The late Karl Eller, former CEO Circle K Corporation and Combined Communications.
Mr. Eller has a life story worth a study. His father left his mother and his two siblings when Mr. Eller was five years old. He began his business life with a billboard company and then bought Circle K. Without retail experience, that chain of gas stations and retail stores went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Mr. Eller was 61 years old at the time and he had $100 million in debt from the retail foray due to personal guarantees. Rather than declare bankruptcy he told his creditors that he would pay them back. Some creditors wanted cash straight away, and he paid them 10 cents on the dollar. The remaining creditors who hung in there with him were paid in full. He was able to do so because he started another billboard company, which he eventually sold to Clear Channel for over $1 billion.
Mr. Eller wrote a book called, “Integrity Is All You’ve Got.” He repaid his creditors because, as he explained, he wanted to preserve his reputation. The Barometer served with Mr. Eller on a corporate board — he never missed a meeting. He had his detractors. The grass didn’t grow where Al Neuharth spat after talking about Mr. Eller, wheeler-dealer. But, he was married to Stevie for 66 years. On balance, this man left this life with honor. RIP.