On the road in and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana...
BUT FIRST, DID YOU KNOW...
Did you know the big Mardi Gras parade is March 3rd but, starting two weeks before Mardi Gras, there are thirty-something parades leading up to the grand finale? Does it get wild? Well, riding around downtown I notice most of the high-rise buildings, such as the 50-story Shell Oil building, have erected chain-link fences around their perimeters to act as a kind of barricade. Press
Louisiana Land & Exploration Company
Louisiana Land & Exploration Company occupies nine floors in a downtown 36-story building (total revenues for the nine months ended 9/31/91 totaled $604.7 million) Though the companyís name is on the building it only leases the space. The building, built in 1987, is supposedly the premier office address in town. About 450 employees work in the building.
I take the elevator to the 36th floor and meet with Albert Petrie, Jr., Assistant Corporate Secretary. Walking into his office I notice a BLOOMBERG on his desk. Petrie notices the Bloomberg T-shirt Iím wearing and we start out talking about Bloomberg L.P.
Hereís something unusual: a winding staircase connects the 35th floor to the 36th floor. The senior executives are on the 35th floor, which means they walk down from the main reception area on the 36th floor to reach their offices. Iíve seen this staircase set-up dozens of times before but it has always been the other way aroundóleaving the reception area you take the staircase up to the
head honchos offices.
Regardless, up or down, my request to see the CEOís office and boardroom is denied. Why, I always ask? The answer sounds like the company is sensitive about showing the 35th floor to outsiders because itís very plush.
Did you know LL&E is the largest private owner of coastal wetlands in the United States with over 600,000 acres? The company also flies one corporate aircraft, a Gulfstream.
(For more information see: LLX)
K & B, Inc.
K & B, Inc. is a privately-held, regional drug-store chain. Headquartered in a seven-story structure designed by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, itís located on the fringe of the downtown New Orleans business district. The building, built in the 70ís, overlooks Lee Circleóa small park with a very large memorial statue of Robert E. Lee in the center.
K & B has one of the most impressive modern art collections Iíve seen. The plaza area is filled with a wide array of sculptures including works by Henry Moore, George Rickey and Isamu Noguchi. The company has scattered a fascinating array of photo-realist paintings, kinetic sculptures and abstracts throughout its hallways, offices and conference rooms.
Sydney Bestshoff, III, the companyís CEO, has a small stain-glass window in his office. But his window pales by comparison to the large stain-glass window in the boardroom. I wonít try to describe the various pieces of art in the building because I canít do them justice. If you ever get to New Orleans definitely visit K & B. The building is open to the public.
MORE ON ART...
Backtracking now...earlier in my trek I visited Progressive Insurance Company in Cleveland. They also have a very impressive and controversial modern art collection. How controversial? Well,
as a rule, insurance companies are pretty conservative. Yet when I walked into their corporate headquarters, the first thing I saw was a sculpture of a life-size geisha woman in a wooden hot tub washing herself-with her uncovered large breasts in full view. I was told the CEO delights in making people react. In addition, the companyís boardroom walls display Andy Warholís famous portraits of Chairman Mao.
The scenery along the 90-mile ride from New Orleans to Baton Rouge consists mostly of swampland. However, I do ride past the massive oil refinery complexes in Good Hope plus I get three flat tires.
Cajun Electric Power Co-Op
My third flat tire happens right in front of Cajun Electric Power Co-op, one of the companies I planned to visit in Baton Rouge. Iím not in the best of mood after it my third flat because Iím out of spare tubes and need to locate a bicycle shop.
I walk into the two-story headquarters building, which is located about 12 miles from downtown Baton Rouge. The CEOís secretary tells me that Iíll have to come back tomorrow and "maybe someone will have 10 minutes to talk with you."
So the visit wonít be a total waste, I then ask directions to the nearest bicycle shop. Five employees (including the CEOís secretary) then spend ten minutes discussing which bike shop is the closest. I end up WALKING my bike four and a half miles to the bike shop they decide on. One of the fellows at the bike shop said, "it would have taken five minutes; why didnít someone at Cajun Electric offer to drive you to the bike shop?" Why not.
United Companies Financial Corp.
United Companies Financial Corporation is a holding company whose principal businesses include life insurance, mortgage lending and mortgage servicing (assets over $1.4 billion). Headquarters is a 77,000 square-foot, five-story structure about eight miles from downtown Baton Rouge. About 300 employees work in the building, which was built in 1981 and is situated in a 71-acre office park the company developed.
I ask Terrell Brown, CEO, "Howís business?" He tells me the company expects to announce good quarterly earnings. Ever see one of those miniature ships in a glass bottle? Brown has something along the same lines in his office. His version is a soda pop-size bottle with a house inside. Whatís unusual about it? The house is made out of Brownís business cards. It was given to Brown as a gift. Beats me how it was doneóthe house even includes a chimney.
(For more information see: UNCF)
NOTES ON BATON ROUGE:
Although itís the state capital, downtown Baton Rouge is dead. Thereís little traffic, vehicular or foot. All the buildings are rundown (except for the spiffy-looking Capitol building, built in 1932.) Businesses have apparently relocated to the suburbs. Louisiana State University, with an enrollment of 26,000, is located about three miles from downtown. As I always do when visiting a college campus, I go inside the football stadium and take pictures. Tiger stadium is one of the ten largest in the countryóseating over 80,000.