News » Feature

7-Up vs. Coke, Part 1: From dot-com darling to disaster, the spectacular flameout of Andrew Gladney. Heir to a fortune, Andrew Gladney went from John Burroughs to Yale and came home to found Savvis Inc. Then he squandered it all.



"Though the boundaries of the chase are defined, the pleasures in the pursuit are immeasurable." —A.G.
Epigraph on Andrew Graves Gladney's senior page in the 1980 John Burroughs School yearbook

By last December, Andrew Gladney's losses were piling up: his fancy cars and St. Louis Racquet Club membership, old Yale friendships and custody rights to his sons, aged six and twelve. Gladney hadn't worked in seven years, and the downtown building he'd envisioned making over with million-dollar condos sat mostly vacant and in a shambles.

A veteran of two tours through drug rehab, the former fitness addict had lost weight. His limp, sandy hair, golden in boyhood, was shaggy and ungroomed. When he spoke, it was hard to make out what he was saying.

To many it seemed as though the Clayton native — part owner of Mosaic restaurant, co-founder of Savvis and an heir to the 7-Up soft-drink fortune — was also down to his last dime.

In December the deck stacked against him grew even higher.

On December 3, in the latest chapter of their rancorous divorce, Gladney's ex-wife sought to hold him in contempt of court for failing to pay her $7,700 in back child support.

Two days later he ran a red light at the intersection of Bellefontaine and Dunn roads and smashed his Porsche SUV into a westbound Ford Taurus. When police arrived a little before 1 p.m., they found an apologetic Gladney, penniless but smartly dressed head to toe in brown. "Cashmere," a police report noted.

Gladney's license had been suspended in June; he was also driving without insurance. Three arrest warrants for other traffic violations were outstanding, plus a civil order holding him in contempt of court and requiring that he be immediately placed under arrest.

After an ambulance took the crash victim to Christian Hospital, St. Louis County police took Gladney into custody. The next day, having posted bond for each of the four infractions, he was released.

It was around this time that Frank Gladney got a call from his half-brother. A professor of Slavic languages at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Frank hadn't heard from Andrew in years. He says his brother politely requested a loan, and he turned him down.

On December 7, Andrew Gladney displayed what St. Louis Circuit Court Judge John Garvey would later describe as "disturbing" behavior as he testified in a case involving his business partner, Mosaic chef-owner Claus Schmitz. Gladney's company, Downtown North Development Group, and Mosaic were suing one another. Gladney was seeking to collect unpaid rent; Schmitz claimed, among other allegations, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and negligence. Schmitz also wanted Downtown North, which owns a 15 percent stake in Mosaic, to indemnify him against costs associated with a federal sex-harassment lawsuit against the restaurant.

In the harassment case, which centers on repeated inappropriate and graphic come-ons made to two bartenders, Gladney is not named as a defendant.

But he's the alleged perpetrator.

On December 10, Gladney failed to appear in the courtroom of St. Louis County Circuit Judge John Ross, who had issued the aforementioned contempt-of-court order in a case involving an outstanding debt of more than $300,000. This time Ross called for Gladney's arrest and tacked on a $25,000 cash-only bond.

As it turned out, an FBI investigation would trump the judge's order. On December 14, not long after the lunch hour, federal agents and local police descended on Gladney's Clayton townhome, conducted an eight-hour search of the premises and took Gladney into custody.

A law enforcement source, who is familiar with the case and spoke on the condition that his name not be published, says federal agents encountered Gladney lounging in ripped jeans and a dirty shirt. The source describes Gladney as indignant, "unintelligible, gesturing and grunting, like an animal."

On December 20 the U.S. Attorney's Office indicted Gladney on federal extortion charges. The following day U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Ann Medler declared the defendant a flight risk and a "significant danger to the community" and agreed with prosecutors' request that he be locked up until trial.

And so it was that on December 21, 45-year-old Andrew Gladney lost one of his few remaining privileges: his freedom.

A shiny brass "G" festoons the mailbox outside Andrew Gladney's three-story townhouse at 329 North Central Avenue. A short walk away from Clayton's public library, the property was purchased for $825,000 in 2002 and is technically owned by Gladney's trust fund. Suspended above the bright red front door is a curious accoutrement for this quiet residential enclave just north of Clayton's tidy center: a surveillance camera.

On this cold Tuesday night in January, the trill of high-pitched giggles can be heard through the door. Inside, 38-year-old Susan Wu is on the phone with her husband, who for the past several weeks has called the jail at the Jennings Police Department home.

The government's case against Andrew Gladney, though, is no laughing matter.

According to court documents, between March and November of last year, Gladney sent a series of "threatening and extortionate" e-mails and phone messages to an unnamed acquaintance in Virginia, identified in court papers as "John Doe." "I will beat your fucking ass into a six month ICU party," Gladney allegedly wrote. "I will beat your ass into a Bagdad [sic] style pulp."

And: "You are my enemy for good. Only your death can release you from this sentence."

Federal prosecutors say Gladney demanded that his target wire money in a series of transactions totaling $100,000 to the St. Louis bank account of an unidentified woman, lest he reveal "false and damaging information" to the employer, friends and family of the man.

"You do exactly what I told you to, immediately," Gladney allegedly threatened. "Listen fucker, you go out and get 25K from wherever the fuck you have to and wire it in (Jane Doe's) account today or post back to know when she'll receive it or, I'm going to seriously, week in ICU. Seriously, kick your twisted fucked up little brooding ass.... You've got a beating coming like you've never 'evern' [sic] shuddered to dare to think about."

Though the government does not name the target of Gladney's alleged threats, on June 7 of last year a Henry Wu of Arlington, Virginia, contacted the Clayton Police Department. The reason for the call: extortion, which was alleged to have taken place between March 29 and June 6 and which originated from Gladney's address.

Henry Wu did not respond to voicemail messages requesting comment for this story.

Clayton police referred the case to the FBI. According to a Clayton PD memo, in July of last year an FBI agent notified the department of an alleged domestic disturbance at the Gladneys': A confidential informant told the FBI that Gladney threw a beer bottle at his wife on July 18, and that Susan Wu had a black eye and bruises on her legs the informant felt had been caused by Gladney. The document shows that Wu asked the informant not to leave the house.

Clayton police twice tried to check on Wu, according to the memo, but no one answered the door. On the second occasion an officer saw the blinds of a third-floor window open and close. "It is to be noted that A. Gladney has a sophisticated surveillance system with cameras around his house as well as access to numerous weapons," states the memo.

In a motion to deny bail in the extortion case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Marcus cites Gladney's collection of Asian anime porn, including one DVD that "contains animated graphic depictions of abductions and rapes." He also quotes a letter written by Susan Wu that was seized by the FBI. "I cannot take another episode where Andrew's 'righteous' anger that [sic] flashes into his terrible violence," reads the letter. "At one point, he had tied and gagged me with duct tape. Then terrorized me with descriptions of my torture and death. At one point, Andrew chased me out of the home, holding a gun, telling me that he is going to shoot me in the head."

St. Louis defense attorney Scott Rosenblum, who has handled criminal matters for Gladney in the past, counters in court pleadings that Gladney's DVDs are "lawful material readily available for purchase by the general public." (All three DVDs are listed for sale at online sites specializing in adult-oriented anime.) In regard to Wu's letter, Rosenblum supplies a sworn affidavit in which Wu calls her two-year marriage to Gladney "loving" and asserts that the missive, which was never mailed, was meant for Gladney's cousin, John Ross (no relation to Judge Ross). She wrote it amid "a series of disagreements between Andrew and me concerning his perceptions of my fidelity," Wu stated. "Andrew has never held a gun in his possession during the course of an argument between us or at anytime in anger," the affidavit continues. "In fact, to my knowledge, there has been no gun in our home for months."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Medler dismissed Wu's affidavit, deeming it "of questionable credibility." Noting that Gladney "takes psychotropic medication, specifically Xanax for anxiety," Medler expressed concern that he might also pose a danger to others. "[Gladney] is a known drug abuser, specifically crack cocaine," the judge wrote. Referring to a 2001 incident in which sodomy and assault charges were brought against Gladney and later dropped, Medler called the facts surrounding the case "deeply concerning" and wrote that "[a]lthough the state claimed that it had 'witness credibility' problems, the photographs from that incident show the victim covered with bites and gaping wounds all over her body allegedly inflicted by the defendant." The judge also referred to a confidential informant who had reported seeing Wu "with noticeable bruises, burns and marks on her body which were not typical and appeared to be 'the result of sadistic acts.'"

On this January night, however, Wu doesn't seem to be bruised, burned or marked in any way. Petite and thin, she has long, straight dark hair and doe eyes. When a knock interrupts her giggling, she peers through the blinds and, after a moment's hesitation, opens the door.

"I'm talking to my husband," she says, then adds, "He wants to speak to you."

Talking loudly and so rapidly it's nearly impossible to keep pace, Gladney launches into a diatribe against the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's coverage of his predicament and says he intends to sue the daily for libel. "I don't mind being the subject of an article," he says, then warns that Riverfront Times had better get the facts straight. He instructs the paper to arrange a jailhouse interview, asserting that his jailers will allow any visitor accompanied by an attorney. "They let me see all the attorneys I want!" he shouts.

Told such a scenario would likely be impossible to arrange, Gladney promises to call the paper within the week and conduct an interview by telephone. "Will it be a cover article?" he asks, his tone brightening. "Oh boy, I hope not. But if it is, at least get a picture from my wife!"

In 1921, St. Louisans C.L. Grigg, Edmund Ridgway and Franklin Gladney incorporated the Howdy Corporation, named for the crowd-pleasing soda Howdy Orange, which Grigg had created in 1920. It was a twilight career for all three men: The mixologist Grigg was a longtime advertising man, Ridgway was a financier and Gladney a preeminent patent lawyer who'd argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and penned articles for the Saturday Evening Post.

Carbonated beverages were commonplace by then, and the 52-year-old Grigg was looking for something that could separate his company from the pack. In those days soda makers trumpeted their products as feel-good formulas — Coca-Cola was commonly known to contain traces of the stimulant cocaine. Grigg envisioned a lemon-lime drink spiked with lithium citrate (a chemical touted at the time as a mild antidepressant) that could be marketed as a hangover cure. "Takes the 'ouch' out of grouch," the advertising would eventually boast.

Two days before the stock market crashed in October 1929, Howdy rolled out its newfangled product, Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. Clunky moniker notwithstanding, the drink found a thirsty niche, and not long afterward the company rechristened the beverage 7-Up. The origins of the new name are unknown, but the product proved so successful that Howdy reincorporated in 1936 as the Seven-Up Company, and by the 1940s, 7-Up was the third best-selling soft drink in the world.

Born on a farm in Auburn, about 25 miles north of Wentzville, Franklin Gladney was a self-made man in the purest sense. He went to high school in his own home, studying for state exams in the hope of earning a scholarship to the University of Missouri. Later, while working toward a law degree at Columbia University in New York, he toiled weekends as a trolley conductor on Coney Island. He didn't retire until 1960, when he was 83, and he died a year later a very wealthy man. Family legend has it that Gladney even had the foresight to leave behind a surprise: 1 million dollars in cash, plus some securities, tucked in a safe-deposit box to cover the estate tax tab.

Franklin Gladney's three children would go on to leave their own mark on St. Louis.

Before she died in 2003, Katherine Gladney Wells, known as "Katch," was a devoted benefactor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. A composer, too — nearly every year during the '70s, '80s and much of the '90s, she'd take up the baton and conduct the full orchestra through a piece she'd written for the occasion. Her husband, Ben Wells, went to work for 7-Up in 1938 and rose from advertising copywriter to CEO, a post he held from 1974 until his retirement in 1979.

Lucianna Gladney Ross, meanwhile, is best known as the benefactress of Kimmswick, where she owns numerous acres and since the late 1960s has fought to preserve the town's heritage. Her husband, Walter Ross, was a longtime newsman for the Post-Dispatch.

Franklin Gladney's only son, Graves Gladney, was no less colorful. An illustrator for the 1930s pulp series The Shadow, Gladney was better known around St. Louis as a war hero. He parachuted onto the Normandy beaches with the 82nd Airborne Division on June 6, 1944. He was nationally ranked in trapshooting and reveled in big-game hunting expeditions in Africa. Twice married, Gladney fathered six children by three different women.

"My father was discreet in his associations," recalls Frank Gladney, who didn't meet one of his half-brothers until the boy was in his mid-teens. "But I guess you can't deny that he saw other women."

Gladney says that after trying unsuccessfully to divorce his mother in the late 1950s, his father established residency in Nevada, where it was permissible to extract oneself from a marriage without a spouse's consent. Graves Gladney then married Nancy Meeks, a 26-year-old secretary at the Washington University School of Fine Arts (where he was an instructor until 1961). The couple had two children. Nancy Hope Gladney was born in 1960, Andrew Graves Gladney in 1962.

"Was it a happy family? Well, there were tensions, I suppose," recalls Frank Gladney, who was 26 when Andrew was born. "My father, being a senior person already in his fifties, pushing sixty, maybe left much of the childcare to the mother. Because, you know, he was busy playing golf, shooting guns, playing bridge — things like that. I would not call that a special, tranquil family as far as I knew."

A natural linguist and skilled golfer, articulate and charismatic, Andrew Gladney took after his dad in many ways. But the two didn't have long to get to know one another. On March 24, 1976, at the age of 68, Graves Gladney died during heart surgery. Andrew, his youngest child, was thirteen.

Still, by most standards, Andrew led a charmed youth, highlighted by ski trips to Steamboat Springs and boating vacations in Naples, Florida. As a high school student at John Burroughs, he was the kid who got dropped off each morning in the family Rolls-Royce, won the lead role in several school plays and was a National Merit Semifinalist.

Upon graduation, Andrew left a hint of longing for his late father, concluding his yearbook page with a paraphrase from Mark Twain:

"When I was sixteen, I thought my father was the most stupid person in the world, and when I was twenty-one I thought back and said to myself, 'How could the old man have learned so much in five years?'"

Andrew Gladney's Burroughs classmates predicted that by age 28 he'd be "Chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Company." The joke notwithstanding, the Grigg, Ridgway and Gladney families had sold Coke's rival to Philip Morris in 1978 for a reported $500 million.

Graves Gladney, meanwhile, had left behind a trust that furnished a regular income to his wife, children and grandchildren. In the late 1980s, Andrew acquired partial control of his share from his half-brother, who was one of his trustees.

"He was very much into business investing and I was wrapped up in Slavic linguistics and not very active as his trustee," Frank Gladney says today. "So he made the case: Why should I be the do-nothing of his trust, and why can't he play a role?"

The access gave Andrew Gladney some professional freedom, which he used to trade in the stock market during his early working years in New York and Chicago, fresh out of school. (He'd earned a bachelor's degree in English and history at Yale in 1984 and a master's in business administration four years later at New York University.) In 1993 Gladney and his new bride, the former Cindy Lee, resettled in St. Louis.

One autumn day in 1994, from his office in the "7777" building on Bonhomme Avenue in Clayton, Gladney dialed a computer store asking for a techie who could come over and get his Apple and PC computers talking to each other. The store dispatched a 24-year-old college dropout named Tim Roberts.

Roberts got to work building Gladney a network, and the pair realized they had a few things in common. Roberts' sister had gone to Burroughs with Gladney, and his dad was a Yalie. It wasn't long before Roberts felt himself idolizing everything about Gladney, from his photographic memory to his erudite vocabulary to his wealth. "I think the thing that amazed me most," Roberts says in retrospect, "was that Andrew had drawers and drawers full of stock certificates."

Both men were fascinated with the World Wide Web, then in its infant stage, and before long they decided to build a business around it. In November 1995 they incorporated Diamond.Net, aiming to construct a super-fast network that corporations could use for internal and external Web communications. Gladney, with a 75 percent ownership stake, was president and CEO. Roberts, who says he got the remaining 25 percent, was chief operating officer. Gladney ponied up all the startup money. (Roberts would later claim Gladney's investment totaled $600,000; Gladney said it was $1 million.)

Less than a year after Diamond.Net's startup, the company was in dire straits. Customers were few, Gladney's capital infusion was gone and tensions rose.

"Tim and Andrew would go at it left and right, with Andrew screaming at Tim, 'It's not your money you're spending!' after Tim would run up Andrew's credit card," recalls Gary Zimmerman, a telecom executive who joined the company in November 1995. "I don't think people realize what all we did to keep the doors open. There were days when some of us had to help make payroll. I know I put in $30,000 to do that."

Roberts says Gladney was long on "IQ" and "morale" but shortsighted when it came to the business model. He says Gladney even threatened to shutter the firm in 1996. "I think he'd thought it would be fun and games — that we'd spend a minimal amount of money every month, we'd have a bunch of employees that would go out every night and we'd all be friends."

Local venture capitalists Dick Ford and John McCarthy came to the rescue. Their firm, then called Gateway Venture Partners, pumped and steered millions into Diamond.Net, encouraged a name change — to Savvis Communications Corporation — and overhauled management. Roberts left the company in 1997, and Gladney was demoted from CEO to vice chairman, a position that paid $150,000.

"Andrew never wanted to get into the details. He never really ran the company," explains Zimmerman, a VP at Savvis until last month. "He had a Bloomberg machine on his desk. We always thought he was in there day-trading."

On January 20, 1999, a little more than three years after Andrew Gladney founded the now-burgeoning firm, Savvis fired him.

"Andrew was a very bright guy and a great cheerleader," explains Bob Murphy Jr., CFO at Savvis from 1996 to 1999, "but we were preparing to be acquired, and he just didn't have any experience as a marketing officer or chief executive of a major company."

Gladney initially filed suit, claiming Savvis owed him money, but he dismissed the case two months later. Shortly afterward, in April 1999, Bridge Information Systems bought Savvis for a reported $90 million and took the company public in 2000. (The company was renamed Savvis Inc. in 2005.)

His ownership having been diluted over the years, Gladney never made it into Savvis' millionaire-executive ranks. By the time of the IPO, in fact, his stake had dwindled to less than 1 percent. And by early 2001, he'd cashed out for $150,000.

Gladney wasted little time rebounding from the Savvis heave-ho. In the spring of 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, he made a cold call to Mark Newman, managing editor of The Sporting News' online edition, and invited him to lunch to discuss a new business venture. The accomplished Newman had recently won a National Magazine Award for revamping TSN's Web site.

In short order Gladney and Newman, along with Robert Cordova, a Yale pal, opened an office on Brentwood Boulevard and prepared to launch MAX Broadcasting Network, a suite of Web sites featuring sports video content.

Gladney partly financed the startup and scoured New York and Silicon Valley for more capital. "There was a little objection because we were St. Louis-based," Newman remembers. "But Andrew's a very powerful personality — very persuasive and energetic."

Gladney put together an initial $3 million and set his sights on raising $30 million in 2000. The goal was an IPO within three years. "I'm sure there will be many other endeavors beyond this one," Gladney told the Post-Dispatch in March of 2000.

In nine months' time, the MAX team rolled out two different Web sites, featuring high-profile commentators including Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter, ex-National Football League coach Jerry Glanville and hometown Post columnist Bernie Miklasz.

Former employees say Gladney, a sports fanatic, was extremely passionate and enjoyed appearing as an analyst in the videos. Once in New York, recounts Newman, Gladney got the itch to get in front of the camera. "We were shooting in the production studios of 20/20 and Andrew wanted to get on, so he told me to go over to some shop near the Four Seasons in midtown and buy him some kind of special jacket." Adds Newman: "He's a very snap-your-fingers type of guy."

MAX's former producer, Jeff Fowler, now associate vice president of marketing and communications for Saint Louis University, remembers Gladney as demanding but generous. "He would walk around the office trying to prop you up," says Fowler. "Every Friday he would buy lunch for everybody, and we'd all sit around telling stories."

Gladney's assertiveness didn't always work. "In the big opportunities we had, whether it was NBC Sports or Times Mirror or whatever, Andrew rubbed people the wrong way," Newman says. "I found myself defending him afterwards a number of times. Braggadocio was a very big part of it. He was an evangelist for what we were doing — and I was pretty much saying the same things — but when you go in to meet people from NBC, you don't want to be God. He was pretty much told not to be God, and he was himself. We didn't get that deal."

Those were heady times, when recent college grads were becoming Internet millionaires by the minute, and aspirants like the MAX crew were spending money they didn't technically have. Gladney was one of a number of Savvis alums in St. Louis staking out new Web ventures and hoping to strike gold. "I'm the father of this whole high-tech revolution," he boasted to the Post-Dispatch.

And then the Internet bubble burst. By the end of 2000, MAX was jettisoning staff and preparing to file for bankruptcy. (A judge later ruled the company had to pay back all its creditors.)

Post-Dispatch sports columnist Miklasz says he wrote daily and weekly notes for the site, but that he never met Gladney. "I remember the weekly fee — it was really generous," Miklasz says. "It was a great deal for a sportswriter. As a journalist and somebody who loves multimedia, I thought what they were trying to do was really exciting and I was happy to be a part of it. I thought they had a great vision — it was something you thought: Hey, I hope they can pull this off, because it's pretty cool. But I guess they were a little ahead of their time. They were definitely ahead of their time."

Indeed today, around the clock, sites like and do exactly what MAX attempted. "I'm sure Andrew looks back on it like I do, like: Hey, we tried something, and it was worth the risk," says Newman. "I know I learned more then than at any other time in my life, and I don't hold anything against anyone. I fell pretty hard. I got back up. But I don't know what he's done since then. I almost don't want to know."

Asked to elaborate, Newman laughs and says, "It's Andrew."

Read part two of "7-Up vs. Coke" here.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.