NEW YORK—Marveling at just how far he had come in 56 years, MerCal Enterprises president David Gilford reflected this week on his rise from a humble fertilized embryo to head of a publicly traded multinational company.
Speaking from his executive suite, Gilford told reporters that as leader of a business that regularly reports billions in profits, his current station in life is a far cry from his beginnings as a newly formed zygote, when he didn’t have single dollar or functioning circulatory system to his name.
“It wasn’t easy at the beginning, just grinding it out for nine long months,” said Gilford, noting that immediately following conception he was guided by little more than the cilia that pushed him down the fallopian tube, having never even seen a quarterly report or attended a shareholders meeting. “Back then I didn’t know which way was up. I was struggling just to work my way toward the womb.”
“But here I am now, an hour away from signing off on the largest acquisition in this company’s history,” he continued. “I sure didn’t realize it back then, but when that sperm cell fused with that ovum and endowed me with two sets of chromosomes, it set me on the path to the corner office I’m in now.”
Gilford said he never even entertained the possibility that the differentiated tissue groups he began to form after attaching to the uterine wall would one day lead to him overseeing more than 7,000 employees in 11 global offices. While it now seems obvious that the placental nutrients he was receiving from his mother have been pivotal in his appearing year after year on Forbes’ list of the nation’s highest-paid chief executives, Gilford admitted that, at the time, he didn’t stand out as anything special.
“I don’t think I screamed ‘future CEO’ when people looked at me back in those days,” said Gilford, who, as a blastula, had only begun developing new non-maternal mRNA. “What did I know about negotiating or leveraging? I knew how to fill my central cavity with fluid. That’s what I could do, so I did it.”
“I probably seemed like just another neural groove with a brain bulge,” he added. “But you can’t climb that ladder without the bottom rung.”
By day 105, however, rudimentary air sacs had begun to develop in the future magnate’s lungs and his nervous system had gained control over multiple bodily functions, events that Gilford said were “absolutely crucial” in his acceptance into the prestigious Wharton School and later joining Morgan Stanley as a finance analyst immediately upon graduation.
But while he received a compensation package last year of more than $16 million, including cash and stock options, in no small part due to the cartilage, muscle, and bone structures that developed from his mesoderm, Gilford admitted it was not smooth sailing all the way. At week 11, his eyelids suddenly closed for nearly two months, a discouraging setback that Gilford said ultimately helped almost as much as everything that went right.
“When I think about it, what I went through in those first trimesters helped make me the business leader I am today,” he said, speculating that those 38 long weeks instilled in him a sense of patience and the essential cardiovascular functions needed to make his way in the cutthroat business world. “One of the most important things in this profession is adapting to changing conditions, and I’m a guy who successfully transitioned out of living in a liquid-based environment to breathing oxygen. And I did it entirely on my own.”
Most important to his success, according to Gilford, has been never taking his good fortune for granted and appreciating how much he has progressed from his simple early days plodding through organogenesis, sexual differentiation, and limb development.
“Look, I started out with nothing more than a single cell,” said Gilford, who makes a point of frequently reminding himself of all those weeks he had to scrape by on whatever was delivered to him through his umbilical cord. “And then I managed to double it, double that again, and then double that again. At this point I think I’m estimated to have about 100 trillion of them.”
“Not bad for a kid who was briefly in breech presentation,” he added.
The multimillionaire acknowledged that, despite his own hard work, he did not make it to his current position entirely on his own. According to Gilford, he’d never have an apartment on Park Avenue or a 75-foot yacht had his mother not paid attention to her diet and behavior during pregnancy or received such expert care from her obstetrician, both of which Gilford said kept him going when fetal viability seemed a million miles away.
And despite his eight-figure salary, Gilford told reporters he has yet to succumb to the trappings of his high status and hasn’t forgotten the days when he was covered in a thin layer of lanugo.
“A lot of people think I’ve changed as a person since fertilization, and in some ways maybe I have,” he said, reflecting on his increased attention to profit margins as well as his ability to grasp objects. “But don’t let the hand-tailored suits and my completely fused skull fool you.”
“Deep down, I’m still that same pair of gametes,” he added.