On the road in St. Louis, Missouri
My visit to St. Louis companies got off on a sour note because of the reception or lack of reception I received at privately held Maritz. With revenues of $1.2 billion in 1991, Maritz is a "biggie". Maritz does among other things: marketing research, develops programs for corporations to motivate employees, arranges corporate business travel and produces business meetings. Being a company in the "service" industry, I assume it would be very people oriented.
Corporate offices are next to Interstate 44 on a 260-acre site in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton. Why do I mention the interstate? Well, several buildings are on the other side of the
Interstate and Maritz has a private enclosed pedestrian walkway going over the freeway connecting the buildings. Most of the buildings are orange-colored brick.
The tallest building is a 9-story structure and that's the headquarters building. I'm told my letter of introduction "probably" ended up with Duane Christensen, who's in Corporate Communications. Christensen's secretary says he isn't in. "Would anybody else be available to talk with me for a few minutes?" I ask. I'm told it's a one-man office. Hmmm, a billion dollar company and only one person in Corporate Communication/ Public Relations?
Well, I'm on the phone in the lobby talking to Christensen's secretary and these two men walk by me and I hear the receptionist say, "Good morning Mr. Maritz". A minute later Christensen's secretary comes down to the lobby with background material on the company. I tell her how disappointed I am in not getting to speak with anyone. As I walk out the door I open one of the booklets she gave me and see William Maritz's (CEO) picture-yep, he was the one who walked right by me in the lobby.
About a mile down the road from Maritz are the corporate offices of privately held UniGroup, the holding company for United Van Lines. It too is located next to Interstate 44. Offices are in a 3-story company-owned building situated on a 33-acre site. The building was built in 1963 and there have been several additions over the years, (1967, 1972, 1979 and 1986) which now totals 262,000 square feet.
Walking into the lobby I see a large USA flag on the wall behind the reception desk and, a time capsule. The time capsule was sealed in 1990 and will be opened in the year 2000. I ask Wayne King, Public Relations Coordinator, why the capsule is sealed for a measly 10 years. He didn't know. I do know however, King hadn't received the introduction material I sent several weeks earlier, yet, he's more than accommodating in answering questions and showing me around.
Here's something unusual: The Chairman of the Board HAS to be an active agent, you know-one of the people who gives you moving quotes over the phone. Robert Baer, President, has a third floor office overlooking the parking lot. I count two miniature moving trucks and 13 bears in Baer's office. Why all the bears? He gets them as gifts because his name is pronounced the same as bear. Baer hasn't much hair on his head and it explains the plaque in his office that reads:
"God is good
God is fair
He gave some brains
He gave others hair"
The boardroom table is shaped like a big "U" -as in United Van Lines. About 1,000 employees work in the place. Lambert Field, St Louis's commercial airport, is 20 miles away. The company has no corporate aircraft but right next door is a small airport-used by private aircraft. Revenues in 1991 were $789 million.
Kellwood Company is a manufacturer and marketer of apparel, home fashions and camping soft goods. Revenues in 1991 were $807 million. The company-owned 3-story headquarters building is next to Interstate 64, about 15 miles west of downtown St. Louis in the well-to-do suburb of Town and Country. Furnishings and offices are very plain.
Privately held Fru-Con Corporation is one of the 50 largest construction companies in the country. However, it's a subsidiary of Bilfinger+Berger, one of Germany's largest contractors. Headquarters for Fru-Con is a company-owned 4-story, 150,000 square foot building in the suburb of Ballwin, about 30 miles west of St. Louis. Built and designed by Fru-Con in 1988, the building features something unusual: several of the employees in the company's design department are handicapped and so when the handicap walkways and ramps were designed, heating systems were built under the sidewalks to melt the snow in the winter.
About 500 employees work in the building. The only two reserved parking spots are for the CEO and CFO.
Mercantile Bancorporation and Boatmen's Bancshares
Just to give you an idea how my reception at two companies in the same city and the same industry can differ, read the following:
Mercantile Bancorporation (1991 revenues $654 million) and Boatmen's Bancshares (1991 revenues $1.3 billion), are two regional bank holding companies headquartered within three blocks of each other in downtown St. Louis. I go to Mercantile and am given a "whad do ya want?" look and reception from the receptionist on the 14th floor. (It's a company-owned 30-story building called the Mercantile Tower, with the executives housed on the 14th floor). My meeting with Gail Collins, Vice President-Assistant to the Chairman, lasts a short 4 minutes. I do find out the executive dining room is called, "Top of the Merc". I'm told I can't see the CEO's office or boardroom because there's "no reason to show you around".
Boatmen's is also headquartered in a 30-story building (in which they're 1/3 owners), with the executives housed on the 13th floor (the elevator buttons say "EX" instead of the number 13). The receptionist is very personable and friendly and so are the other employees I meet. Andrew Craig, CEO, meets with me in a conference room next to his office around lunchtime. When I ask if I could see his office, he takes me in and I see a tray of food on his desk. I find out Craig put off eating his lunch to talk with me. I mention this because I knew he had been in a meeting all morning and had another round of meetings after lunch. He could have just as easily made me wait out in the reception area while he finished. Craig has a baseball signed by Ozzie Smith and quite a few sculptures in his office. The company has an extensive collection of western art (sculptures, oils, prints) and has one corporate aircraft-a Falcon 200. Boatmen's boardroom is on the 30th floor and guess what, it has a bird's-eye view of the playing field of Busch Stadium (two blocks away and home to the St. Louis Cardinals).
Boatmen's, who by the way is the oldest bank west of the Mississippi, made me feel special. Mercantile made me feel like I was insignificant. Both of these companies are in the service industry. Guess which bank I'd open an account with?
General American Life Insurance Company
General American Life Insurance Company is headquartered in downtown St. Louis in a 6-story landmark building designed by Phillip Johnson and John Burgee, New York City. Built in 1977, the company-owned 115,000 square foot structure houses 400 employees and takes up a city block. Revenues in 1991 for the mutual insurance company were $2.2 billion. There's no rearranging or moving the boardroom table because it's shaped like a right triangle and it's marble. CEO Richard Liddy, has a desk made out of the same marble that's in the boardroom. Liddy occupies a small office, which includes three plants (real), a computer and, view of the famous Gateway Arch.
Edison Brothers Stores
Edison Brothers Stores is a specialty retailer with over 2,700 stores around the country. Revenues for the fiscal year ending 2/1/92 were $1.4 billion, net income $61 million. Headquarters is downtown in a company-owned, 12-story, orangish-brick structure housing 1,200 employees. The company occupies 430,000 square feet of the 500,000 square foot building. Meeting with Andrew Newman, Chairman of the Board, in his 5th floor office I notice he has no windows in his office. Newman is proficient on his computer and punches up data to show me sales were down in California. Behind his desk are photographs of the Edison Brothers-who started the company back in the 1920's. His grandfather was one of the Edison brothers. Does the company have a cafeteria or executive dining rooms? Nope. They eat at The St. Louis Centre, which touts itself as being the largest enclosed urban shopping center in the United States. Why does Newman like to eat at the food court in the mall? Well, the mall is connected to his building, the company has "7 or 8 stores" in the place and, he gets to check out the stores of the competition. Edison operates 1,800 apparel stores (J. Riggings, Jeans West, Oaktree, Zeidler & Zeidler to name a few), over 800 footwear stores (Bakers, Leeds, Wild Pair to name a few) and over 130 restaurant/entertainment centers (Dave & Buster's).
For more information: EBS
Publicly held CPI Corporation wasn't very receptive. With 1991 revenues of $414 million, CPI is the largest/owner operator of one-hour photofinishing minilabs in the country. CPI is also the exclusive Sears Portrait Studios operator. The 990 Sears Portrait Studios produced 61% of CPI's total revenue. Headquarters is in a turn-of-the century 9-story, company-owned building on the fringe of downtown St. Louis. Four years and $15 million dollars were spent on renovating the 300,000 square foot structure and evidently the weekend before my arrival, the company had an open house to celebrate the renovation AND the company's 50th birthday.
One of the two security guards calls up the CEO's secretary to find out where or to whom my introduction material had ended up. I'm told the CEO's secretary remembers the material but, doesn't know here it went. I'm sent over to Human Resources across the lobby and end up talking to one of the assistants. I end up asking my questions standing up because she never offers me a seat. She knows answers to very few of the questions and makes no effort to obtain them. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom were declined because she said, "I don't feel comfortable about it". I was persistent because Andrew Newman, Chairman of the Board at Edison Brothers, told me the CEO's office at CPI is different-sort of like a living room/library feeling. But, alas I never got past the lobby.
My visit to Sigma-Aldrich Corporation's headquarters doesn't last long. It's in a light industrial area a few miles from downtown St. Louis. Walking into the two-story building I encounter a not very friendly receptionist/security guard. The secretary to CEO Tom Corti comes down to the lobby and says the introduction material I sent several weeks earlier hadn't left Corti's desk and he's out of the office. The secretary gets hold of him on his car phone and she relays the following to me "Mr. Corti is not interested in participating at this time because the company is trying to keep a low profile".
A.G. Edwards & Sons
A.G. Edwards & Sons, is the largest national brokerage firm headquartered out of New York City. Revenues in fiscal 1992 were $939 million. Corporate offices are on the fringe of downtown St. Louis in a building that has been added on to several times since the 1960's. In 1989, the 15-story North Tower (624,000 square feet) was added on-giving the place over 1 million square feet of space. About 2,000 employees work in the place, which has two cafeterias and, a 13th floor. Gregory Carr, Public Relations Specialist, answered questions and showed me around.
Benjamin Edwards, III, is the great-grandson of the founder and is the current CEO. The porcelain collection in his office is unbelievable! Edwards' collection of Chinese Imari porcelain has been called the biggest and best in the world. There's over 1,500 pieces, with most of it lining his office walls, outer hallway walls and other nearby areas. Throughout the executives offices are Oriental rugs, which Edwards also collects. From his 15th floor office, Edwards has a great view of the St. Louis skyline because he's several miles away from it.
Edwards was gracious in letting me see his office, even though he just returned from a trip and had a zillion things to do. I don't know if I'm being sensitive or what but, the following happened: Gregory and I go into Edwards' office and Edwards gets up, shakes my hand and then sits down. I start talking to Edwards and he's not listening to me. He reading notes on his desk and he isn't even paying attention to me. I start talking to him again and, he ignores me. After walking out, Gregory (the PR specialist-who obviously saw how I was ignored) mentioned Edwards being very busy and apologized for it. As I mentioned earlier, I appreciate Edwards letting me see his office but, he really made me look AND feel like an idiot. For more information: AGE
Clayton, a suburb about 15 miles west of downtown St. Louis is home to quite a few corporations. Interco, Brown Group, and General Dynamics (until the later recently moved out of state) are headquartered in Clayton. I visited the above three companies on my first trek-five years earlier.
Jefferson Smurfit Corporation
Privately held Jefferson Smurfit Corporation has its corporate offices in Clayton in a 15-story structure called, the Jefferson Smurfit Centre Building. The paper, paperboard and packaging products company had $4.5 billion in revenues last year. Jefferson Smurfit Group in Dublin, Ireland and Morgan Stanley Leveraged Equity Fund II in New York City jointly owns the company. Why is the company headquartered in St. Louis and more specifically, why in the suburb of Clayton? According to Teresa Ingram, Corporate Communications Manager, it's because St. Louis is a central location for its 180 plants around the country. As for why Clayton, she says many of the executives live nearby.
The company has leased space in the building since 1989. About 250 employees occupy four floors, with the executives on the 12th. What magazines were in the lobby area? Financial World magazine, Pulp & Paper magazine and an Ireland weekly business magazine called, Business & Finance. The art throughout the floors consists of paintings by Irish artists of mostly landscapes in Ireland. The company has one corporate plane, a Gulfstream 3. Hanging on a wall in the lobby/reception area is a small picture of Jefferson Smurfit, the founder, who is deceased. I had to ask who he is or was because there's no name under the picture. I wasn't able to see the CEO's office or Boardroom because they were in use. Did you know low-key Jefferson Smurfit Corporation is the largest waste paper recycler in the United States?
I mention to Ingram that every time I see the company's name I think of the Smurfs. On Ingram's business card, in the bottom right corner it reads; "Made From Recycled Paper".
Privately held Harbour Group Ltd. is headquartered on the 6th floor of a 16-story building in Clayton. A taller next door use to house the corporate offices of General Dynamics. The receptionist in the well-appointed reception area is a real cutie. She tells me Sam Fox, the CEO, had received my introduction material (sent several weeks earlier) and "he's not interesting in participating". Here again, I was basically told to get lost but, it didn't bother me because it was done face to face and, by a beautiful woman. Harbour Group Ltd. is in several businesses: Medical products, cutting tools and pumps. According to Forbes magazine, the company had over $500 million in revenues last year.
Privately held Enterprise Rent-A-Car, with over $1 billion in revenues, is primarily in the transportation business. However, if you stay at some of the nicer hotels around the country, it might surprise you to learn Courtesy Products, a subsidiary, provides the hotel's in-room coffee service-which includes Cafe Valet, the coffee brewer. Another subsidiary, Monogramme Confections, provides those chocolates left on your pillow. Crawford Supply, another subsidiary, sells non-food products to city and county jails plus, state and federal correctional institutions. In fact, Crawford Supply is the nation's largest correctional supply business of its type. Enterprise also owns Elco Chevrolet, a St. Louis car dealership.
Corporate offices for Enterprise are in two buildings located in Clayton. The company occupies all 37,000 square feet of a red brick, 2-story building and, 17,000 square feet of a similar building next door. Steve Smith, Corporate Advertising Manager, gives me a thorough tour of the place. None of the 300 employees get reserved parking spots, including Andrew Taylor, CEO. The view from Taylor's second floor office is of a newly installed satellite dish. Spending a few minutes with Taylor, I'm impressed with his great sense of humor. The company has one corporate plane; a Falcon 50.
I visited Avis's headquarters and everything was red, I visited National and everything was green, I visited Alamo and everything was blue and yellow. So, what color was predominate at Enterprise? Yep, it's the dark green. Even the bathroom had green wallpaper.
More on the road in St. Louis, Missouri and Decatur, IL.
Unbelievable! A business reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch spends a couple hours interviewing me for a story. The article comes out in the paper and guess what? Out of all the information he gathers from our talk, he elects to write about how I keep tabs on which CEO's have bad breath.
Publicly held Angelica Corporation (revenues for year ending 2/1/92-$434 million, net income $23 million) provides textile rental and laundry services for health care institutions. Corporate offices are about 12 miles from downtown St. Louis in an office park about 6 blocks from Monsanto's huge campus-like headquarters complex. About 60 employees work on the 1st floor of the two-story leased building. It's nothing fancy. Lawrence Young, CEO, has a plainly furnished first floor office with a view of the parking lot. Young's office contains several pictures of him golfing. For more information: AGL.
Privately held HBE Corporation is headquartered in a 6-story light brown brick building about 15 miles west of downtown St. Louis. Though it's called the HBE Building, they're other tenants. The two receptionists on the first floor are very nice. I end up talking to Frank Kummer's secretary (Kummer's the CEO) and I'm told Kummer never referred or trickled down my introduction material to anyone. I end up talking to no one.
Arch Mineral Corporation
Arch Mineral Corporation is a privately held coal company 50% owned by Ashland Oil and 50% owned by the Hunt brothers of Dallas, Texas. The company leases space in a 5-story building known as City Place One. Downtown St. Louis is about 20 miles away.
Magazines in the lobby/waiting area include Rock Products, Construction Equipment, Engineering & Mining Journal, Business Week and, Business & Commercial Aviation. Arch with 112 employees, occupies the third floor. I wasn't aware the Hunts owned part of Arch until Steven Leer, the CEO, told me. The company was founded in 1969 and I'll give you three guesses as to how they came up with the name.
Edward D. Jones & Company
Edward D. Jones & Company, with over 1,500 branches, has more offices than any other brokerage firm in the country. Headquarters is about 10 miles from downtown St. Louis in a complex of 17 buildings. The company likes to call it a "campus-type setting" but, with a fairly busy public street dividing the buildings-I wouldn't call it a campus. The various company-owned buildings combine for a total of 350,000 square feet situated on 56 acres. The company moved out to this suburban area about 20 years ago.
From the "headquarters building", I'm transported several blocks away to see Judy Zeilmann, Human Resources. While waiting to meet with Zeilmann, I notice this is the building where people go for job applications. What's unusual? Instead of filling out forms, applicants type answers into computers, specially set-up for easy use.
Boy, I can't believe how small and plain John Bachmann's (Managing Principal) office is, especially after a day earlier seeing the porcelain-filled, great-view office of the CEO at A.G. Edwards. Bachmann's 2nd floor office, which is not a corner office, has a computer, 2 plants (real), lots of pictures of his family and a baseball signed by Stan Musial. Bachmann's secretary told me his most prized memento in his office is the 1st place award hanging on the wall. What's the award for? A baking contest in which his cookies won.
I knew ACF Industries was a privately held company but, I didn't know the manufacturer/lessor of railroad freight and tank cars was owned by Carl Icahn. The company leases all three floors of a 3-story building in Earth City, which is about 20 miles west of St. Louis. Donald Reilly, Manager-Industrial Relations, didn't know how the heck Earth City got its name but, it might have something to do with all the gravel operations in the area. About 240 employees work in the place and there's a miniature railroad tank car on display in the lobby. What does ACF stand for? American Car & Foundry.
Several miles from ACF Industries, I was suppose to find the corporate offices of Schnuck Markets, a privately held supermarket chain with over $1 billion in revenues. I get to the address I have and find out the corporate offices have moved to a business park about 10 miles away. A big distribution center is still located at the old address. Because of time constraints I'm not able to ride over to the new offices and this disappoints me. Why? Well, going around the country I like to visit supermarkets and one of the ways I judge if a supermarket is good or not is by how their in-store bakeries stack up. Schnucks has the best chocolate, strawberry cream cheese and almond-filled croissants in the country! The secret is the glaze they put on. I kid you not-I was eating six of 'em a day. Another unusual item some of their stores have: cherry bagels with a glaze. Down in Florida, Publix Supermarkets makes incredible key lime tarts. Doubletree Hotels make the best chocolate chip cookies.
Privately held Sverdrup Corporation is an engineering/construction company with over $500 million in revenues. The company occupies two floors in a 5-story building-which is part of a new office/hotel/restaurant complex called Riverport. Located about 22 miles west of St. Louis, the complex contains a Doubletree Hotel (where I gleefully gobbled down four of their cookies). Yes there was a Mr. Sverdrup, who by the way-was a real general. Nobody was familiar with the introduction material I sent and nobody has time to talk to me. The receptionist does leave her post for a few minutes to take me down the hall to have a peek at the CEO's office and see the "gong". When General Sverdrup was in Thailand on a trip, he purchased this huge gong. Two large elephant tusks hold up the gong and from what the secretary told me, when the company wins a bid for a new project-the executives bang the gong. The secretary says the resulting noise is loud.
If you don't know where Decatur, Illinois is, then get out a map. Just kidding. It's about 30 miles east of Springfield Illinois and 160 miles west of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Illinois Power Company
My visit to Illinois Power Company ($1.5 billion revenues in 1991) is real blah. Part of that is because of the reception or lack of reception given to me by Dale Yemm, Director-Community Affairs. Yemm seems so uninterested in answering my questions and it shows. Everything about the place is blah. The 3-story building, located a 2 miles from downtown Decatur, was built in 1956 and looks it. It's still furnished with the original furniture. About 600 employees work in the place. The receptionist is blah, the other people in Yemm's office are blah. Jeez, Larry Haab's third floor corner office (he's the CEO) is blah. The only magazine in the reception/lobby area is blah--Nuclear Plant Journal magazine. Here's the most interesting tidbit I pick up: the heavily wooded 25 company-owned acres surrounding the headquarters site is a designated Urban Wildlife Sanctuary.
About 5 miles from downtown Decatur is the massive headquarters/manufacturing complex of Archer Daniels Midland Company. I came through Decatur on my first trek around the country five years ago and was suppose to visit ADM but, I arrived on a Saturday and elected not hang around until Monday. ADM, which is engaged principally in the business of processing and merchandising agricultural commodities, is a "biggie". Revenues in 1991 were $8.5 billion.
To get on the grounds you pass through a guard gate manned by several security guards. Big trucks loaded with all kinds of commodities are constantly coming and going. On site is the largest corn wet-milling plant in the country and the largest soybean processing plant. I stop at the guard gate and spend the next 45 minutes waiting in the guard shack to find out where or to whom my introduction material trickled down. It's hot and muggy out but I elect to stand outside of the air-conditioned guard shack because inside, one of the guards is puffing away on a smelly cigarette. After being told nobody recalls receiving my letter of introduction, I call up Dwayne Andreas's secretary (Andreas is the CEO). After spending minutes with her on the phone, I'm transferred to a woman who's either in corporate communications or public relations. The woman says nobody will be able to answer questions about the corporate headquarters but, she'll send someone out to give me a tour of the plants. Boy, it seems like they have what I call the "bunker mentality".
I wait another 45 minutes near the guard gate until Clare Morganthaler, Marketing Specialist, pulls up in a Suburban truck. I hop in (having to leave my bike at the guard gate) and away we go. I get a fascinating tour of their 10-acre full production hydrofarm, in which they harvest over 30,000 heads of lettuce every day along with other vegetables and herbs. We drive by the big corn wet-milling plant and the soybean plant. Though initially Morganthaler was guarded and suspicious of me, she becomes friendly after I give her background and samples of the unusual information I've gathered on companies. Matter of fact, she asks me if I'd like to go to the company cafeteria and have a Harvest Burger, which is an all-vegetable protein product from soy protein concentrate. I say, "yes". This from a guy who eats hamburgers for breakfast. Do you know what this also means? I'll be going to the headquarters building-which the lady on the phone said was off-limits.
Outside the entrance to the 5-story headquarters building is a statue of President Ronald Reagan, who visited the company in 1984. To get to the cafeteria, Morganthaler takes me through the company's good-sized trading floor. The Harvest Burger, believe it or not! is delicious.
I was disappointed in not getting to see Dwayne Andreas's office because he's gotten the reputation of being the new Armand Hammer. Reading the company's 10-K, I see Michael D. Andreas is Executive Vice President (he's the son of Dwayne). G. Allen Andreas, Vice President, is a nephew of Dwayne and so is Martin L. Andreas, Senior Vice President. For more information: ADM.