HIGHTOWER: Gillette's New Boss Hog
Look out ... here comes another Hightower Hog Report!
The big porker in today's herd is James Kilts, who just became head hog at Gillette Inc., maker of razors, as well as such brand-name items as Duracell batteries, and Right Guard deodorant. Gillette's something of a wreck these days, with its stock having lost about half its value in the past two years, so Jim Kilts has been brought in as "Mr. Fix-it."
Kilts gained a sort of superman reputation as a corporate fixer in the 1990s, when he engineered a massive merger of General Foods and Kraft Foods, then moved on to the ailing Nabisco, which he whipped into shape and sold to Phillip Morris in '98. "This guy has been a winner at every level," marveled the head of a major business school. "Jim's strength is that he knows what it takes to win," said a fellow CEO, adding that when Kilts is faced with a problem, he "will go right for the jugular." Still another admirer gushes: "He's a role model for corporate America."
Sadly, he probably is. Kilts' success, you see, has been built on whacking thousands of workers, padlocking factories, and abandoning communities. Far from "fixing" companies, he bludgeons them, like a man trying to peel a grape with an ax. In Pittsburgh, once the home of Nabisco, he was picketed by the children of parents he fired, and he was hanged in effigy. "He's an awful man," one pained Pittsburgher said in plain talk. No skin off Kilt's nose, though-after firing the workers and selling off Nabisco's remnant's, Kilts personally pocketed $77 million for doing the deal. Then he retired.
Now, he's come out of retirement to take on Gillette, and workers there are wary that he'll bludgeon their company, too. In explaining why Kilts came out of retirement, one of his colleagues says simply: "He loves to play the game of winning at business."
This is Jim Hightower saying . . . When hogs play games, they might "win," but real people who don't know it's a game . . . get trampled.