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How Not to Fire Up Your Banker

In 1930, Motorola founder Paul Galvin needed a banker to back his production of car radios. Unfortunately, the radio he installed in the banker's car went up in flames.

Déjà Vu

Raising capital was a constant source of concern for Motorola founder Paul Galvin, whose aim, in 1930, was to make his company the first to mass-produce car radios. Trying to coax money out of a hesitant banker, Galvin lit upon the idea of installing a radio in his car.

On the day of the loan closing, Galvin met in his office with the banker and several other bank officers while, outside, two of Galvin's employees, Elmer Wavering and Hank Saunders, feverishly worked on the banker's new Packard. Radio installation at that time wasn't a simple process: it entailed partially dismantling the dashboard, ripping apart the roof's interior, and cutting holes in the floor for clunky batteries.

"When the installation was complete, the crew stood by grinning in triumph as the radio was turned on and worked perfectly," wrote Harry Mark Petrakis, a Galvin biographer. "The bankers swept away in a cloud of good will."

As the workers packed up their tools, they gave little thought to the passing wail of a fire engine--until they learned that a Packard had gone up in flames only a few blocks away.

Galvin and his crew arrived at the scene just in time to see firemen hosing down the smoldering remains of the banker's car, whose occupants were unharmed but irate. "We were never sure just what caused it," recalled Saunders, "but the timing was humiliating."

Last updated: Dec 1, 1997

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