. Few people may remember that the first great wave of layoffs was in the early 80's and orchestrated by EGG, since they had pretty much let the company grow too fast, hired too many people, let expenses loose and so on. The Blumes seem to have been reasonable managers, but worrying mostly about their money. The company had grown too much, and those that were creative couldn't run a company that had grown from 3 or 4 to 100 plus, and those that could were too blinded by their new found wealth to actually care too much. Plus, there were enough problems between the two parties to insure that it would be hard to run TSR under any circumstances. A "sanitized" version of this can be read in the 25th Anniversary Box.

Mr. Moullin and Ms. Williams were two of the various people EGG brought over into TSR to help restructure it. She used then a bunch of legal, but (IMO) not so morally justifiable ways to wrest control of the company from EGG, and the fact she was a well-known public figure from a well-known family seems to have helped her in the lawsuits and legal proceedings (in Wisconsin). Most of this is stuff I heard from Andre Moullin, and as usual there are sides to every story, so take with the usual grain of salt. There seems to have been serious and real issues with EGG's time when he was in California, ie. re. whether he should have been paid for all of it and whether it was all company time, and so on. Probably this was only used as excuse, but it was real.

But I am quite convinced that Ms. Williams really ran the company to the best of her abilities, which were very good, but this meant that she ran it to benefit herself to the exclusion of anyone else, employees included. There are some very fine lines re. ethical issues, but one might very well question the continued release and overprinting of a game that was really selling close to zero, while paying yourself royalties advances based on 60% of the printruns. And since I was a partner of a company that distributes RPGs and MtG and WotC products in general in Spain, Portugal and Brasil, and I was there when WotC bought TSR, and talked to pretty much everyone, including Peter Adkinson, I was told there were TONS of unsold Buck Rogers in the 25th Century RPG in the warehouses.... And at the same time that Ms. Williams got paid a really good salary, employees were underpaid, given bad equipment to work on things, etc.... Just read Ryan Dancey's accounts of what he found when he went and audited TSR for WotC before they bought it.

So, in the end Ms. Williams made money throughout the entire period, as the best paid employee there, got tons of royalties and eventually sold the company for cash in hand and no debts to her (for millions of $). I would say she managed the company just as she wanted to and accomplished most of her goals. Also, she was independently wealthy before this entire episode of her life.

These are my opinions based on stuff I heard from a lot of the insiders, they may not be entirely true and as usual one's perception of reality is skewed by the people we know, those we call friends and so on. To me, Ms. Williams was always unfailingly nice and polite, even though the 2000 or 3000$ royalties per year my company was sending her were probably close to insignificant. But she did despise gamers in general and made no secret of this. I remember her throwing a fit at GenCon (92 or 93, can't remember) because some girls were in a bikini chain mail suit, and she was on a roll and badmouthed and cursed gamers (loudly!) for at least ten minutes.

I think, because I was there, that gamers and fans already hated her long before any news of TSRs mismanagement were known. And to most of us, unlike the new generation, Gygax was a sort of hero. Mind you, I was under no illusions about his qualities as a manager, but I know for a fact that you can run a company efficiently and still be nice to the creators, as WotC (under the original shareholders) proved in the way they treated Dave Arneson, for instance.

Best
 


JoseFreitas

First Post
Thanks, Piratecat.

On the other hand, now that I think of it (over lkunch, I just had veal scallopini at the local Italian, yummy), I have to concede the fact that TSR was probably managed OK through 93 or 94. Before that, it was in good cash flow, had clear, good lines of production and releases, etc... CCGs seem to have unbalanced the whole hooby field, BUT I have to say that Spellfire seems to have been quite successful initially, and perhaps also Dragon Dice. The thing, though, is that from that point on, TSR just wasn't the industry "leader" in the sense of initiator of ideas and trends. It had to run after the competition and probably did just too much stuff spreading itself too thin. I am not 100% sure that the final mismanagement can be attributed solely to Ms. Williams. Perhaps any other manager might have had difficulties.

She once joked (in front of me) that the gaming industry was actually much worse than the entertainment licensing industry, because in licensing you could always credibly "pretend" that you knew what the fans wanted without ever speaking to one of them, whereas in the gaming industry you actually had to go and actually speak with "the disgusting little idiots". (almost sure these were the actual words)
 

Darkwolf71

First Post
Fifth Element said:
Of course, if all we have is Mr. Grgax's claims of what she said, that's still hearsay itself.
Things like this spark my need to nit-pick. If he heard her say something, then his passing it on would be a first-hand account. If he heard from 'someone else' that she said it then you would call it hearsay.

Jose,

Nice tale. It's interesting to read something from someone who witnessed parts of this, yet is still an 'outsider' to the events themselves.
 

Delta

First Post
Mistwell said:
... grandson of the creator of Buck Rogers ...

Hey, I didn't know that. Guess that explains the mania for Buck Rogers in those days. I wonder if they were additionally incented by some kind of licensing fee back to the family.
 


Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
To the best of my knowledge and belief Lorraine Williams has no redeeming qualities.

Here are a few choice examples of her conduct:

She set out to get me because I said aloud in her presence that when the financial difficulties of 1984 were finally cleared up I intended to give employees shares fo stock and eventually make the corporation employee owned. She was overheard to mutter: "Over my dead body. This company is going to be my retirement."

CBS dropped the D&D Cartoon Show spinnoff that was in pre-production with three approved scripts, and Edgar Gross dropped negotiations for having John Boorman direct a D&D-game-based major motion picture when Williams took over the company because her reputation in the entertainment industry is what it is.

She sued her own brother, Flint Dille.

Her srep-daughter emailed me stating what a witch Lorraine wasm how she had ruined her life, and comisserating with me. Yes. I have kept that email.

Happy New Year,
Gary
 

The Grumpy Celt

First Post
JoseFreitas said:
...but this meant that she ran it to benefit herself to the exclusion of anyone else, employees included...

Col_Pladoh said:
...She was overheard to mutter: "Over my dead body. This company is going to be my retirement."...

She increasingly sounds like a dime-store take on Jeffrey Skilling, minus the large scale public scrutiny and trial. Both are apparently unpleasant people who ran a company like a sociopath, had contempt for customer and employees and investors and walked away with a lot of money.

Col_Pladoh said:
Her step-daughter...

Wait, wait, wait, wait... you mean some one married her? Was it willingly?
 

Fifth Element

First Post
Darkwolf71 said:
Things like this spark my need to nit-pick. If he heard her say something, then his passing it on would be a first-hand account. If he heard from 'someone else' that she said it then you would call it hearsay.
I don't think that's accurate. But then there's really two things going on. Whether Ms. Williams said something, and whether what she said was accurate. A comment from Mr. Gygax could provide evidence of one, but not the other. It would be hearsay with respect to establishing the truth of what was said.
 

TerraDave

5ever
Col Pladoh and Mr. Freitas: I would also like to add my thanks.

I think the OP has the answer to his original question...

One thing about this thread is that it is one of the few (or only?) on ENWorld to touch on my area of profesional expertise (though I should note I am not a lawyer per se).

No only was Buck Rogers just a bad idea, it was a related party transaction used to "tunnel" money out of TSR. On top of other salary and benefits that may have been excessive given her "contribution" to the bottom line of the company. These could have certainly violated her legal duties to other shareholders.

But where there any? Did she just hurt the Blume brothers (there is an irony here)? I should note that this kind of behavior, taking to extreme, will also hurt other contractual parties, and in theory she could be personally liable (but this is hard to show in practice).

Anyways, that is just a little profesional speculation.

But whether or not we should hate Lorraine Williams, it is now pretty clear she hated us.
 

Fifth Element

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Her srep-daughter emailed me stating what a witch Lorraine wasm how she had ruined her life, and comisserating with me. Yes. I have kept that email.
For example, this is hearsay with respect to accuracy. The assertion that the step-daughter made this claim is supported. But simply having such an email does nothing to support whether Ms. Williams actually ruined her step-daughter's life. No first-hand knowledge is gained by receiving an email about it.
 


Fifth Element

First Post
TerraDave said:
No only was Buck Rogers just a bad idea, it was a related party transaction used to "tunnel" money out of TSR. On top of other salary and benefits that may have been excessive given her "contribution" to the bottom line of the company. These could have certainly violated her legal duties to other shareholders.
True, but since we don't have any information as to the quantum of any of these things, it's certainly hard to say if they were excessive.
 

Darkwolf71

First Post
Fifth Element said:
For example, this is hearsay with respect to accuracy.
[Inago]I do not think that word means what you think it means.[/Inago]

Hearsay is information from an unknown or uncertain source. It has nothing to do with the accuracy of the information in question. While hearsay is far more likely to be innaccurate, it is also quite possible for it to be true.

You can question the accuracy of Gary's statement for many reasons, time since occurrence, age (nothing personal Gary ;)), or even pre-existing animosity. That's all fine. You cannot, however question the source. We all see that it was in fact Col_Playdoh who said that he recieved this email. The only thing you could question is the existence of said email. In which case you are not calling it hearsay, you are calling it a lie.
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
Since the original poster has their answer, including opinions from several folks who knew her personally, I'm going to close this thread. It makes us a little uncomfortable because it treads closely on EN World's "don't insult people" policy -- although some of this is important D&D history that's worth knowing.

I'll be placing a copy of this thread in our archives.
 

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