CORPORATE MESSIAH: The Hiring and Firing of Million-Dollar Managers by Patricia O'Toole
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CORPORATE MESSIAH: The Hiring and Firing of Million-Dollar Managers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fascinating tales of troubled companies convinced that ""salvation lay in the hands of supremely capable exedutives."" More often than not, these ""corporate messiahs"" don't work out: Warren Hirsch, hired away from competitor Murjani, left Puritan Fashions after only eight weeks (with his guaranteed $1 million year's salary) amid differences with Calvin Klein, Puritan's key licensor; Roy Ash took the helm of sleepy AM International, tried to turn it into a high-tech company, and failed; Freddie Silverman, heralded as NBC's programming savior, differed with IBM--trained chairperson Jane Cahill Pfeiffer (""Attila the Nun,"" to her enemies), and neither he nor Pfeiffer lasted long. But, O'Toole argues, the messiahs are often doomed before they arrive--the sheer amount of money expended to hire them creates unrealistic expectations, and search committees focus more on convincing candidates to climb aboard than on how they'll mesh with the existing staff. Succession problems are trickiest in companies built, and run for decades, by individual entrepreneurs--regardless of whether they ignore mortality (cf. Armand Hammer, who has ousted three Occidental Petroleum presidents since 1979) or become obsessive about succession (cf. the turnover of CBS presidents under chairman William Paley). Sometimes the successor's deficiency can't be articulated (what O'Toole calls the ""je ne sais quoi"" factor), and sometimes the successor's successor lucks out (the ""second-man syndrome"") for no reason other than the board's reluctance to incur the embarrassment of yet another search. O'Toole suggests that corporate messiahs stand the best chances of success when (like turnaround artist Sandy Sigoloff arriving at Wickes) they step into an absolute no-hope situation, bring in their own staff people and take total command, or, in very rare cases (like Lee Iacocca at Chrysler), where the incoming chief projects ""confidence incarnate"" and the threat of extinction has imbued corporate executives with ""the will to follow."" Throughout, O'Toole couples nuts-and-bolts inside stories with solid overall analysis of the leadership succession process--fine reading for business people at any rung on the corporate ladder.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow