Apr

26

 A popular phrase now in business is the fox and the hedgehog. A fox is good at many things but the hedgehog is great at one thing.

GE always wanted to be number one or number two in every business it competed in. Jack Welch said one of the biggest blunders he made as CEO of GE was when he bought Kidder Peabody back in the 1980s. Kidder was a carriage-trade brokerage and investment banking firm. Very blue blood. GE's goal was to merge Kidder into GE Capital. Unfortunately, GE could never make it a good fit. Welch commented that the reason for the failure to properly incorporate the business into the GE family was that nobody in GE understood the Wall Street mentality. There was no esprit de corps among the troops. GE ultimately jettisoned the investment banking business altogether, selling it to UBS in 1994.

Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter merged in the mid 1990s and John Mack and Phil Purcell became co-CEOs. This was a marriage destined for failure. Morgan's institutional brokers did not appreciate being associated with Witter's retail brokers, and their M&A and investment bankers did not care to slice up the pie with Witter's sales force. And Mack and Purcell just did not mesh. Morgan's top executives and always felt that they were superior to Witter's and Morgan's analysts looked down on Witter's. They did not play well together. Ultimately something had to give. This led to a string of departures and a brain drain and a huge talent drain.

John Mack found it increasingly difficult to work at the combined company, and resigned and took on several other roles on Wall Street in a chief executive capacity. Phil Purcell stayed on to run the company until the board demanded his resignation. Mack was reinstated at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and now it is just Morgan Stanley. In 10 years the company has gone full circle and the stock, which had been dormant during Purcell's reign has run very well under Mack's tenure.


In baseball, all truly great pitchers have a go-to pitch. This is the one pitch that they know they can count on. At a critical moment this is the one that the catcher is going to call for and the pitcher is going to deliver.

Bullet Bob Feller's go-to pitch was a fastball. There was a reason he was called Bullet Bob. There are very few in history who had such a ferocious fastball.

Hank Greenberg was a great baseball hitter. He was asked one time how to hit Bob Feller. He said, "Hope he throws you a curve and try to hit it." The reporter asked him why would Bob Feller throw anything but fastballs and Greenberg's reply was "I don't know — maybe he gets bored."

Dean Parisian remarks:

As a former Kidder Peabody salesman, Kidder Peabody shareholders took 2.5 times book value for a company that Ralph DeNunzio couldn't float upright at high tide. No question that Kidder had some of the luckiest guys in the 1980s on Wall Street, outside the boys in the inner sanctum of the X-shaped trading desk in Beverly Hills. 


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