The Ross Perot Of Investor Rights

Last September, when IBM first asked shareholder activist Ralph Whitworth to stop badgering the company about its performance, Big Blue assumed the shape of three mid-level executives and a corporate counsel bearing a box of slides. Problem was, none of them had brought a slide projector. After Whitworth scrambled around his spartan Washington (D.C.) office to find one, his reward was a cursory presentation explaining why IBM's problems weren't as bad as they seemed. "I wasn't impressed," says the 37-year-old president of the United Shareholders Assn. (USA). "It was clear to me why IBM is in so much trouble."

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