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Businessweek Archives

Tough Talk About Tough Ceos

Readers Report


In your story "Tough times, tough bosses" (Cover Story, Nov. 25), it's interesting that the seven tough bosses for whom you listed the data were responsible for eliminating 72,565 jobs. While some of this may make their companies better competitors, a lot of the changes are the sort of short-range quick fixes designed to produce the "nice boost in profits" that are the basis for fat bonuses for these bosses before they move on to "fix" other companies.

When Norman Blake (now CEO of USF&G) was at Heller, he dismantled this country's only coast-to-coast network of lending offices providing working capital for small, growing companies, which are the nation's greatest source of jobs. I ran the Boston office, with a total portfolio of $20 million, not even up to Norman's minimum for a single loan. But we helped many small companies get started and in the process, we made an aftertax profit of more than 3% on assets, for which a bank would eat its heart out.

Henry Thornton


Southern Berkshire Investment Corp.

Sheffield, Mass.

The "new" CEOs profiled are rediscovering that getting back to basics is the key to delivering quick results while rebuilding for long-term success.

Once the shock of slashing and restructuring is complete, the boss must fix on investing in the people in the leaner organization and establish a sense of employee ownership in the ongoing change process. The ultimate winners will be the executives who understand the nuances of getting their people to work with them, rather than for them.

John M. Bondur

Senior Vice-President

Handy HRM Corp.

New York

Any fool can fire thousands of em ployees who will pay the price by having their bank accounts disappear along with their homes. The "tough" CEOs, of course, will continue to draw their multimillion-dollar salaries and perks. If this article represents Corporate America's thinking, why does anyone wonder at our failures.

Stuart Simon


Lithco Inc.

Culver City, Calif.

Laying off as many workers as possible + very little imagination, if any + increasing own salary and bonus = most U. S. CEOs.

E. Rosario

Fairless Hills, Pa.

It's hard for me to imagine how we will ever catch up if one of the chief "talents" of our best CEOs is firing people!

Dan Coggin

Richmond, Va.

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