Ex-Football Star, Nasdaq Head Clash
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Former New York Giant Philip J. McConkey relied on the word of Frank G. Zarb, chairman and chief executive of the Nasdaq Stock Market’s parent company, and it cost him millions of dollars, his lawyer told an Essex County jury on Thursday.
McConkey never would have taken a job in 1996 at the insurance brokerage chaired by Zarb, Alexander & Alexander Services Inc., if Zarb had admitted it was in talks to be sold to Aon Corp., lawyer Neil Mullin said as he opened a trial stemming from McConkey’s lawsuit.
Zarb, now head of the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc., told McConkey, ``We’re the predator, not the prey,″ Mullin said.
Aon, a large Chicago brokerage, did buy A&A and eventually fired McConkey.
A lawyer for Zarb and Aon, however, said that Aon had no interest in A&A at the time McConkey spoke to Zarb. Aon bought the company later because A&A’s price had declined, making it vulnerable during a time of great consolidation in the insurance brokerage industry, said lawyer Davis Carr.
``Our case is simple. It’s about a man who wants to take the statement, ‘We’re the predator, not the prey,’ and turn it into a guarantee of lifetime employment,″ Carr told the jury.
McConkey, 42, is expected to be the first witness when the trial resumes on Monday. He is seeking $10 million in damages, according to Mullin.
As a wide receiver with the Giants from 1984-88, he is best known for a touchdown catch in the Super Bowl XXI win over Denver.
McConkey said he now sells software for Computer Concepts of Bohemia, N.Y., and also solicits investors for Internet and pharmaceutical projects.
In 1995, McConkey was working at a brokerage, Ross & Company Insurance in Fairfield, when a headhunter recruited him for A&A, Mullin said.
Aware of rumors that Aon was going to buy A&A, he insisted on speaking with Zarb, and they met April 17, 1996, at Zarb’s New York office.
``Mr. Zarb looked at him and said those rumors are untrue,″ Mullin said.
According to documents Zarb filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he had been discussing a sale with Aon chairman Patrick G. Ryan from January 1996 to May 1996, Mullin said.
Carr said, however, ``As of April 1996, Aon had not made an offer to buy A&A, nor had any other company.″
But as the industry saw a series of mergers that reduced the number of big brokerages from 11 to three, Carr said, A&A ``was like everyone else is this business, they were looking to make business combinations to survive.″
In May 1996, McConkey became an A&A vice president, directing the Lyndhurst office. He had a salary of $210,000, an annual bonus of $100,000, and an expected annual commission of $3 million to $5 million, Mullin said.
In Carr’s view, the final straw for A&A came in October 1996, when Aon acquired a company that A&A was also seeking to buy. A&A’s stock subsequently declined, leaving A&A more vulnerable to a purchase.
Aon then bought A&A in December 1996 for $1.2 billion. McConkey was fired in March 1997 because he was not performing his job well, Carr said.
The jury trial before state Superior Court Judge Kenneth R. Stein is expected to conclude about mid-December.