Dumb luck. Criminal charges. Six marriages. A not-quite Six Sigma management approach that left a successor grumbling about a big cleanup job.
These elements from the life of Andrew McKelvey, founder of the firm that became Monster Worldwide, have been much written about in the years leading up to and the weeks following his death last November at 74 from pancreatic cancer. Even if these unflattering bits gave an accurate picture of McKelvey, the lessons to entrepreneurs would be invaluable. But there's more to McKelvey's life -- much of it spent encouraging, and giving to, others and building a company that survived the dot-com crash to dominate its industry.
The mention here of providing lessons is more than the usual rhetorical device. The foundation McKelvey left behind gives $10,000-a-year college scholarships every year to scores of students who started businesses in high school. And in building Monster, McKelvey gave unusually wide latitude -- and often ownership stakes -- to managers, encouraging them as entrepreneurs.
"He created dozens, if not hundreds, of millionaires," says George Eisele, who got financing from McKelvey to start a yellow-pages publisher and later became a Monster board member.
McKelvey made his mark with a company called TMP, which placed ads for other companies in the yellow pages. He acquired rivals until he controlled close to one-third of that industry.
McKelvey pressed into help-wanted advertising, brokering ads between employers and newspapers and gobbling up other agencies that did the same. One of the companies he acquired in the mid-'90s owned a website, The Monster Board. Initially, McKelvey -- and much is made of this -- wasn't interested. But Monster's creator, Jeff Taylor, talked him into it. McKelvey was converted.
He wasn't all work. "In the '80s, he was taking six- to eight-week vacations in the summer," says his son Stuart McKelvey. When the kids were young and their parents divorced, McKelvey commuted from New York to Miami, where Stuart and his siblings lived. They would bowl, go-cart, water-ski. McKelvey bought ever-bigger boats.
TMP went public and later took the name Monster. McKelvey was worth $2 billion at one point. Acquisitions got bigger. The dot-com crash came, and stuff got sold off, but Monster prospered.
Later, Monster got caught up in the options-backdating scandal. McKelvey didn't receive any options, but he faced criminal charges as CEO. In 2006, a year after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he resigned; he later entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors.
Before he died, McKelvey founded Health Diagnostics, No. 269 on last year's Inc. 500. At times, he would check out of the hospital and go to the office the next day. The family scattered his ashes off the Bahamas, a favorite playground.