Ueberroth laughed and then exhibited one of the qualities the search team was looking for—decisiveness. He said no.
"Peter is a forceful, driving person who doesn't tolerate indecision," says Howard Allen, president of Southern California Edison and a member of the SCCOG. "The fact that he had started his own company from scratch, and had prospered in a very tough business, added to his stature. We wanted someone to run the Games; we didn't want the Games to run us."
At the behest of Allen and other notable arm-twisters, Ueberroth began to rethink his decision. Matching himself against the profile of the ideal presidential candidate drawn up by the selection committee, he allowed, "Well, I was between the ages of 40 and 55. I did live in the Los Angeles area. I loved sports. I was chairman of a company with revenues of more than $100 million. I was fiscally conservative. I had international experience, had traveled widely and met with heads of state." Finally, Ueberroth concluded that perhaps the profile was "sort of like me."
Ginny Ueberroth begs to differ. "No, it wasn't like him," she says. "It was him."
Fate had obviously called. Ueberroth accepted the job and immediately purchased all the reports of the previous Olympic organizing committees dating back to the 1932 Games—28 volumes in all, each roughly the size of the L.A. phone book.
Ueberroth adjudged the expense side of all the reports "a disaster." But in them he also saw the "financial window" that would light the way to a debt-free Olympics. He says, "I found that if you took one item, one line off the cost of an Olympics—construction—they all would've made money."
Emerging from his studies in the spring of 1979, Ueberroth discovered that the LAOOC didn't have buck one in the bank. "In fact, it didn't have a bank account," he says, "and there was no office, no desk or a phone. Nothing. So I went to the bank, took $100 out of my pocket, opened an account and called it the LAOOC account." Then, after taking office space in the Alcoa Towers at Century City, he arrived at the doors of the LAOOC's new headquarters on his first official day on the job and his key didn't fit. The locks had been changed. Alas, before signing the final lease, the landlords had run a credit check on the dreamers who were going to try to fashion Olympic Games out of the thinnest of air and decided that this was one Great Experiment they wanted no part of.
By chance, Ueberroth met two insurance men on the elevator who were vacating their offices with 60 days still remaining on their lease. Sixty days, Ueberroth thought, enough time to get his show on the road and make other leasing arrangements. Was it possible?..."Sure, go ahead, move right in," said one of the insurance men. "We aren't going to be using the space."
Finally if inauspiciously in business, Ueberroth addressed himself to the first and most important matter of business: negotiating the sale of the TV rights. He figured the best way to find out how much money the TV people were willing to give was to find out how much they were going to get. So before consulting with the LAOOC's TV committee, he "went to the other side, the advertising industry, and got three friends to give me low, medium and high projections of what they thought the network's revenues would be for the Olympics."
After working out a composite estimate, which turned out to be uncannily close to ABC's current projection of $475 million in revenues from the sale of more than 3,000 minutes of commercial time at $250,000 for a 30-second prime-time spot, Ueberroth said, "It became evident that there was some margin in there that was probably available to us."