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Down By a Penny

The CEO of Highland Properties, one of the foremost richest landowners in Montana, was a gentleman known as Peter A. Hugh. The self-made billionaire was an elderly humble man who gave to many charitable causes, as well as being extremely frugal with his money. He saved every penny and didn’t spend them. For several years, he had made the top of Forbes 100 billionaires in the country. And Highland Properties never had any money problems or scandals until one day recently during the annual corporations meeting.

All of the regional Highland managers in America came to Helena, Montana’s capital and home to the large corporation. They were all greedy, spoiled and had used corrupt means to make extra money. None of them carried wallets; they used their expensive mobile devices to pay for everything they wanted. Hugh’s heart was grieved by all of the economic woes these men caused, staining the name of Highland Properties.

Peter Hugh stood and addressed more than fifty top managers from around the country. He said, “May I have your attention, please!”

Most of the managers stopped talking amongst themselves and turned their attention to Mr. Hugh.

“I hope everyone is doing well and your visit has been pleasant. But, I’m afraid I have some very unpleasant news.”

Everyone began to get nervous. What could this bad news be? They looked at each other with worried faces, never expecting it was they who had caused problems to the company. Highland hadn’t had many problems before.

Mr. Hugh continued. “Mr. Pendleton? Could you come up here?” Robert Pendleton was Highland’s vice president who worked many years for Peter and who he completely trusted. Pendleton held back nothing when it came to good or bad news; his face always appeared stoic in the face of adversity.

“Thank you, Mr. Hugh. I want to tell everyone how glad I am that you came here. But, now, I’ll get to the most recent news. Highland has always been fortunate. Every year, profits have grown by 10 million dollars.” Pendleton glanced around the room at the worried faces of managers. “But, this year we saw a drop in annual money earned. Our total assets for the company last year was a total of $25,897,245,230.35”

Most of the cronies smiled. A nearly cool $26 billion was nothing to sneeze at. One of the managers from Atlanta asked, “So what’s the problem? I can live with that as well as all my colleagues.”

“Yes, but did you know that went down to $25,897,245,225.35 since the last time we met – this day last year?… I want everyone here to do the math.” Pendleton walked to a pen board and with a green marker wrote: “25,897,245,230.35 – 25,897,245,230.34 = one penny.”

“A penny lost!” Pendleton yelled.

Everyone turned to each other and whispered, “A penny… Just a penny?” All of them were trying not to laugh.

Hugh returned to the microphone. “I still have one of the first pennies I ever made. It’s in a small frame in my office. I’m proud of it because I worked hard for it. Does anyone here have a penny?”

The managers looked at one another with surprises on their faces. “Nobody has that kind of money,” one of the managers said as he stood up.

Then, Mr. Hugh said in a low angry tone, “We’re not leaving here until someone here has a penny or else! I know about your criminal activities and have files on every one of you. As of now, I’m dissolving the business.”

The managers grew angry and shouted at him. Hugh and Pendleton walked over to two guards and motioned for them to leave and lock the door behind them until one of the managers could find a penny.

The next day’s paper’s headlines read, “Highland Managers Convention is still in session.”