Terry Pegula tells people to call him by his first name, even though players and staff typically address him as "Mr. Pegula."
Pegula had a chance encounter many years ago with Walmart founder Sam Walton, whose company has a policy that every employee is to be addressed on a first-name basis. That included him.
Pegula, 68, can't remember exactly how old he was, but he recalls that it was early in his business career. Pegula was having lunch with a man in Charlottesville, Va., on the University of Virginia campus.
"I was trying to buy this guy's gas wells," Pegula said during a recent conversation with The Buffalo News. "There was a guy walking by us and the guy I was having lunch with said, 'Here, I want you to meet somebody.' He turned to the man walking by and said, 'Hey, Sam, I want you to meet this bright, young man I met.'
"I shook hands with Sam and talked with him. He asked me a few questions and then said, 'Nice to meet you,' and he walked away. The guy then said, 'You know who that was?' I said, 'No, I have no idea.' He said, 'Sam Walton.' You know what my next question was? 'Who's Sam Walton?' "
Pegula's lunch companion told him Walton was "one of the richest guys in the country."
Pegula has never forgotten how that casual introduction to such a wealthy businessman made him feel instantly comfortable. He wants people to feel the same way around him.
"Of course, after (he learned of Walton's wealth), I was like, 'Oh, I hope I didn't say something wrong?' " Pegula said. "People normally react like that, but you shouldn't be like that."