After attending the annual stockholders' meeting and the information sessions of Washington Post Co. (WPO) for the past several years, I concur with the selection of Jonathan Grayer as one of the best managers of the year ("The best managers, Special Report, Jan. 12). His presentations at the meetings have been outstanding, and the bottom-line contribution to Washington Post has been extraordinary.
Silver Spring, Md.
When you look at the bottom line, chief executive officers such as George David have done a great job at United Technologies Corp. (UTX) and other companies. Still, I believe we need to redefine how we rank our CEOs. We need to rate CEOs by what they are doing for employees, customers, industry, and the community -- not only stock performance. In my opinion, the recent trend to use foreign labor markets has desensitized the relationship of CEOs to employees.
The Employee Scholar program at UTC is second to none. Since I started working there, I have been able to earn my BA and am halfway through my MBA. It creates loyalty to the company and will continue to show positive results for UTC. Thank you, George David, for such an effective program.
Loves Park, Ill.
Your articles often talk about great opportunities for women and question the existence of a glass ceiling. But to see the reality, you need only open "The best & worst managers of the year." Even if women are given an opportunity, it is shared responsibility, as in the case of [former Kraft Foods Inc. Co-CEO] Betsy D. Holden. If things go bad, the sharing stops, and the woman is replaced.
Batavia, Ill. I am writing regarding your recent article in which BusinessWeek included H. Peter Burg, chairman and CEO of First Energy Corp. as one of "The worst managers" in 2003 (Special Report, Jan. 12). I certainly agree with you that 2003 was a very difficult year for First Energy Corp. The most tragic event occurred this week [Jan. 13] when Pete Burg died from complications during treatment for leukemia. However, I do not agree with your assessment of Pete's managerial performance. Pete Burg was an excellent manager and helped build First Energy into one of the five largest investor-owned utilities in the U.S. He provided strong leadership during the past troublesome year and was a man of the highest integrity and honesty.
You correctly mentioned that First Energy was involved in the August blackout. Unfortunately, your statement "Burg has seemingly written the book on how not to respond in a crisis" could not be further from the truth. Pete and the company fully cooperated in the subsequent investigation, acted in a very professional manner, and correctly took the position that a combination of institutions and events contributed to this blackout.
First Energy's board members are not "asleep at the switch," but rather had total confidence in Pete's leadership and are very confident of First Energy's future success. Pete performed admirably during a most difficult year and he does not deserve the dubious recognition you gave him.
George M. Smart
Editor's note: The writer is a First Energy board member. BusinessWeek did not learn of Burg's illness before publication. As a cattle producer, I do not wish to harm the general public's health ("A bum steer on mad cow disease," News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan. 12). However, some of your suggestions were far from realistic. If you test every single animal going to slaughter, it raises the price that the consumer pays at the store, and it gives the packers another way to beat down the price on live cattle. We as producers were finally getting a real price for our product. Also, few producers use blood meal as a supplement anymore, because there are better supplements out there such as soybean meal, wheat middlings, or soy hulls.
I would like to think the general public would try to trust that most producers would like to sell a superior product. Yes, the barn door was closed after the horse escaped. I think that the Agriculture Dept. has done an excellent job in trying to keep this from getting out of control.
As a producer, I ask that people hang in there, and we will get through this.
By "fattening" cows with feeds made from animal tissues, farmers not only destroyed our food supply but also doomed their entire industry. Terrorism will not destroy us, but our own greed will.
Anchorage, Alaska I remain astounded that the massive Parmalat fraud could have gone undetected for so many years ("How Parmalat went sour," International Business, Jan. 12). Maybe it's time for auditors and bankers to adopt the world's most effective due diligence technique: lunch. When I was a commercial banker in the 1970s, my colleagues and I made it a practice to visit borrowers, their major suppliers, customers, and other banks on a regular basis. Face-to-face meetings with intensive questions were the best intelligence-gathering missions we could devise. This closed the door to nonsense such as forged bank faxes.
I believe that if the Parmalat auditors had traveled 80 miles from Parma to Milan to meet with the company bankers, they certainly would have learned that $5 billion in cash was a fantasy. They also would have had a superb lunch.
Boca Raton, Fla.