Monday, October 23, 2006

Nike's Loss is Wrigley's...Loss

You read it here first. Or at least if you subscribe to this blog you did.
Remember? Way back in January, 2006, when we watched a long-time owner-run company toss out its "first outside the family" CEO?

The man of that hour was one William Perez, the Caretaker Manager who was soundly punted out of Nike after about three minutes on the job for not being able to man the helm of one of the world's largest apparel companies, Nike. His failure to unite and drive forward the company is now the stuff of history, another chapter in the ever-growing tomes of corporate mismanagement.

Proving the rule that Caretaker Manager Syndrome is now pandemic in America, comes the announcement that Wrigley, those people who bring you the stuff that sticks to the bottom of your shoes in a variety of flavors, has just named William Perez - yes, the very same Caretaker Manager booted out of Nike - as their CEO.

Can you spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R?

If you go by the company's press release, you'll find all the earmarks of potential doom. There's the company rationale, as puffed up in the Associated Press:

"To continue to effectively drive our dynamic and highly competitive global company, I firmly believe this is the right time to divide the top leadership responsibilities between two people, particularly given today's commercial and governance climate," said Wrigley, who had headed the company since his father William Wrigley died in 1999.

Yeah, sure. That's pretty much what Nike said about Perez when they hailed him as the company's saviour. Not. He was canned less than a year after they said pretty much the same thing. But wait. It gets even better.

According to the same article:

Morningstar analyst Mitchell Corwin called the CEO switch a good move that should give investors more confidence, particularly after the company struggled to absorb the Altoids and Life Savers businesses it acquired from Kraft Foods Inc. last year.

"The missteps with the Kraft acquisition and heightened competitive environment demonstrated that the company could use a seasoned veteran to run the day-to-day operations," he said. "I think Bill Wrigley had the right strategic vision for the company, but acquisitions can be difficult and the competitive environment is more intense today than it's ever been."

Are they kidding? This is practically word for word what Nike said about this guy, who proved himself capable of one thing and one thing only: His complete inability to merge cultures and drive the brand forward.

The funniest part of the entire announcement is that this news release actually pushed Wrigley's stock up, showing once again that Wall Street will buy anything if you just hype it enough. Ignoring every shred of reality-based evidence, analysts are all enjoying the view out the car window as it drives over the cliff. You just watch and see. The man who sat still at S.C. Johnson for 34 years - possibly longer than most people reading this have been alive - will become the man who succeeded by doing nothing for Wrigley.

How long can this Caretaker Manager last at Wrigley? How long until, like a hung-over bridegroom, Wrigley managers wake up and realize they married the wrong girl? Oh, give it a year or so. Maybe more. Or at least until Perez's headhunter lines up a better offer from even bigger dopes.


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