On the road in and around Los Angeles...
Bugle Boys Industries
If the boys at Bugle Boys only knew what I have to endure getting to their place in Simi Valley. I ride south, down the Pacific Coast Highway from Ventura; turn left at Malibu, and head inland 20 miles across the Santa Monica Mountains. Here’s the hard part: it has rained 10 days in a row including today so I’ve got rockslides and mudslides out here. Highway crews clear sections of the road using bulldozers. It’s all a little unnerving to a guy on a bike.
Simi Valley (population 80,000) is really a valley. As I bike into town around sunset, I spot the entrance to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Actually all I can see is a winding, switchback road going up the side of this barren mountain. I can’t even see a library.
The good-looking, two-story concrete and glass 325,000 square-foot headquarters and distribution center of Bugle Boys sits on a ridge overlooking downtown Simi Valley. This privately-held men’s apparel manufacturer was founded in 1977. Sales surpassed $500 million in 1990.
I have a odd run-in with Bugle Boy’s security guard. At least 70 years old, the guard has the body of Alfred Hitchcock and the hang-dog face of actor Fred Gwynne (remember Herman Munster on TV?) For some reason this guard immediately has it in for me and eyes me suspiciously while I wait in the lobby. But his suspicions have some validity. Most lobby visitors don’t study the coffee table magazines and copy down the names.
Speaking of magazines, Bugle Boy has a diverse collection:
"Sports Illustrated," "Volleyball," "The New Yorker," "Network ~P / 31 World," "Info World," "Media Week," "Surfing," "Fortune," "Request Interview," "ATI American Textiles" and "California Apparel News."
Dr. William Chow, Founder and CEO, doesn’t have time to see me so my wait and the guard’s worry is in vain.
20th Century Industries
20th Century Industries (1991 revenues $907 million) is the holding company for 20th Century Insurance. 20th Century is California’s sixth largest insurer of private passenger automobiles and eighth largest insurer of homes. Corporate offices are in a 11-story leased building in Woodland Hills, a booming community of 30,000 about 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Rick Dinon, Senior Vice President, tells me about 800 employees work in the 220,000 square-foot structure built in 1981. The company originally occupied the first four floors; then it took three more; and now it occupies the whole building.
Louis Foster, CEO, is on the seventh floor. When they took over the whole building Foster decided to stay put on the seventh. (For more information: TW)
Zenith National Insurance Corporation
Zenith (1991 revenues $546 million) has quite an extensive collection of contemporary art scattered throughout its hallways. But I can’t see CEO Stanley Zax’s second floor corner office because "he doesn’t like strangers in his office."
Walking into the company’s fitness center I see something strange with the weightlifting equipment. There are two clear plastic boxes—one labeled "five pounds of muscle" and one labeled "five pounds of fat." It’s not the real thing of course— it’s rubber. The five pounds of muscle look like red meat while the white blob of fat looks like several cans of fruit cocktail molded together. My tour guides, Jordan and Young, beam big smiles when I tell them the company’s muscle and fat exhibit is something I’ve never seen before at any company.
(For more information: ZNT)
Weider Health and Fitness
Several blocks from Zenith Insurance I find the headquarters for Weider Health and Fitness—a privately-held company that publishes magazines: "Muscle & Fitness," "Flex," and "Shape." The company also sells its own line of weightlifting equipment and vitamins and it started the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympian contests.
Before entering I wonder: will all the employees be muscle-bound gods and goddesses? Will the place smell like a sweaty gym? Will the cafeteria be serving steroids and protein drinks?
First thing I see when I go in is a 10-foot painting of a boxer by Leroy Nieman. Below that there are two 10-foot oil paintings of weightlifters—one is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another 10-foot oil painting to the left is of Sandow—according to Roman legend he’s the world’s first weightlifter. A two-foot high bronze statue of Sandow sits next to the lobby’s black leather chairs.
But the lobby’s main attraction for me is the U.S. flag in the glass case mounted on the wall behind the receptionists. A plaque says it’s THE flag draped over George Washington’s casket at his funeral.
While I’m waiting in the lobby I notice this big body builder sitting in the waiting area. This guy is HUGE and I swear he looks like an Arnold Schwarzenegger clone. He’s wearing cowboy boots, form-fitting clothes and the wraparound shades Arnold wore in Terminator 2. It’s cloudy outside so I know the only reason this guy’s wearing sunglasses is to look cool.
Once I get past the lobby I see the company’s extensive collection of American art—primarily Western. I spot several bronze busts, several Western sculptures—at least two Remingtons— and quite a few paintings. My favorite is "Where the Buffalo Roam" by Lorenzo Ghiglieri.
I’m surprised to discover the company has no fitness center or cafeteria.
As I leave I walk up to the Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike that’s still in the lobby and I ask him: "Why are you wearing sunglasses indoors?" He growls: "Of what concern is it of yours?"
Yikes. I make a hasty exit.
It takes some good detective work for me to find the corporate offices of Pinkerton’s, the world’s largest provider of private security and investigation services (1991 revenues $638 million; net income $13 million.) It’s located on a small side street, in a low-rent area with graffiti-covered buildings.
The lobby is very small. An old three-foot tall safe, used by Pinkerton’s in the late 1800’s sits behind the receptionist’s desk. I meet Robert Woodlock, Product Manager and Mary Polakoski, Assistant to CEO Thomas Wathen. Polakoski gives me a tour of the place.
Pinkerton has an interesting collection of company memorabilia. It includes pictures of captured crooks, old Pinkerton badges, guns, as well as the personal effects of Allan Pinkerton. He founded Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency in 1850.
The boardroom on the first floor isn’t much to look at except for the fantastic painting—"Hands Up"—by Ludcke, a cowboy artist. It has a story: During the late 1800’s a masked gunman robbed several gambling houses in the West. His modus operandi was to appear suddenly in the local gaming room, shout the command "Hands Up" and cover the players and employees with his revolver. During the trial of the man mistakenly arrested for these crimes, each of the robbed gamblers—gunfighters themselves— testified he couldn’t stop the robbery because the hold-up man covered HIM with a gun. The defense attorney argued that it was impossible for one man to simultaneously point his gun at a dozen persons in scattered positions. The artist Ludcke, present at the trial, got the idea for this painting—the highwayman’s pistol seems to point at anyone standing in the room. I test it and find this optical illusion really works; no matter where I stand the gun looks like it’s pointed at me. (For more information: PKTN)
Sunkist Growers, Inc.
With revenues of $956 million in 1991, it’s no wonder Sunkist has one of the world’s best known brand names. $207 million of the company’s total revenues come from Japanese exports. Corporate offices are in a white, three-story office building in suburban Sherman Oaks. It’s known as the Sunkist Building.
I pick a lousy time to show up because the Board of Directors meets today. The boardroom is across from the receptionist’s desk. As I’m speaking with her the directors come out for a 15 minute recess. These guys, most of whom are farmers, look like they don’t wear suits very often.
The City of Burbank
I watched "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson for many years and heard all his jokes about downtown Burbank. Is it really as bad as he says? Not anymore says Stephen Helvey, Assistant City Manager. He admits downtown Burbank wasn’t much to look at a few years ago and it was not safe after dark. But the new downtown Media City Center Mall changed that.
Burbank, population about 95,000, has a lot going for it now. The television and movie industries have many operations here; Walt Disney has its corporate offices here. The city’s three biggest taxpayers are Warner Brothers, NBC and Lockheed Aircraft.
On the downside, Lockheed announced the closure of its Burbank operations near the Burbank Airport—a loss of 6,000 jobs. During World War II Lockheed built hundreds of planes at this Burbank site. The company even built and owned Burbank Airport. In 1978 Lockheed sold the airport to the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.
I ask Helvey why the new downtown shopping mall is called Media City Center Mall when all the media companies are located about five miles away. He laughs and says it’s a marketing ploy to get visitors to come downtown. He then brags about the new downtown AMC multi-screen movie complex.
In and around Glendale...
Glendale, population 150,000, is about 10 miles north of Los Angeles. It has an impressive downtown skyline. Carnation (Nestle) along with GlenFed, (Glendale Federal Savings) have their corporate offices here in brand new buildings.
I’m a pastry/bakery nut. As I travel the country I keep tabs on the best pastries, baked goods and ice cream I find. About a mile from the high-rises of downtown Glendale I find a great Mexican bakery called Porto’s. Both times I visit I find people lined up outside the place waiting to get in. The goodies are good and the prices are cheap.
Here are a few other places around the country I recommend:
1) Perfection’s Bakery (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)
2) The sugar and rum pecans at Merritt Pecan Company (Weston,
3) The chocolate sacriptantia dessert at Stella Pastry &
Caffe in the North Beach section of San Francisco—to
4) The Incredible Bruegger’s Bar at Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery
(over 60 stores in Iowa, upstate New York, Minnesota,
Missouri, North Carolina and Vermont).
5) Amy’s Handmade ice cream (Glendale, CA).
I meet a most unusual fellow while in downtown Glendale. As I come out of a fast-food place I see this man—mid-30’s, no front teeth—sitting next to my bike drinking a cup of coffee. He looks like a transient so I expect him to ask me for money. Instead he says, "It looks like you’re traveling." "Yep," I answer. "You know, I eat rocks for food," he says. "Oh," I say. Then he tells me he has eaten over a 1,000 pounds of rocks. This guy is really serious. Well, it would explain his missing front teeth. At this point he starts to explain the correlation between rocks and nature so I decide to say goodbye and ride on.
One more story: As you know, I REALLY don’t like cigarette smoke. But when I rode through Wisconsin it seemed to me just about everybody smoked. So I walked into this convenience store in Wausau and there was this 60-something woman smoking away. Something in me just snapped. "I’m from California," I told her. "Why does everybody in Wisconsin smoke?"
She gave me the once over and replied: "Why is everybody in California on pot?"
Since then, I try not to make sweeping generalizations.
First Interstate Bancorp
I’m on top of the First Interstate World Center building—the 72nd floor—in downtown Los Angeles. Completed in 1990, its 1,017 feet make it the tallest building on the West Coast and the eighth tallest in the US. I visited First Interstate Bancorp (holding company for First Interstate Bank) five years ago on my first trek around the U.S. Now I’m back again because I wanted to see the new building. I get a warm reception—again—this time from Diane Siegel, Senior Vice President: Public Affairs.
Even though the building is called the First Interstate World Center with the bank’s logo on top, First Interstate leases rather than owns its space in the building. The bank occupies 160,000 square feet out of a total of 1.3 million rentable square feet.
Does CEO Carson have a corner office on the 72nd floor? Not exactly. The top floor is circular so nobody has a corner office. Also, the floors get smaller the higher up you go.
"How’s business?" I ask. "Business is up," Siegel replies. Revenues in 1991 were $3.9
billion. (For more information see: I)
J.G. Boswell Company
This privately-held agriculture company owns a 160,000-acres (250 square miles) cotton farm in Corcoran and is also the U.S.’s largest grower of wheat, safflower and seed alfalfa.
Corporate offices are on the 46th floor of the 58-story
Security Pacific Plaza building. There I meet Carol Miller, Executive Secretary to CEO James W. Boswell. Parking is scarce and expensive in downtown Los Angeles. So the best perk Boswell offers its employees is free parking in an underground garage.
Miller tells me J.G. Boswell has granted only one interview to the media in the last 20 years—to "Forbes" magazine back in 1989. Just then the doors to the boardroom open and three company executives, including Boswell, come out. Boswell, 40, stops when he sees me. He tells everyone he wants to meet "the guy going around the country on a bike." So for the next few minutes I regale him with tales of my travels. Boswell asks me if I have any unanswered questions about the company. Sure. I want to know the company’s total revenues. Boswell answer: 1992 revenues were over $400 million. That was easy. Now I’m all set to ask him how much he gets paid. Not.
Before he leaves, Boswell tells Miller to give me the "full tour." I visit Boswell’s neat and tidy corner office, which contains a computer, three plants and several Jake Swanson paintings.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
I find Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in a 52-story high-rise. Cynthia Keller, the Assistant to Managing Partner Ronald Beard, tells me Gibson is the fourth largest law firm in the U.S.—with over 700 lawyers—and the largest law firm in California.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has grandfather clocks near the reception desk on each of its seven floors. I ask Keller about them. Turns out every floor in every Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher office--18 offices worldwide—has a grandfather clock.
About 225 lawyers work in this office. The company also has a fine art collection called "A Century of California Landscapes." It’s a comprehensive review of landscape imagery created between the 1860’s and 1980’s by California artists.
Ronald Beard’s 44th floor office has an oversized gavel, six live plants, a milking stool (?), a watering pail, a golf calendar, several Ansel Adams pictures and some golf scenes.
Times Mirror Company
Five years ago I visited over 50 companies in the Los Angeles area which included stopping by the Times Mirror’s fortress-like downtown headquarters three times with no luck. I ended up making an appointment, which I normally never do. The only appointment I could get was for two weeks later. This meant I had to make a special trip from San Diego to Los Angeles. But I showed up and guess what? Times Mirror told me I showed up on the wrong day! (I did not.)
So today I walk into the lobby and ask the security guard to call Martha Goldstein, Director: Corporate Communications at Times Mirror. The moment of truth has arrived. Will Times Mirror (1991 revenues $3.6 billion)--publisher of newspapers ("The Los Angeles Times," "The Baltimore Sun," "Newsday," "The Hartford Courant" and others); owner of four TV stations and the Times Mirror Cable Television which operates in 13 states; publisher of periodicals such as "Field & Stream," "The Sporting News," "Ski," "Yachting," "National Journal," "Golf" and "Popular Science"—stump me again or will they atone for their inhospitality five years ago? I use the guard’s phone to talk with one of Goldstein’s assistants. She tells me no one has time to meet with me.
I’m annoyed. I walk next door to the "Los Angeles Times" to visit Nancy Rivera-Brooks—a business reporter who, several years earlier, did a story on me. When I tell her the story of my second fruitless attempt to see anyone at Times Mirror, she laughs. I start laughing too.
(For more information see: TMC)
An interlude with the California Highway Patrol...
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) sets up a roadblock to run spot safety checks on trucks as I ride on down the road. I decide to stop and check it out. I end up spending the next several hours with Officer Amore and Officer Rhyne watching them inspect trucks.
Amore and Rhyne are regular CHP officers with extra training in truck mechanics. They don’t wear the crisp uniforms of regular police officers however because they get too dirty. They wear blue jumpsuits instead.
So here’s how truck inspection works: Rhyne and Amore watch the oncoming trucks and look for obvious flaws such as cracked windshields, expired registration plates or broken headlights. If they pull a truck over they check registration, tires, brakes lines, axles, transmission fluid, headlights and turn signals.
If the truck passes muster, it drives on its way in about 10 minutes. If repairs need to be made, the officers hand a form to the driver, which must be signed by the company/owner and returned to the CHP after the repairs are made.
I ask the officer about the three trucks parked on the side of the road. These trucks aren’t going anywhere unless they’re towed; the officers judged them unsafe to drive. One truck has a completely bald tire.
My two hours on this beat convinces me the condition of trucks on the road is pretty scary. One driver of a produce truck tells me he’s glad to get a repair order; now maybe his company will fix several serious problems that he’s been complaining about for months.
About 10 miles northeast of Los Angeles is Pasadena (population 120,000)--home of the Rose Bowl and Ameron. Ameron—1991 revenues $465 million, has four main product lines: concrete and steel pipe, fiberglass pipe and protective coatings.
I spend an hour talking with Lawrence Tollenaere, the CEO. Tollenaere has a splendid view of the Sierra Madre Mountains from his corner office. I count over 100 mostly business books lining his book shelves. Tollenaere taught at UCLA for five years. I ask him about a big scenic oil painting of Hawaii behind his desk. He tells me the artist—Hayme Okusda—is a good friend of his and that Ameron has operations in Hawaii.
"Why do you have a Steuben glass beaver and wood-carved beaver on your shelf?" I ask next. Answer: the construction industry has an association called the Beavers, which Tollenaere headed one year. (For more information see: AMN)
The Parsons Corporation
The Parsons Corp., a privately-held engineering and construction firm with $1.3 billion in revenues and 10,000 employees, is the largest 100% employee-owned firm in the U.S. Ralph M. Parsons founded the company back in 1944.
Situated on a 26-acre site about four miles from downtown Pasadena, the company-owned building complex with one million square feet was built in 1974. Debra Fox, Manager-Corporate Communications, gives me a warm welcome and tour on her lunch hour. I watch hundreds of employees pour out of the elevators at high noon and head for dozens of food places in the area. This part of Pasadena, called "Old Town," features many trendy shops and restaurants.
On our way to CEO Leonard Pieroni’s office Fox warns me not to laugh at the three-inch deep-red carpet The red carpet carries over into the boardroom where it meets blue and white drapes. It looks the scene in the movie "Patton" when General George Patton addresses his troops in front of a huge American flag.
Pieroni’s office is big but not fancy. He keeps a Louisville Slugger baseball bat signed by my favorite baseball player—Ernie Banks—behind his desk.
Mercury General Corp.
Mercury General Corp., an insurance company (1991 revenues $529 million), is the seventh largest auto insurer in California. Judy Waters, Secretary to CEO George Joseph, spends a few minutes with me answering my questions.
When I get ready to leave Walters notices my Bloomberg T-shirt. She says Mercury just had a BLOOMBERG installed last week. I show her how to punch up my column. (BIKE <GO>)
Once again I’m about to ride off but this time the security guard runs outside and asks me to wait. Christopher Graves, who works in the company’s investment department, follows my column on BLOOMBERG and wants to meet me. He especially wants to know what kind of bike I ride.
My bike is a Cannondale touring model. I visited Cannondale’s corporate offices in Georgetown, Connecticut five years ago. I was visiting BIG companies on that trip but I wanted to see Cannondale (with about $50 million in revenues) because of my bike. First thing I noticed: many employees rode their bikes to work and most of their bikes were NOT Cannondales. I asked why and a PR guy—my tour guide—told me it was the company’s way of tracking the competition. Wow, I thought. He sure had a snappy answer for that question. (For more information: MRCY)
Petersen Publishing Company
Petersen Publishing Co. is a privately-held company which publishes magazines including: "Motor Trend," "Hunting," "Guns & Ammo," "Skin Diver," "Sport Truck," "Handguns," "Dirt Rider," "Bow Hunting," "Motorcyclist" and "Hot Rod." What a macho lineup. There’s a sign on the front of the company’s headquarters building on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, which says "Building For Sale or Lease."
Coming off the elevator I recoil at the sight of a monstrous stuffed Arctic Polar Bear. It stands 12 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 1,500 pounds. The plaque next to it says Robert Petersen (Founder & CEO of Petersen Publishing) shot this bear in Alaska back in 1965 using only a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum revolver. The plaque also describes the dangers to a hunter who wants to shoot a polar bear using only a handgun; Petersen had to get within 25 yards of the bear to take his shot. Petersen did use a backup emergency system in case his revolver didn’t stop a rightfully angry bear. A guide stood not far behind Petersen, his rifle aimed at the bear.
Petersen’s secretary tells me Petersen is out of the country right now so I wave goodbye to the bear and leave.
Western International Media
Privately-held Western International Media, with billings of $1.2 billion, is the largest buyer of spot television, radio and outdoor billboard advertising in the U.S. Corporate offices are in a plain, three-story, company-owned building on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
I count eight televisions in the lobby. Each television is tuned to a different station with the volume turned off. The receptionist watches TV from her desk and she tells me she’s become good at lip reading.
Diane Desmond, Executive Assistant to Dennis Holt—company founder and CEO—welcomes me. She takes me next door to the old Playboy building and introduces me to Dan Miller, Executive Vice President. Desmond tells me I won’t be able to see CEO Holt’s office because he’s talking on a conference call to France and he’s in a bad mood.
Miller says business is booming and the company needs to lease several more floors in the old Playboy building. On my tour of one remodeled new floor, Miller points to a torn-up area that used to contain Hugh Hefner’s Jacuzzi.
Who’s Western International Media’s biggest client? The Walt Disney Company.
The Dudley Do-Right Emporium
On Sunset Boulevard I spot this small, dumpy store with a 10-feet Rocky and Bullwinkle statue out front. Gotta check this out.
In I go and I meet Ramona Ward. She’s the widow of Jay Ward-writer/producer/creator of the Rocky and His Friends television show. When Jay died over 10 years ago, Ramona decided to open this store. She says the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show still airs on televisions around the world. The cartoons were all made in the 1960’s but are still enjoyed today.
The store sells T-shirts, pins, watches, production scripts, ties, calendars, plush dolls, etc. Ramona says business is up because the Baby Boomer generation—who grew up watching the shows--now buys items for their kids. The Emporium even has a mail order catalog. (To get a catalog call: 213-656-6550.)
What’s the store’s top seller? Boxer shorts featuring Bullwinkle.
Frederick’s of Hollywood
Frederick’s of Hollywood—the infamous seller of racy lingerie—doesn’t have the required $300 million revenues to make my list of companies to visit (1991 revenues $117 million) But hey, I added them anyway, because...well... I’m intrigued.
Hollywood is a very seedy area these days, filled with bizarre people including but not limited to: winos, punk rockers and transients. Frederick’s has its headquarters next door to its flagship store on Hollywood Boulevard. The flagship store is in an Art Deco building; it has bright pink awnings and flashes of pink painted on the walls.
I go through the door that says Corporate Offices. Beyond the door there’s a flight of stairs going down. No way I want to leave my bike locked up outside in this neighborhood. I go back into the store and ask the store manager and security guard if I can wheel my bike into the store for safekeeping. No problem, they tell me.
I go back to the stairs and descend to the company’s corporate office. This is the first time I’ve ever go down to the basement to find the executive offices.
A painting of Frederick Mellinger hangs in the tiny lobby. Mellinger founded the company and invented the push-up bra.
Rebecca Skibinski, Administrative Assistant to CEO, George Townson, comes out to greet me and tells me Townson never received my advance materials. Then she says—and I’m not making this up—"everyone is tied up right now." Can’t you just picture that! Skibinsky promises to talk to Townson and asks me to call back tomorrow. To whet my appetite she tells me Townson has a very unusual office. Sure want to see that.
Back upstairs in the rear of the store, visitors can see the Frederick’s of Hollywood’s Lingerie Museum. I walk through it and see the bra Natalie Wood wore in the movie "Bob & Carol, Ted & Alice." Other exhibits include: Marilyn Monroe’s bra from the 1960 movie "Let’s Make Love"; Jane Powell’s petticoat from the movie "Seven Brides for Seven Sisters" and Ingrid Bergman’s corset from the 1969 film, "Cactus Flower." Then there’s singer Belinda Carlisle’s black leather bra, Madonna’s bra and Mary Britt’s panty from the 1959 film "Blue Angel."
I get lousy news the next morning—CEO Townson doesn’t want to meet with me and I can’t see his office. (For more information see: FHO)
My search for the corporate headquarters of Guess—a privately-held clothes manufacturer—takes me through the rough and tumble section of Los Angeles known as South-Central. (This area is where riots broke out after the Rodney King verdict.)
In this land of run-down industrial buildings Guess occupies a complex of four new concrete buildings surrounded by a high metal fence. There are no signs. Next door is a scrap yard.
A guard stops me at the front gate. He tells me George Marciano has his office in Beverly Hills but he won’t tell me the address or phone number.
My next try takes place in Beverly Hills. I go into a Guess store on Santa Monica Boulevard and tell the store manager I’m looking for George Marciano’s office. This manager doesn’t know where it is but he calls up Molly in Guess’s advertising department. Molly gives me a number to call and an address: 131 Rodeo Drive.
131 Rodeo Drive is a long three-story office building across from the ritzy Beverly Wilshire Hotel. It’s the same place Michael Milken/Drexel Burnham Lambert used for their West Coast operations.
When I reach the Guess offices my efforts are all for naught. They aren’t interested, so says Gina Creps. But I notice something telling on my way out the door. There’s this sign taped on the back of the door; it reads "Do not forget to punch out. I will check every week." It’s signed by CEO George Marciano. That’s what I call hands-on management style.
LFP stands for Larry Flynt Publishing—the company publishes "Hustler" magazine.
Corporate offices are on Wilshire Boulevard about a mile from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. A few years back Larry Flint was shot by a disturbed man so I’m expecting pretty heavy security. He’s now paralyzed.
An extremely well-endowed receptionist greets me. I don’t usually comment on physical appearances but considering where I am it’s worth mentioning. I see about 30 magazines on the lobby table. LFP publishes all of them—more than 50 different magazines in all. Here are a few of the names: "Hustler," "PC Laptop," "Camera & Dark Room," "Busty," "Film Threat," "S.W.A.T.," "Far Out," "Hustler Humor," "Fighting Knives," "Teen Set," "Hot Boat," "Country Fever," "BBW (Big Beautiful Women)," "Catalog Shopping in America," "Trading Cards," "Unique" and "Megadeth."
Merrill Collins, Office Manager and Assistant to Flynt, welcomes me. She tells me her brother is an avid cyclist; maybe that explains why she’s so nice to me. She’s on her way out but she takes the time to show me Flynt’s office.
Even with the lights on, Flynt’s large office overlooking Wilshire Boulevard is dark due to its dark oriental-style furnishings. In addition Flynt’s got carved pieces of ivory everywhere and eight Tiffany lamps sitting on various tables. Collins tells me the lamps are worth about $8,000 apiece.
About half a dozen large oil paintings hang on the walls— mostly 18th or 19th century landscapes—none of them are nudes. The company’s boardroom connects with Flynt’s office. Its most noticeable feature is a 10-feet tall oil painting of Flynt’s late wife. As I’m leaving, Collins piles me down with at least 20 magazines, mostly of the "girlie" variety.
City National Corporation
Several blocks over from Rodeo Drive I enter a branch of City National Bank. The bank’s holding company, City National Corp. had a net loss of $59.3 millions in 1992. I take the escalator up to the executive offices on the second floor. As I go up I notice a stairway in the middle of the bank lobby which also goes up to the second floor. This staircase is guarded by two security guards—one at the base of the stairs and one halfway up.
Elaine Duke, Administrative Assistant to CEO Bram Goldsmith, takes me to see the boardroom and the CEO’s office. Goldsmith, CEO since 1975, has a plain office; its brown curtains look like they’ve been around as long as he has.
When I leave I take the guarded stairs rather than the escalator. That’s when I make my discovery—the guard halfway down the stairs is a fake! The real guard at the bottom of the stairs tells me they’ve had Officer Johnson—that’s what they call the realistic-looking wax guard—on the stairs for years. Each day they change his position slightly. (For more information: CYN)
City of Beverly Hills
I stop to visit Beverly Hills City Hall before leaving town. I talk with to Noel Marquis, Deputy Director of Finance Administration for the City of Beverly Hills. He surprises me when he says the City of Beverly Hills—world famous though it is—covers only five square miles and has a population of 31,000 people.
The City’s Spanish-style City Hall building has a 24-karate gold-plated dome. "What is Beverly Hills’ biggest industry?", I ask. "Retailing," replies Marquis adding, "Last year the retail
industry in Beverly Hills rang up $1.2 in taxable sales."
Later, I try to have lunch in this town. Just when I start to think I will have to eat at one of Beverly Hills’ trendy, expensive restaurants I find the Happy Coffee—an industrial catering truck parked behind Rodeo Drive. The owner, James Niedrich, says most of his customers work in the stores on Rodeo Drive and patronize him because they can’t afford to eat in the area’s restaurants.
On the road in and around West Los Angeles and Orange County:
Century City, a billion-dollar, 180-acre complex of aluminum, glass and steel buildings next to Beverly Hills, is the largest private development in the U.S. In 1921, moviemaker William Fox bought 260 acres of bean fields on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He used it as a "back lot" to film outdoor scenes for 20th Century Fox. Then in 1960, New York real estate developer, Bill Zeckendorf, teamed up with Alcoa and bought 180 acres from Fox Studios. Century City was born.
If you’re ever in Century City, stay at the JW Marriott Hotel in Century City and ask for a room on Fox Studio side. You’ll get a great view of various movie sets and you can watch movie stars parking their cars in the parking lot.
The fanciest and tallest building in Century City is the 34-story Fox Plaza Building. Remember the movie "Die Hard" with Bruce Willis? This is that building.
I don’t have much success talking with anyone here. Davis Co. is a privately held oil, real estate and entertainment empire run by billionaire Marvin Davis. The receptionist tells me my advance materials were never received and no one can talk with me now.
The main lobby area on the 28th floor has an impressive view of the ocean but the effect is somewhat marred by the bright orange carpeting running everywhere. I also see several life-size Buddhas.
On my way out I check the building directory. I like to check building directories to find out who has the top floor. According to this building’s directory, nobody occupies its top floor. This seems odd so I ask the concierge about it.
"The man who occupies the top floor left just two minutes ago," she says. She seems secretive.
"Who is he?" I ask. Now I’m curious. "He’s a real nice man," she answers. She’s enjoying this.
I take a guess: "Rupert Murdoch?" "Nope," she replies. "Who, who, who?" I’m desperate now.
She takes pity on me. "Ronald Reagan."
Now I know what a lighting ballast looks like thanks to Debra Clark, secretary to Robert Murray, MagneTek’s Vice President: Communications & Public Relations. It’s a little power unit that feeds electricity to fluorescent tubes. Lighting ballasts, power transformers and motors form MagneTek’s main product lines (1992 revenues $1.2 billion). MagneTek stands for Magnetic technology.
MagneTek occupies the 15th floor in a 16-story office building about five miles from Los Angeles Airport and 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The company’s own corporate aircraft—a Canadaire Challenger—makes it easy for executives to visit the company’s far-flung operations in 10 countries.
Nothing out of the ordinary in CEO Frank Perna, Jr.’s corner office except for a bowling trophy and a ginseng root. (For more information see: MAG)
SunAmerica, Inc., a insurance/financial services company (1992 revenues $763 million), recently changed its name from Broad, Inc. to SunAmerica. By year’s end, the company will take up residence in a newly completed building in Century City. Since 1967, the company has leased space in a 23-story building close to Westwood and the UCLA campus.
Lori Steingrebe, Corporate Communications Assistant, and Nayda Jimenez, Marketing Coordinator, welcome me and give me the deluxe tour. About 400 employees work on four floors. The boardroom and executives occupy the 12th floor. Eli Broad, CEO, has a corner office which I expect to find full of modern art—he’s one of the founders of Los Angeles’s Contemporary Art Museum. Instead, it’s kind of spartan looking. I see two real plants, an Indian vase, an acrylic painting by Ed Moses and several white suede chairs. (For more information: SAI)
In 1946, the U.S. Air Force contracted with Douglas Aircraft Company to establish a new department—Project Rand—an acronym for Research ANd Development. Its purpose: to study the future of airpower and the nation’s security. Two years later, with the help of a Ford Foundation grant, RAND became a private, non-profit corporation.
Since 1948, RAND has occupied its headquarters in downtown Santa Monica overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The four buildings (with a combined square footage of 300,000) were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. About 1,000 employees work on the premises. The research staff has 575 members--45% of them have Ph.D.’s and another 32% have master degrees.
Santa Monica City Hall is across the street from RAND; an entrance to the Santa Monica Freeway is a block away; a shopping mall is three blocks away; the ocean is a stones throw away. What a prime place to work.
Amanda Gaylor, Public Information, tells me the company recently began a newsletter called "Rand Community News." The idea for the newsletter grew from the fact that though the company has been in Santa Monica for almost 40 years, most of the local residents don’t have any clue what RAND does.
I’m not able to see CEO Jim Thompson’s first floor office because he’s in a meeting. Thompson doesn’t have one of the ocean view offices. If I was CEO here, I’d sure take one.
The last couple of years have not been particularly good to L.A. Gear-the fourth largest athletic-shoe maker behind Nike, Reebok and Keds. Revenues are down and so are profits (1992 revenues $430 million; net income $-72 million.)
L.A. Gear recently moved to leased space in a large four-story
reflective glass building a block from Santa Monica Airport. According to Susan Virgulto, Special Assistant to the Chairman, about 400-500 employees work here.
The room I like best is the product showroom. It has shoes on display signed by Paula Abdul, Karl "The Mailman" Malone and a football signed by Joe Montana. All of these celebrities are L.A. Gear spokespeople.(For more information see: LAGEAR)
I’m a couple blocks from Los Angeles Airport in a run-down industrial area located behind the huge Los Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel. Neutrogena Corp., a maker of personal care products, has its headquarters in an orange building here. (1992 revenues $267 million) This modern building seems out of place in this neighborhood—it looks more like an art museum.
A receptionist buzzes me into the building. The large brightly-lit lobby has some very unusual features. First, I count seven fake lambs. A fake man wearing a suit with a large wolf’s head sits on the couch. I feel my anticipation start to build. This has all the signs of an interesting visit.
The receptionist calls up Anne Stucki, Assistant to Chairman Lloyd Costen. Stucki comes to the lobby but she doesn’t seem to understand my explanation; she says, "what do you want—money?" Darn. I don’t get to ask anybody about the lobby sheep and the wolf in businessman’s clothing.
Outside, as I’m unlocking my bike to leave, a man who overheard my conversation with Stucki says to me: "Don’t worry about it. This company treats everybody like that."
(For more information see: NGNA)
A few words about the city of El Segundo:
From Santa Monica to Redondo Beach (a distance of about 25 miles) there’s a paved bike trail which runs along the ocean. Several times a year I spend the day riding up and down the trail on my bike. The trail winds through several different beach communities: wild and weird Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach—famous for its volleyball players and wide stretches of beach, Redondo Beach with its pier, and finally El Segundo. From the vantage point of the El Segundo beach, this community of 15,000 is not a pretty sight. The huge Standard Oil refinery, with its gigantic oil storage tanks, towers over the town. It keeps company with a electrical generating plant and a City of Los Angeles sewage treatment plant. Making the vista truly picturesque, one can even see the runways of the Los Angeles Airport.
In 1911, Standard Oil Company of California (now Chevron) purchased 1,000 acres in El Segundo for a refinery. The City was named El Segundo—Spanish for "the second"—because this was Standard Oil’s second refinery established in California. Today it’s the largest refinery on the West Coast. You’d expect the City to be called, "Oil City", or "Power City" or some such thing. Instead I find out the City’s nickname is "The Aerospace City." El Segundo is home to Hughes Aircraft (20,000 employees), Northrop (4,300), and Rockwell (2,500). They, along with Xerox Corp., are the biggest employers in El Segundo.
The Aerospace Corp.
The Aerospace Corporation is a private non-profit corporation operating a federally funded research and development center. It does space systems architecture, engineering, planning, analysis and research; the company also supports space and launch system acquisitions. The company works with the Air Force supplying science and technology for space systems.
Since the company works so closely with the U.S. Air Force it’s no surprise to see an U.S. Air Force Base close by. After passing through a heavily guarded entrance, one of the guards directs me to the visitor’s building—it’s about the size of a mobile home.
Earl Flick, whose business card reads: Earl D. Flick, Head-Office of Public Affairs, answers my questions while we sit in the visitor’s center.
Aerospace has been on this campus-like site since 1963; 3,700 employees work in the 17 buildings and research facilities, which total of 1.4 million square feet. The tallest building on the property is six stories high. It houses the executive offices. Flick denies my request to see the CEO’s office, telling me: "we don’t do that."
Mattel (revenues for 9 months ended 9/92: $1.3 billion) has a 14-story, company-owned headquarters in El Segundo. The building has a huge version of the company’s logo on the side of the building. About 1,000 employees work in the 335,000 square-foot structure built in 1990.
Glen Bozarth, Vice President: Corporate Communications, says the large red logo allows Mattel to advertise to a captive audience—planes coming into Los Angeles Airport about a half mile away.
The firm’s original founders—Harold Mattson and Elliot Handler—coined the name "Mattel" by combining letters of their names.
As Bozarth tours me around the company, he points out many employees who keep favorite Mattel toys around their desks. Bozarth’s latest favorite is a remote control mini-version of a "monster truck"—it makes a loud, bone-jarring noise as puts it through its paces for me by zooming it down the hallways.
Then I get to eat in the company’s cafeteria, which is open to the public. It has excellent food.
Next Bozarth takes me to Mattel’s Imagination Center. Here kids play with Mattel’s potential new toys while the toy designers monitor their reactions.
From his office on the top floor, John Amerman, CEO, has a great view of planes landing and taking off at nearby LAX.
I am hoping to meet Jill Barad, President, but she isn’t in. There are not many women Presidents of Fortune 500 company. As I walk by her locked office I peek in the window. Barad has lots of plants and a large collection of Barbie dolls.
My last stop is the a visit to The Toy Club—a 3,000 square-foot toy store carrying Mattel’s whole product line. Two-thirds of the store’s space is occupied by Barbie dolls and all her paraphernalia—she’s the best selling doll of all time. The store manager tells me Demi Moore, the actress, came in the other day looking for Barbie’s latest fashions. The color pink pretty much prevails throughout the store. To escape the pink, I walk over to the "Boys" section. There I check out the HOT WHEELS die-cast cars—I played with these as a kid. (For more information: MAT)
Computer Sciences Corporation
Computer Sciences Corporation (1992 revenues $2.1 billion) was the first software company ever listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It got its listing in 1968.
Corporate offices are in three dark-green, reflective glass buildings situated on a company-owned, six-acre site. About 350 employees work here.
This billion-dollar company has an unusual guard at the entrance to its headquarters—a cat. Mary Rhodes, Manager: Public Information, tells me "Officer Katz" came to Computer Sciences six years ago to get rid of mice in the nearby shrubbery. He performed his job so efficiently that the company rewarded him with a cathouse set up outside the building entrance along with a deluxe litter box.
When I ride up Officer Katz is wide-awake and manning his post near the front door. As I leave an hour later he’s still there but now it looks like he’s taking a catnap.
(For more information see: CSC)
A quarter mile from downtown El Segundo (which is only about one block by one block), I ride up to the one-story, red-brick headquarters building of Wyle Laboratories—a marketer and manufacturer of electronic components (1992 revenues $453 million)
I get a friendly welcome from Mehdi Navid, General Manager: El Segundo Operations, and Bonnie Miller, Executive Assistant to Frank Wyle—Founder and Chairman.
I can’t believe how fantastic Wyle’s offices are. From the outside I don’t expect much. But the company has amassed an outstandingly eclectic art collection. Here’s some of what I see:
Hopi Kachina dolls; an eight-foot tall ladder used by the African Kambot tribe to get to their elevated houses; the Osman Moon by Louis Osman—a moon-shaped, two-and-a-quarter inch diameter, pure gold sculpture. There’s also a Totem Pole; a life-size pinewood sculpture of a lion appropriately called, "Lion" by Louise Kruger; and a painting by Howard Warshaw entitled, "Study for Polo Mural."
The company’s boardroom table has a past; it used to be owned by the now defunct Lincoln Savings and Loan Bank run by Charles Keating.
CEO Charles Clough’s plainly-furnished, windowless office contains a basketball hoop, a picture of him with the Pope, a mural of the UCLA campus, a large unfurled American flag in a glass case and a mounted fish. He also has a sheet displayed prominently on his office wall; it has 100% written across the top. Underneath it Clough lists all the NFL games played during a week in 1989--in every game he picked the winner. This, for all you non-fans and/or non-gamblers, is EXTREMELY difficult to do.
Across the street from headquarters I see a strange sight. There, next to a small private company park complete with picnic area and softball field, two oil derricks pump away.
(For more information see: WYL)
Carl Karcher Enterprises
Carl Karcher Enterprises (1992 revenues $534 million) operates over 600 Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurants. Most are company-owned and 90% are located in California. For renowned fast-food aficionado—me—Carl’s Jr. wins top honors in the fast-food chain category. (Hardee’s Big Deluxe is my favorite hamburger, though.) One of the reasons I like Carl’s Jr. restaurants so much—they don’t allow smoking.
Carl Karcher’s headquarters is a three-story, red brick structure located in Anaheim, California (population 220,000). The lobby has lots of furnishings: 10 large potted plants, 10 chairs, an American flag, a California flag, and a large oil painting of Founder and Chairman Carl Karcher with his wife.
The grounds around the building used to contain the family home and orange groves. Now there’s a 149,000 square-foot distribution center and a Carl’s Jr. restaurant.
Patricia Parks, Media Relations Representative, tells me an interesting piece of trivia: Carl Karcher is the first non-movie star to be inducted into the nearby Movieland Wax Museum. Since his space at the museum is being renovated, his wax figure can temporarily be seen at the Carl’s Jr. restaurant next door.
Carl Karcher’s large upstairs corner office has a deck and lots of mementos. There are many family pictures, a USC Trojan football, a piece of the Berlin Wall, an open Bible, a jersey signed by Magic Johnson, a video player, seven live plants and another American flag. And that’s only some of it. (For more information see: CARL)
On the road in and around Santa Ana...
The First American Financial Corp.
Riding through downtown Santa Ana I find the fortress-like, two-story headquarters of the First American Financial Corporation. This is the parent company of First American Title Insurance Company, the largest title insurance company in the U.S. First American Financial had revenues, for the nine months ended Sept. 1992 of $789 million and net income of $31 million.
The company was founded in Santa Ana (population 203,000) back in 1899 and has been located on the same block ever since.
Kathy Snyder, Director of Investor Relations, walks me into CEO Don Kennedy’s windowless, wood-paneled corner office. She tells me the history of Kennedy’s antique roll-top desk. It belonged to his grandfather, C.E. Parker, the firm’s founder. Employees gave Kennedy the 30-gallon aquarium he has next to his desk. He earned the many golf trophies crowded all over the office shelves. Kennedy is an avid golfer and was on the Stanford golf team in college.
The boardroom has a U-shaped table. But the boardroom’s most
prized feature is the original handwritten minutes of the organizational meeting of Orange County Title Company (the company’s original name.) These minutes include the nomination of the company’s original directors on October 1, 1894.
Snyder walks me quickly past a large oil painting near the boardroom and I can see why. The painting shows a banker repossessing a family’s home. Not exactly a cheery scene. The company also has an extensive display of antique photos dating back to the 1800’s. The collection includes over 5,000 photographs of early Orange County. (For more information see: FAMR)
Ingram Micro Inc.
Ingram Micro Inc., located in Santa Ana, is the largest computer and software distributor in the United States.
Upon entering the building, I must sign an electronic visitor’s book. This machine—it looks like a cross between a typewriter and computer—first asks me what language I speak, then asks me to type in my name, and whom I’m here to see. When I’ve finished, the machine spits out a visitor’s badge. I check to see where this clever machine is made—England.
Ingram Micro is privately held but Ron Kneiding, Manager: Associate and Community Relations, explains that the company is a subsidiary of Ingram Industries. Ingram Industries is a book distributor and barge operator based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Kneiding says Ingram Micro expects revenues of approximately $3.5 billion in 1993.
Chip Lacy, the CEO, isn’t in today but Kneiding shows me Lacy’s second floor office with its view of the parking lot. Kneiding (with Lacy’s secretary watching) tells me to sit in Lacy’s chair and put my feet up on his desk. I comply. He takes a picture of me in this chair and also one of me wearing a Kabuto helmet. This Japanese ceremonial warrior helmet (it’s made of metal and must weigh 20 pounds!) was a gift to Lacy from Panasonic Corp.
It’s not very often I visit a company whose founder is Prime Minister of a country. But that’s the situation at ICN (revenues for the nine months ended 9/92 were $426 million) Milan Panic, Founder and Chairman of ICN Pharmaceuticals, currently serves as Prime Minister of Yugoslavia.
Headquarters is a long, three-story black building alongside the busy San Diego Freeway in Costa Mesa—about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. A metal fence surrounds the building, grounds and parking lot so I stop to get clearance from the guard at the gate.
After locking my bike in the parking lot at a bike rack— companies with bike racks always impress me—I walk toward the building’s entrance. The entrance has an inscription over it. In large letters it reads:
"He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything."
Paul Knopick, Director: Media Relations, will meet with me.
Knopick’s secretary comes down to the lobby to escort me to Knopick’s office upstairs. But the lobby guard stops us and says I can’t go upstairs wearing shorts. No problem. I pull dress slacks out of my backpack and do a quick change in the restroom. Knopick shows me Chairman Panic’s office. Panic has some pretty high-ranking friends. He has photographs of himself with:
President Nixon, President Ford, President Carter, President Bush and Everett Koop—former Surgeon General.
A balcony/walkway outside Panic’s window stretches around the courtyard area. I see several employees taking a cigarette break right outside the window. I comment on this to Knopick who laughs and says the smokers know Panic is out of the country otherwise they’d never dare smoke there. (For more information see: ICN)
As those of you know, who have followed me this far, company security guards have been known to give me a hard time. Yeah, I know a guy on a bike is a little unusual at corporate headquarters and most of these guards are just doing their job, but still...beating them at their own game feels incredibly satisfying. And that’s just what happens at Western Digital. I find my guard as soon as I walk into the lobby of this hard disk drive manufacturer (1992 revenues $938 million; net income $-73 million.) He lets me use the lobby phone to call up CEO, Roger Johnson’s secretary. She tells me Johnson will be down to the lobby shortly to take me to lunch in the cafeteria. As soon as I hang up the phone, another security guard in the lobby asks me if that’s my bike parked outside the entrance door. I say yes and he tells me to move it.
"Can I wait and see if the person I’m meeting says it’s okay?" I ask.
"No." the guard answers. "I don’t care who you’re meeting, move your bike!"
"Roger Johnson is coming downstairs to take me to lunch," I explain.
"Yeah, right." The guard smirks and rolls his eyes towards the other guard who’s also got a smug grin on his face.
When Johnson walks up to me a few seconds later and gives me an enthusiastic greeting I look back at the guards—they look rather sick now. As Johnson and I walk toward the cafeteria I glance back at the guards and ask, smirking somewhat myself now:
"Is my bike okay where it is?"
"Oh sure, no problem at all," they both reply.
Johnson and I zip up to his office on the 15th floor. He points out one of the company’s manufacturing plants from his large picture window. I spot a picture of President Clinton with Johnson and it looks like it was taken in this office. Johnson tells me he was the first Republican businessman in California to back Clinton. Ahhh, Republican. That’s why he has so many miniature glass and crystal elephants scattered around his office. But I’m wrong.
The elephants honor Johnson’s name for managers—elephants. He started calling them elephants on his way up the corporate ladder because like elephants, they’re plodding, always bumping into things and lost outside their own turf. Johnson told himself he would never be an elephant. Friends and business associates over the years have given him the elephants as gifts.
As I exit the building, one of the humbled security guards tries again. This time he tells me I have to turn in my visitor’s badge. When I tell him Johnson gave me permission to keep the badge for my collection, the guard—you’d think he’d learn—still doesn’t believe me and calls up Johnson. Of course, Johnson verifies my story. My point, again. (For more information: WDC)
AST Research, a computer manufacturer (1992 revenues $944 million), owns its headquarters. Deborah Paquin, Manager: Press Relations, and Lisa Tafolla, Press Relations Coordinator, boast of this fact—it’s unusual in the computer industry.
Located in an office park, the three buildings (with a total of 250,000 square feet) form a U-shape around a small fountain. The name AST comes from the combined first letters of the first names of the company’s three founders.
The company cafeteria has a great name—Megabyte. Next door, employees can work out in a well-equipped fitness center.
CEO Safi Qureshey, has a middle office furnished with a small aquarium (filled with ordinary fish), a chalkboard, a television and VCR, and three computers—all AST computers, of course.
Tafolla takes me to the engineering building and shows off the company’s EM Chamber. This heavily insulated room—it looks like a meat locker without the meat—allows the company to test its computers and make sure they meet FCC requirements. Tafolla says many companies can’t afford this testing center—it costs $250,000. (For more information see: ASTA)
What do Taco Bell in Irvine, California; KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) in Louisville, Kentucky; and Pizza Hut in Wichita, Kansas have in common? They’re all subsidiaries of PepsiCo in Purchase, New York.
Taco Bell has its headquarters in a distinctive 12-story blue reflective glass building next to the San Diego Freeway (I-405). The company’s familiar logo decorates the outside of the building.
The first day I show up in the marbled, second-floor lobby, everybody is in Los Angeles for the music Grammy awards show, the receptionist tells me. So I come back several days later, uselessly as it turns out. This time everyone is "in conference."
No matter, here’s what I can pick up from walking around. Near the receptionist and across from the flesh-colored leather chairs in the lobby, I see a table set up with free cans of Pepsi sodas and coffee.
Next I go check out the company cafeteria. It has a plaque outside that says "Glenn Bell Dining Center." Glenn Bell founded Taco Bell. The cafeteria is open to the public. What a selection! It has the Taco Bell Express, KFC Express, Pizza Hut Express, Carbo Express (pasta & spaghetti), the Deli Bar, and a Hot & Now stand—PepsiCo’s version of the drive-through hamburger stand. Outside the cafeteria, there’s a self-service machine that rents videos. Across the hall I see the company’s fitness center—it includes a Ping-Pong table. (For more information: PEP)
Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm—what a waste of time! I get nothing but the runaround. I eat fried chicken in one of their restaurants, however, and it’s good. I also find out that Walter Knott developed the boysenberry.
On the road in San Diego
Callaway Golf Company
Thirty miles north of San Diego and 90 miles south of Los Angeles lies the quiet coastal community of Carlsbad. Heading five miles inland brings me to a light industrial park-home to Callaway Golf Company and its famous Big Bertha driver.
Riding up to the entrance of the company-owned, two-story, 133,000 square foot headquarters building I'm not surprised to find an electric golf cart parked outside the front doors. Next to the cart are two, three-wheel bicycles, the kind used in large factories to get from one building to another. The words, "Big Bertha-world's most beautiful driver" are stamped on each bike. On the side of the building I spot employees eating lunch at a dozen or so outside picnic tables. Is the food from the company cafeteria? Nope, there is no such thing. Two big industrial catering trucks have set up shop near the tables and are serving up hot food. My cheeseburger is tasty.
Pictures of professional golfers such as Johnny Miller, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Julie Inkster and Jim Dent line the small lobby. Being under contract to promote and endorse Callaway's products might have something to do with whether or not a golfer's mug shows up on the wall.
Checking in at the reception desk requires signing a pink, non-disclosure agreement. I've done this several times when visiting a defense contractor but, a golf club manufacturer? By signing the long one-page paper filled with legalese talk, I agree not to divulge "trade secrets" and "proprietary information".
I meet with 74 year-old Chairman and CEO Ely Callaway in his small cluttered second floor office. Leaning next to his scrawny four-foot wide oak desk (he's had since 1960) are over a dozen framed pictures which he hasn't been able to hang on the walls due to lack of space. On one wall hangs two pictures, one of Callaway's wife skiing and another of his wife fly fishing. On another wall is a picture of one of Callaway's homes; it overlooks the 18th hole at the Vintage Club in Indian Wells (Palm Springs). On another wall hangs a large poster of the Big Bertha driver, the company's flagship product. Bertha's head is 25% bigger but not heavier than an ordinary driver, so even someone like Barbara Bush can become a power hitter. Matter of fact, Callaway shows me letters he recently received from Barbara Bush and the Prime Minister of Japan, both extolling how much their games have improved thanks to Big Bertha. What has Big Bertha done for the company's bottom line? In 1990 revenues were $22 million, net income $2 million. Big Bertha was introduced in 1991. Revenues for the nine months ended September 30, 1993 were $186 million, net income $32 million.
Mr. Callaway steps out of the office for a minute and I ask his assistant Stephanie Williams if she knows why the chair I'm sitting in has the name Emory University on it. Williams says the Georgia-born Callaway attended Emory (located in Atlanta) AND recently gave the school five million shares of Callaway stock. Hmmm, I see the stock was recently up to $36 a share x five million. Wow, we're talking big money. I hope the university gave him more than just a chair.
What's the most interesting item in Callaway's office? It's not the autographed picture of Arnold Palmer on the window sill. Nor is it the directors chair with Callaway's name on it. Hanging on a wall is an extensive drawing of his family tree done by his grandmother back in 1892. Taking it down off the wall Callaway traces the branches to show me how he's related to one of the golf's all-time best; Robert Trent Jones.
On the first floor of headquarters and in two other nearby buildings (hence the golf cart out front) golf clubs are built, boxed and shipped. Over 1,100 employees work in the three structures (300,000 square feet) which back up to Palomar Airport, a small regional airport. Callaway gives me a tour of the plant because I reveal to him I've never seen the famous Big Bertha.
The ticker symbol for the company's stock on the NYSE is "ELY", which is CEO Callaway's first name. Can you name another company who's ticker symbol is the CEO's first name?
The Upper Deck Company
About a half mile from Callaway Golf Company is The Upper Deck Company, a privately-held trading card company who's growth has been even more phenomenal than Callaway's. Since its founding in 1988, revenues have shot up to over $260 million in 1992.
Headquarters is in a company-owned, two-story, 268,000 square foot UNMARKED building in a new, light-industrial park. The marble clad structure with its reflective pond out front sits at the end of a cul-de-sac street named Sea Otter Place and is bounded by a canyon on two sides. Riding up to the front doors I make note of the security cameras perusing the front and sides of the building. The two-story marble lobby contains no furniture, plants or sports memorabilia and is barren except for the two receptionists sitting behind a counter.
Following Camron Bussard, Director of Communications, to his upstairs office and I notice he has to unlock his office door. Why? As soon as I walk in my question is answered. His windowless office is jam-packed with sports memorabilia signed by the who's who of the sports world. I spot a football signed by Walter Payton, basketballs signed by Wilt Chamberlain and Karl Malone, a hockey puck signed by Gordie Howe, baseballs signed by Ted Williams, Pete Rose, Willie Mays and Johnny Bench plus, a picture of Bugs Bunny signed by the creator Chuck Jones. Bugs Bunny?
Bussard gives me a brief history of the company: Back in 1988, Founder and CEO Richard McWilliam revolutionized the sports trading card world by manufacturing high-quality trading cards complete with holograms (similar to what's on credit cards-to prevent counterfeiting). Since then, competitors such as Topps and Fleer have been playing catch-up.
Besides sports trading cards, Upper Deck has come out with Comic Book cards, in which Looney Tunes characters are depicted in Major League Baseball uniforms--which explains Bugs Bunny's picture in Bussard's office.
What's Bussard most prized possession in his office? It's the baseball signed by Reggie Jackson AND baseball's all-time home run king Sadahro Oh of Japan.
I confess to Bussard I've never seen an Upper Deck trading card and he whips out a several packages. Wrapped in fancy foil, the cards come sans bubble gum! The cards are indeed, very classy. So classy-you wouldn't catch me putting them in my bicycle spokes to make the flapping noise as I did in my baseball card collecting youth.
Over 800 employees work in the headquarters/plant where all production, warehousing and distribution of its cards take place. The impressive state-of-the-art machinery would put most printers to shame. Lining hallways are original art pieces drawn by noted sports artists who's illustrations are used in limited-edition trading cards.
Always suspicious of companies having unmarked headquarters I ask Bussard about the lack of signs. Though Upper Deck has occupied the building since 1991, Bussard says it's due to the powers-that-be failing to agree on the type of sign.
I can't see 39-year old CEO Richard McWilliam's second floor office because "he just returned from Europe and is very busy". I'm told the only sports memorabilia in his office is a signed Wayne Gretzky jersey.
Some of the greatest athletes in sports today serve as spokesmen for the company. Which mean employees get to see the likes of Ted Williams, Dan Marino, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Reggie Jackson and Joe Montana occasionally dropping by for a visit. So, it's with a great boost to my ego that I report the two receptionists ask me for my autograph when leaving.
Chart House Enterprises
Chart House Enterprises (1992 revenues $159 million) is the parent company of the up-scale Chart House restaurants and Paradise Bakery chains.
Since the majority of the 67 Chart Houses are located on the east coast or west coast and usually near water-I'm not surprised to find headquarters a half block from the wet stuff in the cozy little beach community of Solana Beach, 25 miles north of San Diego.
The reception area of the three-story, renovated former theater has a definite Hawaiian look to it. Maybe it's the overstuffed couch and chair covered with tropical designs or the wicker coffee table or four-foot long sheepshead fish made out of wood hanging on a wall or maybe even the glass-enclosed model sailing ship.
Mike Plant, Director of Communications, gives me the VIP tour. Wood is prevalent throughout, including huge exposed wood beams from the rafters. Scattered about is an extensive collection of bright, colorful paintings by Jan Kasprzycki, surfing scenes by Ken Auster and over a dozen model sailing ships. The art is periodically rotated amongst its restaurants
Nary a suit and tie is seen as I'm walked around the 19,000 square foot structure, home to 110 employees. Matter of fact, I spot several surf boards next to desks.
CEO John Creed's third floor ocean-view, corner office might have something to do with the company's laid-back atmosphere. An avid surfer and cyclist, one of Creed's walls is marked-up from bringing his bike in and leaning it against the wall. I count 30 various kinds of caps on a shelf, sit on his sofa, feel the two plants to make sure they're real, make a note of the huge shark's jaw (complete with sharp teeth) hanging on a wall, give the several pictures of the 50-something year-old Creed surfing the once over and, check out his electric putting return tray and putter stashed in the corner. I'm told Creed many a times conducts business on the wood paneled sun deck outside his office.
Though the vending machine-filled lunch room doesn't serve hot food, employees get a great perk--ocean view dining. I thought for sure the company lunch room would serve Paradise Bakery's delicious carrot cake (which long ago had been inducted into my pastry hall of fame). In the summer Chart House hires employee's kids to keep those pesky beach-users from parking in company's parking lot.
Jenny Craig Inc.
Jenny Craig, Inc. (1993 revenues $491 million, net income $47 million), one of the largest weight management service companies in the world, leases about 60% of a high-profile, three-story, 45,000 square foot building called "The Timbers" which practically juts out over busy Interstate 5 in Del Mar. The distinctive all-wood structure has huge beams of Douglas fir and cedar protruding on the outside. The name "Jenny Craig International" is stamped on one of the protruding beams.
The plush reception area features a very unusual mix of art, all of which belongs to Chairman & CEO Sid Craig and his wife, Jenny who's Vice Chairman. A beautiful black Chinese screen (at least 12 feet tall and 40 feet long) covers one wall. On another hangs a modern Leroy Nieman and less than 30 feet away hang several 17th and 18th century early Flemish paintings. Next to an abstract painting of horses there's an antique scale for weighing one's self. Hopping on the scale I wonder if the folks at Jenny Craig have it rigged to show visitors (and potential customers) weighing more than they actually do. Nope, 168 pounds, seems pretty accurate to me.
About 250 people work in the place according to Brian Luscomb, Corporate Communications. Does the cafeteria serve wholesome, healthy meals or Jenny's Cusine entrees, the company's own line of frozen prepared meals? Neither, because there isn't a cafeteria. Luscomb gives me a box of Jenny's Cusine carob-coated fruit & nut snack bars to try. The verdict: yech!
I can't see Sid or Jenny Craig's large corner offices because neither one is in. From another window I can see their view: it's of the nearby Del Mar racetrack (in which they run several of the horses they own) and their oceanfront home a mile away. Actually I find out the Craigs are moving inland a few miles to the wealthy horse enclave of Rancho Santa Fe.
I don't see any overweight people. Do you have to be skinny to work here? I ask. Luscomb says no. Anything unusual about your headquarters? Luscomb asks if I've seen the iguanas. Iguanas at the international headquarters of Jenny Craig? Sure enough, green-skinned Iggy, Twiggy, Swiggy and Iwana are living the carefree good life in their heat-lamp heated, tropical rain-forested enclosure. Nearby is a pond filled with several dozen colorful koi, who unlike the iguanas, haven't been named.
Who in this country doesn't own a can of WD-40, the yellow, blue and red container who's wording on the label says its contents "stops squeaks", "protects metal", "loosens rusted parts" and "frees sticky mechanisms"? Headquarters is a company-owned, one-story, 15,000 square foot building located 10 miles north of downtown San Diego next to a railroad siding.
Functional, would be the word to describe CEO, President & Treasurer Gerald Schleif's middle office, with an unexciting view of a Nabisco warehouse across the street. Anything special about the scenic ocean oil painting hanging on the wall behind his desk? Schleif says, no, but goes on to tell me a reporter described it in an article as "something probably purchased from a Woolworth's". A clock giving global time is the fanciest item in Schleif's office. It's understandable why Schleif likes the three paintings hanging on his far wall; they were painted by his wife.
This one product company with 1993 revenues of $108 million, net income $19 million and only 143 employees, has an impressive ratio of net sales per employee of $762,000.
WD-40 celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Where did the name come from? In 1953 WD-40 is developed by Rocket Chemical Company for Convair, a division of General Dynamics. It's used to protect missiles from rust and corrosion. The formula for this (W)ater (D)isplacement spray came about on the 40th try hence; WD-40.
Before Schleif takes me on a tour of the plant in the rear of the building I check his chair to see if it squeaks. No squeaks. Schleif walks me into a small room who's shelves are lined with cans of competitor's products. We're talking several hundred variety of cans here. It's amazing the number of companies who's containers are remarkably similar to WD-40's. One company's product is called WP-40, with the colors and lettering on the label looking suspiciously the same as WD-40--with the "P" looking more like a "D" on this blatant knock-off. WD-40 is sold in 115 countries.
If you operated the largest full-service Mexican restaurant chain in the country (Chi-Chi's) and the nation’s fifth largest fast-food hamburger chain (Jack in the Box), could you come up with a more appropriate name than Foodmaker? Revenues in 1992 were $1.2 billion, net income $-42 million.
The small lobby of this company-owned, two-story, 150,000 square foot building isn't fancy. On the walls hang several photographs of nature scenes. On the receptionist's counter is a stack of coupons, each good for $1.00 off on the company's new burger called, The Colossus. I've tried the double patty, with three pieces of cheese, six slices of bacon and it isn't any good unless you remove the bacon slices. Off in a corner I spot a life-size jack in the box made out of paper mache-type material.
As a connoisseur of fast-food hamburgers, I have no problem rattling off for Gina Devlin, Communications Assistant-Corporate Communications, the burger chains bigger than Jack in the Box. They are: McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys and Hardees.
Over 500 people work in this place located in a light industrial area 10 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. I'm surprised to learn there's no Jack in the Box on-site but, a regular cafeteria. Geez, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Dairy Queen, Long John Silvers, Carl's Jr., KFC and Dominio's all had outlets at their headquarters.
Judging from what's in his office, CEO Jack Goodall, Jr. is a sports enthusiast. There's a signed Larry Bird basketball jersey on a shelve, a football from the 25th Super Bowl in Tampa, a basketball signed by San Diego State basketball players (which is where Goodall went to college), two baseball bats and six baseballs signed by various players of the San Diego Padres (Goodall is part owner of the team) and hanging behind his desk there's a mounted three-foot long fish he caught.
Goodall's first floor corner office has a real homey, comfortable feel to it. I count 12 real plants, note the electric shoe buffer near the door, find out the bowl of apples sitting in the middle of his conference table are fake and of course, there's a jack-in-the-box sitting on his desk. This isn't an ordinary jack-in-the box though, it's an antique--with the red, white and blue festooned box having a patriotic bearded Uncle Sam springing out.
Goodall may pull in the big bucks but underneath, he's just a regular hard-working guy with regular needs. How else would you explain the brown La-Z-Boy recliner, with built-in massager next to his desk?
Before leaving Devlin gives me free coupons to try one of Jack in the Boxes latest products: chicken or beef teriyaki in a bowl. Sounds too healthy for me.
Literally across the street from Foodmaker is Cubic Corporation (1992 revenues $350 million, net income $7 million). The company's three main businesses consists of: Cubic Automatic Revenue Collection Group--which designs and manufactures systems for collecting money for rail and bus systems, bridges, toll roads and parking lots, Cubic Defense Systems--which produces the "Top Gun" electronic training system for the U.S. Air Force & Navy and finally, U.S. Elevator--the fifth largest elevator manufacturer in the country.
As I did when visiting Westinghouse and Dover I wanted to check the elevators in Cubic's headquarters to see if they're U.S. Elevators. Jerome Ringer, Assistant to the President, says it might be hard to do seeing as how Cubic's 100,000 square foot headquarters has only one floor. Ringer then goes on to say Cubic this year, sold its elevator subsidiary to a European company.
I never get past the lobby. I'm out of luck seeing the CEO's office and boardroom because CEO Walter Zable is in a meeting in the boardroom-which is connected to his office.
Though I'm not allowed to add their visitor badge to my personal collection, Ringer does the next best thing; he gives me a Singapore subway pass and a MetroCard for the New York City subway (both systems installed by Cubic).