Colorful correspondence between Southwest Airlines chairman Herbert Kelleher and Stevens Aviation VP Stephen D. Townes.
As you may have heard, Stevens Aviation chairman Kurt Herwald won his arm-wrestling match with Southwest Airlines chairman Herbert Kelleher in the Dallas Sportatorium ("home of big-time wrestling") on March 20. The match, originally called to determine which company would have rights to the slogan "Plane Smart," proved something of an anticlimax, since the two sides had worked out an agreement beforehand. For my money, the best part of the whole affair was the correspondence leading up to it. Here are some excerpts:
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January 2, 1992
Dear Mr. Kelleher: We LOVE your new ads that use the clever, creative, effective "Plane Smart" theme! We can testify to its effectiveness since we've been using it in our own ads for a long time. In the true fun-loving spirit on which Southwest Airlines was founded, we challenge you to a duel to see who gets to keep "Plane Smart" -- big ol' Southwest or little bitty Stevens. (Please -- no lawyers!) We trust that you accept this challenge in the spirit intended. . . . No litigiousness implied at all. We challenge you to a sleeves-up, best-two-out-of-three arm-wrestling match between you and our chairman, at high noon on Monday, January 27, 1992. . . .
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Stephen D. Townes
P.S. Our chairman is a burly 38-year-old former weight lifter who can bench press a King Air -- or something like that. . . .
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January 21, 1992
Dear Mr. Townes: Our chairman can bench press a quart of Wild Turkey and five packs of cigarettes a day. He is also a fearsome competitor who resorts to kicking, biting, gouging, scratching, and hair pulling in order to win. When really pressed, he has also been known to beg, plead, whine, and sob piteously. Can your pusillanimous little wimp of a chairman stand up against the martial valor of our giant?
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Herbert D. Kelleher
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January 31, 1992
Dear Mr. Kelleher: Our valiant chairman, Kurt Herwald . . . will set a date with you soon for the showdown of the century. By the way, what does pusillanimous mean?