THE CONFIDENTIAL MEMOS OF I. M. VESTED by I. M. Vested

THE CONFIDENTIAL MEMOS OF I. M. VESTED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The conceit of this pseudonymous ""exposÉ"" is that during the 1969-80 period, a senior executive then in the employ of a once-prosperous, old-line Fortune 500 multinational--here called Slone Manufacturing and Sales Co., or SMASCO--composed but did not send a series of memos critiquing the organizational decline following appointment of a new management team by the founding family's last active board member. The successors prove witless and feckless, and bring the business to the brink of bankruptcy. The specific charges range from cronyism, undue emphasis on paperwork, and loss of technological leadership through the imprudent use of price cutting to secure market share, quixotic product-recall policies, and establishment of ROI goals that are too low in light of inflation. Some of Vested's accusations are essentially personal peeves--like the recruitment of MBAs for fast-track advancement. (""For many years, SMASCO heads planned diligently toward an orderly progression of employees receiving better and better jobs until they are finally promoted in their fifties or sixties to their highest management position,"" he complains in a 1975 memo disparaging the company's so-called youth kick.) On other fronts, Vested seems simply to be in dubious battle--as when in 1972 he decries the growing number of outside directors on the corporate board. And, in 1977, after SMASCO has been caught distributing cash from a political slush fund, he appears to be more disturbed by the CEO's disclosure of the facts than by the wrongdoing. A careerist as well as a loyal company man, Vested did not decide to go public until he was safely retired. Just before his departure following 38 years in SMASCO's service, one of the founding father's grandsons reasserts family control over the company and pensions off or terminates the incompetents, presumably laying the groundwork for brighter tomorrows. Apart from the unlikelihood that any group with a large stake in a major concern would stand for eleven years of mismanagement (and disappearing dividends), Vested vastly overstates his case. Big business is clearly overdue for reform; but few if any such gross incompetents keep their jobs. Lots of heat--but the lightning doesn't quite strike.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1981
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich