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If You Knew Suzy...

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Kiechel says that when Suzy's spokeswoman confirmed in the Journal that there was a "close relationship" with Joe, "management was astonished." Yet perhaps equally astonishing, it wasn't until New York asked for comment (several of Suzy's other confidants had also confirmed the affair) that it dawned on Harvard what "close relationship" meant. As for those rumors that Joe was living in Suzy's basement, Schwartzman says, "That's ridiculous! Think about it. Would you make your boyfriend live in the basement?"

When the first Journal story hit on March 4, few people had ever heard of Suzy Wetlaufer. But being the girlfriend of Jack Welch -- and a compromised editor -- meant instant media frenzy. Articles appeared as far away as Dublin ("It is being called the most expensive tryst in history"). The story had everything journalists love: sex, power, and navel-gazing. Quote slut James Carville suggested that Welch, whose painfully boring biography Straight From the Gut was nonetheless a best-seller, should write a sequel called Straight From the Groin. As for Suzy, bless her, she had segued seamlessly from a penniless 22-year-old to a 66-year-old millionaire. Is this a home-wrecker? Or a role model?

Suzanne Rebekah Spring was born in Portland, Oregon, where her father was an architect. She grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and, later, in Harrison, New York. Her dad was a professor of architecture; her mother, who has a doctorate in education from Columbia, is a painter and sculptor. And there was money -- her grandfather, who started as a butcher, bought real estate in New York during the Depression and turned it into a modest fortune. She was the third of four kids -- all of whom went to Ivy League colleges. She met her future husband, Eric Wetlaufer, while attending Phillips Exeter Academy; he's now a money manager with Putnam.

To her friends, Suzy Wetlaufer is a dynamo who juggles a high-powered career, is raising four "incredibly well-adjusted kids," never misses a school play or sporting event with her children (who range in age from 7 to 12), works out five times a week, and still has time to teach Sunday school at the Hancock United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant congregation. "She takes her Christian values very seriously," says her minister, Dan Smith. "Her knowledge of the Bible is really pretty deep." As for her affair with a married man, "I think that's an issue that Suzy is working on," Smith says.

When Suzy first told Della about Jack, last fall, she was already over the moon. "She said it would be like Mick Jagger asking you out. She was flattered that someone as important as Jack felt that way about her," Della says. "She didn't believe that he could even like her that way. I think she was wondering -- well, I think everyone would question -- Why is he doing all this? I mean, this is major-major, much more major for him."

Suzy lives in a beautiful $1 million home outside Boston in Lexington, where Jack has lately been spending a lot of time. Last month, Suzy brought Jack to meet her sister. It was obvious, says Della, "that he wanted to make it clear that he adores her."

The next step is for Jack to meet their parents. "They're 74 and 75," says Della, "so, yeah, they were concerned that Suzy was seeing somebody who was closer to their age than hers." A get-together, she says, is being arranged.

Meanwhile, back in Fairfield, Connecticut, Jane Welch filed for divorce days after the news of her husband's affair hit the press. And three years after their prenup (which would have kept her from much of his fortune) expired. But wait a minute. Wasn't Jane supposed to be the trophy wife? The much younger woman and expert golfer whom Jack claims to have met six months after the breakup of his first marriage, the 28-year-long one that produced four kids, now grown?

"Marriages don't break up because someone else shows up," says one of Suzy's friends. "He really does love her." Della, who (conveniently) designs wedding invitations, says she wouldn't be surprised if her services were needed soon. "That would be nice! But I can tell you one thing. Suzy will never play golf."

By early March, full-scale meltdown arrived at HBR. For weeks, as Bandler continued to poke around, staffers became more and more disgruntled. Several wrote letters to Kiechel calling for Suzy's resignation. Soon, Suzy was in negotiations with Harvard about the future of her position. Jack had hired her a lawyer, Boston heavyweight Bob Popeo (who'd done lots of work for GE), and Popeo got her Schwartzman, of Polaris P.R. Staffers were outraged when the Journal reported that Jack was on the speakerphone while Suzy was hammering out her deal.

"Harvard basically cowed to Jack Welch," says one staffer. Kiechel calls that "absurd," adding, "We were prepared to fire Suzy Wetlaufer" if she didn't agree to step aside as top editor. But Kiechel still wondered, "What constitutes a fireable offense?" Suzy's deal -- until last week's resignation -- was that she would remain on staff as editor-at-large. When the terms were announced -- first in an e-mail from Suzy herself, then in a meeting with Walter -- the staff was furious. Was the message: It's okay to compromise your ethics so long as you're not editor-in-chief?

Kiechel -- who had taken to reciting the Saint Francis prayer to the staff -- told them that one of the reasons they wanted to keep Suzy at HBR was to avoid any potential litigation on her part against HBR staff. Plenty of staffers believe that Suzy had something on Walter. "I categorically deny that," Kiechel says. The meeting effectively crashed and burned when Collingwood stood up and said, "Walter, you can use my salary to pay the lawyers, because I resign." Another editor, Alden Hayashi, got up and said, "Me too," and followed Collingwood out the door. A few days later, Jack and Suzy jetted off to Monaco.

"Look," Schwartzman said the week before Suzy's final exit, "Suzy Wetlaufer has a very full and rich life. This is not a woman who needs the Harvard Business Review to make her life a more rewarding experience. She had it going long before she got there, and she'll have it long after she leaves."

On the day of her resignation, a photographer finally got a shot of Jack and Suzy together, as he whisked her out of the Harvard Business Review offices and into the next act of the Suzy Show.


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