For a man who professes lofty disdain for commerce, Henry Kissinger has managed to secure handsome pay-checks from some of the nation's most notable commercial organizations and for work that defies close definition. As a consultant performer for Goldman Sachs, the big investiment bank, as well as Chase Manhattan, the giant commercial bank and NBC, the television network, the former secretary of state appears to be drawing better than $1,000 an hour for his celebrated time.
All three firms, moreover, express - with varying degrees of enthusiasm - their satisfaction with the arrangement. If there are misgivings, Kissinger has none. "My role is to respond to their requests," he says.
Exactly what he does and does not do for his daily bread, Kissinger described this way in a conversation at his Washington office:
"I'm prepared to advise on foreign policy consequences, the environment in which they operate. I am not prepared to open doors or engage myself in commercial operations, in commercial deals or exploiting the contacts I have.
"I do not intervene with the government - use my contacts on behalf of commercial clients . . .because I could no doubt get multiples of your estimate (this reporter's calculation of Kissinger pay) if I did."
Even the most skeptical people in Wall Street and Madison Avenue-to say nothing of Kissinger's employers - agree that he has not exploited his friendships with the world's great to bring business to the banks or news scopps to NBC.
Instead, it is said, Kissinger has traded on his undoubted glamor to flatter executive egos and attach clients more closely to the two banks. As an internationally famous banker in a rival firm put it:
"There's a lot of snow in this business, especially about meeting a celebrity. This business is pretty mythical. Kissinger can't do a thing for Goldman Sachs except add a little tone. He'll have drinks or lunch with a customer who'll go home and say, "I had lunch with my banker - and Henry Kissinger - today.'"
Kissinger's task at NBC is more performer than consultant. The network's log indicates he has put in about 380 minutes of airtime over 98 weeks, collecting nearly $5,000 a minute or even more than Barbara Wlaters.
All figures of Kissinger's pay are estimates, based on guarded chats with his employers, friends and persons inside the organizations who did not want to be identified.
Kissinger himself declines to discuss money matters."I just don't think it's anybody's business," he said. "I think I'm entitled to a minimum of privacy."
A box score would probably look like this:
Goldman Sachs. He meets "our best clients, good clients" in the words of John Whitehead, the firm's co-chairman, for breakfast and dinner, perhaps once a month. Pay, about $160,000 a year.
Chase Manhattan. He presides over an extended weekend seminar with "very good customers" - the phrase is from A. Wright Elliott, senior vice president for communications - every six months. Pay, about $30,000 a seminar or $60,000 a year.
NBC. He was hired, according to Herbert Schlosser, then but not now NBC's president, to "give us more in in depth advice, coverage and expertise . . ." Instead, Kissinger has appeared in 49 morning and evening news shows, three of what television calls "instant specials" and one 90 minute survey of Eurocommunism. Pay, in cash and kind about $1 million a year.
Whatever insights on world events that Kissinger provides his audiences - "Mostly he is alerting our corporate clients to possible dangers they might not have foreseen," says Whitehead of Goldman Sachs - the essential ingredient to his success in the supposedly hard-headed business world is his own remarkable persona.
Kissinger is a modern alchemist who has found the philospher's stone. He has turned the sheer gossamer of celebrity into golden coin of the realm.
His large, L-shaped office on the 10th floor of the International Club Bldg. here reflects his awareness of his own phenomonon. The walls are lined with photos of Kissinger and the great - Kissinger lecturing Harold Macmillan, Kissinger smiling with Golda Meir, solo portraits of Sadat and Schmidt for variety, a photo-cartoon montage of Kissinger's favorite secretary of state in the outer corridor.
To be sure, there is a human touch as well. An oil portrait of his wife, Nancy, dominates one wall and she is also favored in two color phots.
The mystic aura is established, however, as soon as you step off the elevator at the unmarked entrance to Kissinger's suite. A visitor must announce himself on a telephone outside the entrance before he is admitted to the secretaries who guard the door.
It is suggested to Kissinger that non-monarchial societies require monarch-monarchial societies require monarch-surrogates, figures endowed with extraordinary importance about whom there is endless and consuming curiosity. Athletes, actresses and rock singers are somehow not engaged in activities of sufficient weight to play this role for long periods. But he and the widow Onassis do.
He considers this, nods solemnly, and shrewdly asks, "what about Teddy Kennedy?"
In some ways, his labors at breakfast and dinner for Goldman Sachs - lunches, he says, are reserved for writing his memoris - are especially interesting since investment bankers are regarded as the most sophisticated and least sentimental of businessmen.
Kissinger's friend, Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under Nixon and admirer of the novels of the heroic Ayn Rand, regards the former professor's job with theutmost gravity.
Of Goldman Sachs, Greenspan says: "They're dealing with hard forecasts, interest rates, money conditions. As an input, they have to be concerned with the underlying geopolitical character of their country's base. If you are lending to an LDC [less developed country, meaning one with little industry], it's helpful to know the degrees of stability. Henry knows more than anybody else."
Is Henry also perhaps a magnet holding Goldman Sachs clients?
"People are invited to little meetings and they are very impressed. A man tells his wife, 'I met Henry Kissinger.' That's part of what he brings to bear. But that wears out quickly."
Kissinger himself thinks it is "conceivable" that he is a lure, that his persona "may well be a factor." But he dismisses as sour grapes the contention from competing firms that this is his chief and only value to the bankers. Such judgments, he said, come from firms that "were probably trying to recruit me. I selected the ones least likely to commercilize me."
At the more or less monthly breakfasts and dinners, Kissinger says he typically speaks for 25 minutes and answers questions for another 35. The topic "depends on my mood. Iran was the point of departure last fall." Recently, it has been Asia, and he is just back from a trip to China.
A few days after the interview, he called to strengthen his contribution at Goldman Sachs. He said: "I give a serious analysis of international affairs at great lengths for extended periods."
Kissinger has no doubt he gives good value. As he put it: "The economic decisions of major concerns depend on the political environment in which they operate. They have no analytic competence of their own."
Chairman Whitehead of Goldman Sachs gives the ex-professor high marks in two areas, Iran and France. On Iran, he said, Kissinger, "alerted us to the dangers long before they happened," six months before the shah's overthrow. Moreover, Whitehead said, Kissinger did it "just by reading small items in the press, piecing two and two together and point to the deterioration. . . the slippage of the shah's control."
In France, Goldman Sachs wanted to know before last year's legislative elections whether a Communist-Socialist victory would mean the repudiation of foreign loans. Kissinger assured them it wouldn't, a safe forecast since only North Korea has been primitive enough to try such a game and was talked out of it.
At Chase, Kissinger presides over an invention of Chairman David Rockefeller's - the International Advisory Committee, or IAC. This group includes such top customers of the bank as Pehr Gyllenhamer of Volvo, J.R.D. Tata of the huge Indian conglomerate that carries his Parsi name. Henry Ford of Ford, Giovanni Agnelli of Fiat and 16 others.
Twice yearly they come to New York or some other center with their wives to meet Kissinger and Rockefeller. Sundya night is social, drinks, and dinner. Monday morning is given over to remarks by Chase officials. As IAC chairman, Kissinger runs roundtables Monday, afternoon and Tuesday morning.
Such notables as Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal, William Miller, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and British Ambassador Peter Jay, entertain at lunch.
The roundtable topics that Kissinger remembers are not those usually associated with his name - "The Impact of Changes in the World Monetay System on Growth," or "Structural Changes in the World Economy."
The IAC's secretary, James Phelan of Chase, insists no notes are kept. He recalls that last year's agenda included discussions of world unemployment and inflation, the outlook for capital investment and the Europena Monetary Stabilization scheme.
Again, there would seem little scope for Kissinger here. But a Chase director, who asked to remain anonymous, asked: "Can you imagine Henry Kissinger staying quiet for two whole days?"
So Kissinger does hold forth, the director said, on some aspect of foreign policy.
Is one Chase objective to be remembered the next time IAC members float a loan or seek capital aborad?
"I would hope so," says Elliott, the communictions chief at the bank.
Isn't Chairman Kissinger a draw to attract such a well-heeled group of seminarists?
"I would think so," was the reply.
Kissinger says he also meets with Chase officers three or four times a year to make "political assessments of the risk - whether to reduce or increase [an investment] position" in countries like Taiwan, Turkey and Iran. This task was not mentioned by two Chase directors or two other executives. Presumably, Kissinger makes these "risk assessments" personally for Chairman Rockefeller, whose family has been supporting Kissinger on and off, even before he left Harvard in 1969 for higher spheres.
On reflection, Kissinger is unseasy with the notion that epople listen to him simply because he is celebrated.
"There are many governments who ask my opinion," he said. "There must be some reason people have confidence in my judgment which is not mercenary."
At NBC, enthusiam for the five year $5 million contract with Kissinger is distinctly muted. All that Julian Goddman, the retiring chairman of the executive committee, could bring himself to say to Television Digest was:
"I do not think NBC made a bad arrangement with either of them [the network also signed up former president Ford]. It may be that on our part we have not yet used them to their fullest . . ."
Lester Cryster currently head of NBC News and not a party to Kissinger's signing, said of the deal:
"It has been useful and helpful. I don't know that I'd want to see the same precise arrangement [extended]. It's been useful."
Schlosser, the former NBC boss who was moved elsewhere in RCA, the parent firm, after bringing Kissinger on board ["That had nothing to do with it - there's something in TV called ratings."], thinks "it is too early to tell whether Kissinger is worth the money.
"It depends on how they use him," schlosser says meaning in the future.
Apart from his appearances on the little screen, Kissinger lunches occasionally with NBC executives and producers. Correspondents rarely, if ever, are invited. Nobody can recall whether these lunches turned into "broadened coverage," - the original premise. Last fall, when foreign ministers gathered for the U.N. General Assemlby, Kissinger persuaded Moshe Dayan, David Owen and Lee Kuan Yew, premier of Singapore to share NBC's hospitality.
Kissinger is philosophical about all this. He says he gets "phone calls from Crystal asking my judgment of certain events," and that he urged coverage of SALT, the treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons.
"I never volunteer. They have to ask me. They have had so much turmoil at NBC," he explains, referring to the ouster of Schlosser and others. "They couldn't have done [the NBC special on] Eurocommunism without me."
Anyway, he recalled later, it was always understood that he would spend part of his time on the air. But his worth simply couldn't be measured in minutes of air time.The advice he gives news boss Crystal could have a marginal effect on decisions, Kissinger noted, observing that he had just learned that in economics that is where decisions are made.
In fact, Kissinger has been on the air more than he realized himself. The critics, however, have not been kind.He is accused ofusing his spots to justify his past deeds as secretary of state and to fire barbs at a Democratic administration. His former Harvard colleague, Stanley Hoffman, claims to have counted in Kissinger's Eurocommunism show no less than 34 "outright lies . . .distortions . . .false inuendos," as well as "cynical manipulation of the public's ignorance or limited memory."
Why Schlosser hired Kissinger without consulting his news division is a topic of speculation.Their admiration for each other is unquestioned. In 1974, when Schlosser received an award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the then Secretary of State Kissinger called him:
"A man of unsurpassed preeminence in his field" who, "as head of one of the world's largest communications networks, has placed his imprint upon its coverage and programs - serious, responsible, penetrating, fair."
Those close to the news scene at NBC say that Schlosser was slipping in 1977 and brought in Kissinger to demonstrate his closeness to the mighty, to show off his friend at meals with the powers that be at RCA.
"I think that's ridiculous," snapped Schlosser, who is now an RCA executive vice president in charge of developing software, meaning content for the company's videodisc or record-picture combination.
"CBS was actively interested," Schlosser said. "Lunches and dinners with Kissinger had nothing to do with it."
At least some newsmen at NBC are unhappy that som much of their budget is spent on a non-professional. Kissinger has little time for this complaint.
"There's the myth that only reporters are objective," he said. "That's not self-evident. It is not clear to me why a former secretary of state is any less objective than a reporter."
Whether he constitutes the best use of limited NBC News resources is "a question for the organization to decide. It is not a debate I would care to join," he said.
Quantifying Kissinger's pay for all this is more of an art than a science. Apart from his own reluctance and that of his employers to talk of such vulgar matters, there are accounting difficulties. For example, how much of a cost is involved in NBC's guarantee that Kissinger will lose no money on his purchase of an apartment in New York's expensive River House? As Kissinger himself points out, "It can't happen anway" - a plausible forecast for the future of Manhattan real estate.
He vigorously disputes a suggestion that his Chase pay is $80,000, - "that is orders of magnitude high" - but will not discuss the $60,000 proposed here. He contends that the Goldman Sachs figure of $160,000 is "high," although an official of the firm itself says that thenumber is nearer $200,000 than $100,000. Kissinger flatly refused to hear the $1 million a year figure proffered by sources with an inimated knowledge of NBC's 1977 news budget.
The three jobs, with estimated pay of $1,220,000, take only a quarter of his time, Kissinger says.
Kisinger's total income is known only to him, his accountant and the Internal Revenue Service. His dollars. He speaks, for a price, about 10 times a year. The price used to be $10,000 a time. Now, he suggests, it is what the traffic will bear. But, he adds he also speaks without pay for such worthy causes as te Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, American Jewish and the Republican Party.
He says he gives about two free speeches for each paid talk. "I act as the attraction," he explains, "for people to make contributions."
He also is a paid consultant to the British General Electric Corp. He earns tens of thousands of dollard from Georgetown University, its Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, a think tank run by Robert O. Anderson of the Atlantic Richfield Co.
Kissinger also received an undisclosed sum for promoting gold and silver medallions of historical figures that were sold by a company called the Franklin Mint.
"This was not an exercise I would care to repeat," he says. "I thought it [Franklin] had quasi-public service status."
This was the kind of an error that only a man unversed in business could have made. Franklin Mint of Franklin Center, Pa. is listed on the New York and London stock exchanges. The company did $265.7 million worth of business last year and, as Norman Braun, its chief of public affairs says, "we are a commercial firm."
Kissinger's pay from the banks and NBC give him more than the highest paid corporate executive in the United States, Henry Ford, who earned $1,056,000 in his final year as chairman of the family auto concern. But Kissinger, unlike corporate executives, does not have the opportunity to buy shares in his own company at prices below their market value.
Kissinger also points out that he has large expenses. Paying detectives to guard his life, he says, takes all his salary from Goldman Sachs. And he has to pay lawyers to fend off nuisance suits, although the government defends him against those brought by individuals he allegedly and wire-tapped while he was in office.
Moreover, Kissinger inspires at least some of his employers in ways unknown to most corporate executives.
A man at Chase who regularly hears Kissinger at the semi-annual seminars paid him this ribute:
"He takes the discussion from the stultifying atmosphere of numbers and statistics and eocnomic tends. He is able to capapult issues and the discussion better than most into the real world in which we will live." CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By James K. W. Atherton-The Washington Post