On the road in Chicago
The Allstate Corporation
Fronting the I-294 freeway in suburban Northbrook, it's hard to miss The Allstate Company's massive headquarters complex. Built in 1967, with several additional matching buildings added on over the years, there's a grand total of 1.9 million square feet of space.
The Allstate Company (1993 revenues $21 billion, net income $1.3 billion) is the parent of Allstate Insurance, the nation's largest publicly-held property & casualty insurance company. Allstate is the second largest insurer of autos and homes, 20th largest writer of commercial property and casualty insurance and, the 20th largest life insurance company.
Answering questions and showing me around is Edward Dixon, Senior Vice President. Over 5,000 employees work on the 221-acre site, which explains the need for three cafeterias.
Established in 1931 by Sears, Roebuck and Company, Allstate in June 1993 had the largest initial public offering of stock in US history (Sears still owns 80.1%). Dixon walks me by a large "time line" exhibit showing Allstate's history through the years. On exhibit is a 1930 Studebaker-the first car insured by Allstate and, a powder blue 1951 Allstate car. Huh, a 1951 Allstate car? Yep, between 1950-1952 the Henry Kaiser Company mass-produced these vehicles. All one has to do is take a gander at this ugly-looking beast to understand why it went the way of the Edsel. Also displayed are several box-like driving simulators from the 1950's-used in driver's education classes.
The tallest building on-site is nine stories and up we go to the top floor to check-out CEO Wayne Heiden's corner office. Heiden likes to sail which explains the oil paintings of old sailing ships lining his office walls. There's also an antique barometer and a model of the 1628 sailing ship "King of Sweden" and the "Bluenose".
Baxter International Inc.
Riding two miles down the road from Allstate I visit another large headquarters site: the ten-building (600,000 square foot) complex of Baxter International. With 1993 revenues of $8.9 billion, net loss $198 million, Baxter is the world's largest distributor of health-care products and services plus, a manufacturer of medical products.
Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and built in the mid-1970's, over 1,200 employees work on the well-groomed 188-site which fronts I-94. Nine interconnecting ponds line the grounds with two territorial white swans and two equally territorial black Australian swans controlling their use.
Like the outdoors? A 1 1/2 mile running track (asphalt rubberized surface) meanders around the outskirts of the property plus two sand volleyball courts, a nature trail and a picnic area with tables and umbrellas are available for employee enjoyment.
Being a health care company I guess it isn't that unusual but, it's the first company I've come across with an on-site blood donation center.
The most striking feature of the complex is the roof of the main building. Supported by two masts, the roof is a steel structure suspended from 96 radiating cables. It's the largest roof of its type to be constructed and gives the football field-size cafeteria a feeling of being in a huge circus tent.
Geoffrey Fenton, Director-Corporate Publications, zips me up to the top floor of the tallest building (five stories) for a peek in CEO Vernon Loucks, Jr's corner office. I count four real plants, note the Southwest pottery, the Norman Rockwell print, the television with VCR, the bronze of Chicago Bear football great Walter Payton and, a western bronze entitled "Two Champ" by Harry Jackson.
Literally across the other side of the freeway from Baxter International lies the two-building headquarters of Walgreen, the largest drugstore chain in the US and the 17th largest retailer.
Visiting Walgreen (1993 revenues $8.3 billion, net income $222 million) six years ago I never made it past the lobby. Does the passing of time make a difference here? Nope. Though Laurie Meyer, Manager-Corporate Communications, is very accommodating in answering my questions, she refuses to attempt to get permission for me to see the boardroom and CEO Charles Walgreen's office. Why? It means dealing with Mr. Walgreen's secretary, who's "very protective" of her boss.
Built in the 1970's, the two company-owned, blah-looking two-story buildings house over 1,200 employees. The lobby area does contain two unusual items: a bronze bust of Charles R. Walgreen (1873-1939) who founded the company in 1901 and, a glass display case containing a collection of antique mortars and pestles. Mortars are saucer-like vessels and pestles are club-shaped instruments. Together they mash up ingredients used for medicinal purposes. One Persian pair dates from the 13th-15th century, while several other pairs made from bronze are relatively new; only dating back to 16th century Spain and Italy in the 1600's.
Commerce Clearing House, Inc.
Except for the large office complex next door housing Dean Witter and Discover Card personnel, the three-story headquarters of Commerce Clearing House (1993 revenues $578 million, net income $6 million) is the only commercial activity in the heavily-wooded residential community of Riverwoods.
Mary Dale Walters, Public Relations Manager, says the company was able build on its 48-acre site only after agreeing to designate most of the wooded undeveloped property as part of the forest preserve which encircles the site.
Commerce Clearing House, who's name Walters tells me was recently changed to CCH Incorporated, is the nation's largest provider of tax and business law information. The lobby area is filled with shelf upon shelf containing hundreds of books and brochures published annually by CCH on tax and business law. The company's flagship product is The Standard Federal Tax Reporter. Skimming the shelves I spot seven fat volumes on the tax laws in China. I didn't even know China had tax laws. Walters says it's purely coincidental but, the China tax books are a bright red as in Red China.
Walters is wearing a button that reads, "just ask me". What's that all about I ask. Seems the company is changing its organizational structure and things are being done differently. Example: Instead of a CEO there's now a three-person Executive Committee. Example: Walters says several years ago the company wouldn't have given me the time a day because they didn't talk to outsiders. I pipe up, "I know that for a fact because I dropped by three years ago and was told to get lost".
About 650 employees work at headquarters, with a total of 5,800 worldwide. This includes an 1,100-person editorial staff-the majority of whom are accountants and/or attorneys.
Lining the walls of the executive floor are framed letters and correspondence from former US Chief Justices. A note dated 1790 from Chief Justice John Jay begins the collection and goes on down the line including missives from Charles Hughes, William Taft and John Marshall.
Many companies like to give me mementos commemorating my visit. These have included T-shirts, visors, pins, pens, playing cards, fertilizer pellets (from a fertilizer company in Mississippi), experimental black, padded, bikini-style underwear for bicycle riders from Jockey International, hemorrhoid medication from Abbott Laboratories (which I'm happy to say I've never had to use), umbrellas, packages of cigarettes, golf balls, flashlights, coupons for food (McDonald's, Hardees, Jack-In-The-Box, Wendy's, Godfather's Pizza), water bottles, fanny packs, sunglasses, key chains, paper weights, rulers, mugs, ties, calendars, fly swatters, head bands, wrist bands, watches, alarm clocks and pencils. What do I get from CCH? A company published pamphlet containing 1994 tax tips for free lance writers and editors.
Why is Rotary International, the world's first service club, located in beautiful suburban Evanston? Space. Founded in downtown Chicago in 1905, Rotary International moved to Evanston in 1954.
In 1988 Rotary moved several blocks down the street to its current office; an 18-story, 377,000 square foot structure called One Rotary Center. Built in 1982 and bought by Rotary International in 1988, the building formerly housed the corporate offices of American Hospital Supply, which merged with Baxter International a few years back.
Paul Bernholdt, Executive Assistant to the General Secretary, gives me the low-down on this, the most international of all the world's service club associations. Rotary International is the association of 26,000 Rotary clubs worldwide, with Houston, TX being home to the largest single Rotary club. It's an organization of more than 1.1 million business and professional men and woman in 149 countries.
Rotary International occupies about a third of the building with 430 employees. On a coffee table I spot the organization's monthly magazine called The Rotarian. Twenty-eight regional editions of the magazine are published which explains some of them being in French, Spanish and Japanese.
The President of Rotary International is the top officer with a new one elected every year. After being elected he proceeds to spend most of the year travelling around the world visiting Rotary clubs-which explains his corner office on the top floor being void of many personal effects. Three things are constant though in the President's office: the working fireplace, the Rotarian flag and the oil painting on the wall of Paul Harris, who founded Rotary International.
How did the name Rotary come about? Name derived from practice of rotating meetings from one member's place of business to another's.
Sidenote: Evanston, 10 miles north of Chicago, is home to Northwestern University. The campus hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline. Riding around town I'm stopped several times by students spotting the Bloomberg Financial Markets logos on the bike and wanting to know my connection. Why are they so curious? It's obvious after I'm taken to the basement of a building on campus used by graduate students at the Kellogg business school. Occupying one corner of the room is a BLOOMBERG terminal. I leave after showing the future CEO's how to punch up my column.
Walking into a building on Northwestern's campus to grab a soda from a vending machine I roll my eyes after spotting the latest wrinkle marketers have come up with to relieve students of their funds. This new fangled Coke vending machine will take your 75 cents for a soda in coins, bills and accepts-believe it or not-debit cards!
Since my visit six years ago I notice quite a few new buildings have been built on Motorola's 325-acre campus in suburban Schaumburg, twenty-five miles northwest of Chicago. Headquartered here since 1976, I also encounter the new visitor's center where all visitors to the facility are required to check in.
Calling up CEO Gary Tooker's secretary I find my advance material trickled down to public relations. This turns out to be a bad experience. Public relations personnel prove to be elusive and when the receptionist at the visitor's center finally does contact a public relations person, she's told "just send him over to the museum", refusing to even talk to me on the phone.
The recently-built Motorola Museum of Electronics is well done, with exhibits set-up in time-line fashion--taking you from the beginning of Motorola in 1930, to the present and, plans for the future.
Leaving the museum I run into William Faust, Program Manager-Motorola University, who's admiring my bike. I tell Faust about being dismissed by the public relations people and he attempts to rectify the slight by calling them up. No go for him either. He apologizes profusely and says, "we really aren't like this". I then tell Faust it was only yesterday where I read an article in a business magazine on Motorola (1993 revenues $17 billion, net income $1 billion) and the gist of the story was whether Motorola was growing too quickly and forgetting the basics.
Nalco Chemical Company
Forty miles west of Chicago near Naperville and fronting I-88 is the good-looking headquarters complex of Nalco Chemical Company, world's largest producer of specialty chemicals and services for water and industrial process treatment (1993 revenues $1.4 billion, net income $86 million).
Don't see any smokestacks spewing anything here. On the contrary, much of the 148-acre site is covered with corn fields-leased out to nearby farmers. A 1 1/2 mile jogging trail winds around the perimeter of the grounds.
Several connecting buildings with a total of 680,000 square feet are home to 1,200 employees. Here's something unique: every employee from the CEO on down wears a name tag. Why? Initially built in 1986 as a research center, the decision was made several years later to move corporate people on to the site. To help the two groups interact, CEO W. Clark mandated everyone was to wear a name tag and it's been that way ever since.
I ask Paul Cholette, Media Relations Manager, about the new building going up on the property and he proudly announces, "it's a child care center".
Tallest building is five stories and it's up to the top floor we go to look at CEO Clark's large corner office. Clark is retiring this year after being with the company over 20 years. What does
Clark's first name initial "W" stand for?, I ask Cholette. He laughs and says it's been a mystery all these years because Clark refuses to divulge it. Must be a real doozie, too bad he isn't in because I'd ask him. Clark's office overlooks the freeway and contains several pieces of western art. Besides the piece of the Berlin Wall, I spot pictures of him with Presidents Bush & Reagan.
The ServiceMaster Company
Suburban Downers Grove, 25 miles west of Chicago is home to The ServiceMaster Company. Terminex (pest control), Merry Maids (home cleaning service), Trugreen-Chemlawn (lawn care), janitorial services, carpet and furniture cleaning and disaster restoration are some of the consumer services offered by ServiceMaster. Revenues in 1993 were $2.8 billion, net income $145 million.
Visiting three years ago I received an extensive tour of the facility by CEO William Pollard. A new addition was being built at the time so I thought I'd check back to see how it turned out. Boy, not a good day to show up. The annual meeting is being held on-site today and everyone is buzzing around. I can't contact CEO Pollard's secretary to find out who my advance material was referred to because she's busy with Pollard getting ready for the meeting. The receptionist gets William Hargreaves, Vice President for People (another way of saying human resources director) to come out to the lobby. Hargreaves initially tries to dismiss me but I name drop and tell him Mr. Pollard PERSONALLY met and walked me around the grounds three years ago. It works because Hargreaves reluctantly agrees to give me five minutes.
Religion plays a big part in the company. The company's mission statement reads:
To honor God in all we do
To help people develop
To pursue excellence
To grow profitably
The three men who founded the company named it ServiceMaster to express that they were masters of service, serving the Master.
Over 700 employees work in the two side by side buildings with the newer of the two being two stories. Smokers get sympathy here. Although smoking isn't allowed in the buildings, enclosed heated rooms are provided outside.
The back page of ServiceMaster's annual report contains an application for a ServiceMaster MasterCard and it looks like the company's trying to clean up err, capture the market: no annual fee, low A.P.R. AND they'll send you money saving certificates worth $200 toward company services for your home.
Lions Club International
Rotary International is the oldest service club organization but Lions Club International is the world's largest with over 1.4 million members. Headquarters is a three-story building located in Oak Brook, a suburb about 20 miles southwest of Chicago. Built in 1971, Lions Club International owns the building, which has several lion statues guarding the entrance. The lobby area contains a UN flag, US flag and a Lions Club flag. On the lobby area walls are clocks showing various times around the world including Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Rome, Melbourne and Donaghadee. I bet none of you out there knows where Donaghadee is located.
Showing up in Oak Brook I find out the big shots at McDonald's Corporation no longer hang their hats in the roughly 10-story structure called McDonald's Plaza. The new headquarters is about a mile away on a beautifully landscaped 60-something acre, campus-like setting. The campus also contains McDonald's Hamburger University and it's own hotel and conference center, run by Marriott. How do you get from McDonald's Plaza to the campus or vice versa? Via the company run bus called McShuttle.
Near the first floor reception area at McDonald's Plaza a nicely done time line exhibit takes you from the company's beginnings to the present. Another exhibit on the other side of the reception area contains personal effects from founder Ray Kroc's four offices he kept (Oak Brook, downtown Chicago, San Diego and Los Angeles). During World War 1 he was an ambulance driver in Company C. There's a war photograph of him standing with the rest of the drivers-one of who was Walt Disney. Kroc was friends with painter Norman Rockwell that explains the Norman Rockwell painting on the wall and the personal note to Kroc scribbled on the bottom from Rockwell. In one corner sits a Padre mannequin (Kroc owned the San Diego Padres baseball team) and there's a picture of Mr. Kroc sitting around a grove in Northern California with fellow members of the Bohemian Club.
Passing on taking the McShuttle, I pedal over to the campus where things don't go well at all. I wait in the lobby over an hour while various people are called to track down who's my contact person. The four-story atrium lobby contains a huge brown wrap-around leather couch capable of seating 22 people. Hanging from the rafters are sculptures of two kids flying a Ronald McDonald kite. All this waiting makes me hungry so it's upstairs to the company cafeteria which turns out to be a typical McDonald's restaurant but without the lines. McDonald's Corporation had revenues of $7.4 billion and a profit of $1 billion in 1993 and methinks much of that is thanks to me because I eat at a McDonald's once maybe twice a day.
Terri Valesares, secretary to Chuck Ebeling-who's head of Corporate Communications, comes down to the lobby and says Ebeling doesn't have time for me and neither does anyone else. Feeling bad about my visit being for naught Valesares gives me a $5 McDonald's gift certificate book. I leave disappointed. It's not because I don't get to ask why the nature trail on the property is called the McNature trail or why the long aisles past people's office cubicles have names like McNugget Lane but, why the company hasn't kept up with one of Founder Ray Kroc's golden rules. Back at McDonald's Plaza there's a note on display which Kroc sent out to office employees in 1970 and it reads: "Everyone who comes in to see someone in the company is told he will be seen promptly".
Forget the Tribune Company (1993 revenues $2.0 billion, net income $189 million) owns newspapers, radio & television stations, publishes books and information in print and digital formats. Forget the company is an equity investor in America Online and has an ownership interest in Canada's largest newsprint manufacturer. Fact is, the Tribune Company's claim to fame is owning the Chicago Cubs, those perennial losers.
Home for this media company is a landmark 36-story, gothic-designed skyscraper on Michigan avenue. Built in 1922, this magnificent stone structure's outside is laden with all kinds of unusual items. Near the top, gargoyles, which were common ornamentation on Europe's great gothic cathedrals, peer down at the masses walking along the sidewalks below. Closer to street level, 120 stones stud the outer walls of the Tribune Tower. Each is identified by the name of the famous structure from which it comes. There's a stone from the Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Wall of China, St. Peters in Rome, Westminster Abbey, the Taj Mahal, The Alamo and a few fragments from the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem where Christ was born, to name a few. Over 50 of the stones are from the US with every state in the Union being represented. Being from California I look for its contribution: a stone from the Petrified Forest in Calistoga (Five million years ago a volcanic eruption showered lava on a forest of giant redwood trees and turned them to stone).
Roger Carr, Manager of Media Relations, tells me a great piece of trivia on how it's Chicago radio station WGN came up with its call letters back in the 1920's. The letters WGN stand for World's Greatest Newspaper--which is how the Chicago Tribune described itself.
Walking into CEO Charles Brumback's large darkly paneled office on the 24th floor there's an aura of history and power in the room. This is where Colonel McCormick, former publisher and power broker held court for many years. Don't see any plants, note the fireplace, the computer and, a painting of a fishing scene hangs prominently on one wall.
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company
Still on Michigan avenue and almost directly across from the Tribune Tower stands the landmark 30-story Wrigley Building, home to the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company (1993 revenues $2.0 billion, net income $189 million). Built in 1920, the company-owned, 451,616 square foot structure is probably best known for the distinctive whiteness of its glazed terra cotta exterior, which has been illuminated since 1921 by several bank of floodlights located on the other side of the nearby Chicago River.
Going up to the reception area of the world's largest maker of chewing gum I note the security camera in the elevator. In front of the receptionist is a display of Wrigley's various gums and I'm told to "help yourself". Sounds like this will be a fun visit. Turns out I'm wrong.
Unsmiling Christopher Perille, Manager-Investor Relations & Corporate Communications, answers my questions quickly and in robot-like fashion. I can't see the CEO's office and boardroom because "we don't do that". Rats, that means I can't check under the CEO's desk to see if any chewed-up gum is stuck there. Roughly 350 employees work in the place with Wrigley occupying about 1/4th of the building.
Any perks working here? Perille says once a week a tray of gum is brought by every desk and employees can stock up on their favorite gums. Thumbing through an employee newsletter I spot this bit of trivia: Denver has the highest per capita consumption of Wrigley gum in the nation.
American Dental Assn., American Bar Assn., American Medical Assn.
Why are all three of these large and undeniably influential associations headquartered in Chicago instead of Washington DC or New York City? Response from all three is essentially the same; central location in the middle of the country.
The American Bar Association, world's largest voluntary professional association with approximately 370,000 members, occupies six floors (155,000 square feet) in a 12-story building fronting Lake Michigan. I kid Nancy Cowger Slonim, Director-Media Services, about the black reflective glass giving the building an evil Darth Vader-like appearance. I repeat to her that I'm only kidding (you gotta be careful what you say around here because half the employees are lawyers).
Executive Director David Hayes Jr, the top officer, has a spectacular unobstructed view of Lake Michigan from his corner office. Though Hayes is a lawyer, it's not a requirement for the job nor for that matter any of the other jobs at the ABA. I count six Peking theater dolls on a shelf behind his desk. Hayes says he collects them.
Several blocks away from the ABA I meet with Jerome Herb, Deputy Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer-American Dental Association. The ADA occupies 50% of a 22-story building it owns a block from Lake Michigan. Built in 1961, the offices, including Executive Director Allen are plainly furnished. The only reading materials found on coffee tables; issues of its own publication-The Journal Of The American Dental Association.
The American Medical Association has the nicest digs of the three associations. The AMA leases the first 17 floors of a white 30-story, antiseptic-looking office building a block from Michigan Avenue's famed shopping area. Built in 1990, over 1,500 AMA employees work in the place. As is almost always the case and with this place being no exception, entering the building I have to pass smokers huddled outside the front doors puffing away. I mention this to Daniel Maier, Director-Department of News & Information, and he strongly denies any of the smokers being AMA employees.
Nathan Davis, MD, founded the AMA back in 1847 and its membership now totals over 297,000 members. I see many issues of the Journal Of The American Medical Association lying about. First published in 1883, JAMA is the world's most widely read medical journal and is published in 11 languages. After thumbing through an issue of this jargon-filled magazine I think they should publish in one more language: plain English.
Looking out the window of President James Todd's corner office on the 16th floor, Maier points a block away to a huge six-story cigarette advertisement on the side of a building featuring Joe Camel the cartoon figure. Is it coincidence this camel just happens to be eye-level to Todd's office? Not according to Maier. The billboard went up several days after the AMA announced it was going to try and ban the Joe Camel ads because they entice underage kids to smoke.
RR Donnelley & Sons Company
Where does RR Donnelley & Sons Company (1993 revenues $4.4 billion, net income $109 million), world's largest provider of printing and printing related services call home? Floors eight thru nineteen in a new, good-looking, neoclassical 50-story high-rise in downtown Chicago.
Walking around several of the floors with Cheryl Joesphson, Manager-Corporate Services, we pass several Native American sculptures by Allan Houser. Turns out the company has six of Houser's sculptures. Why? Going back to 1897, the company's logo has been an indianhead.
Boy, the two-story Gaylord Donnelley Library on the eighth and ninth floors is a real beaut. Mahogany walls and flooring, a working fireplace, wood and leather furniture in a Gothic architectural style makes you think the room was built a century ago instead of two years ago. Hundreds of books line the walls. Meant to preserve the company's heritage, the library contains material printed in whole or in part by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company since its inception in 1864. But, besides containing retail and mail order catalogs, telephone directories, religious books and Bibles, historic first issues of magazines (Donnelley prints magazines such as Newsweek, Time and TV Guide) and hand-bound books--special vertical drawers also display rare leaves from historical printed works such as The Canturbury Tales (1478) and Gutenberg Bible (1455). Mounted over windows in the library is a selection of 12 printer's marks. These shields, commissioned by the company for the library were carved and hand-finished by European artisans. Though the library was built to be both a ceremonial and working space you'd definitely never consider leaning back in a chair and putting your feet up on a desk in here.
Leo Burnett Company
This is very unusual; an advertising agency owning its own headquarters building. Leo Burnett Company's 50-story, Kevin Roche designed structure is a good-looking addition to Chicago's already impressive skyline. With over $600 million in revenues, privately-held Leo Burnett Company is one of the largest advertising agencies in the US. Tony the Tiger, Charlie Tuna, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Marlboro Man and the Jolly Green Giant owe their notoriety to Leo Burnett Company.
The first thing I do upon meeting with William Lynch, CEO, in his 22nd floor corner office is to thank him for the delicious apple. Huh? On the first day the company opened for business in 1935 a bowl of fresh apples were set out to welcome visitors to the agency. Since then, apples are put out every business day in every Leo Burnett office around the world. We aren't talking about a few apples either. In 1993, the company gave away 758,427 apples. In Kuala Lumpur, one of the company's far flung outposts-apples are imported from Japan at a cost of $5 each. Several of the local bike messengers tell me they like picking up or delivering to Leo Burnett Company because it means snagging a few apples on the way out.
Over 2,000 employees work on 31 floors and it's the world's largest advertising complex under one roof. Does the company have a corporate art collection? On each floor, hallway walls are lined with client's ads. Fridays are casual dress days.
Sara Lee Corporation
I don't find any Jimmy Dean sausage, or Sara Lee cheesecake in the tiny, needs to be spruced up 46th floor reception area of Sara Lee Corporation. It's when you go up to the 47th floor that you find the goodies and I'm not talking about the edible kind. Sara Lee has an extensive corporate art collection and as a fact of life; the "good stuff" is on the executive floor (47th). Primarily consisting of late 19th century and classical 20th century paintings and sculptures, works by Henri Matise, Paul Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Henry Moore line the halls. Much of the collection was purchased from Nathan Cummings, who founded the company.
Anne McCarthy, Director-International Communications and Media Relations, says Sara Lee Corporation (1993 revenues $14.6 billion, net income $704 million) leases five floors in the 57-story 3 First National Plaza building and has been located in the building since 1980.
Not bad, I make 500 rubles for visiting Navistar International, manufacturer of International brand trucks and the world's largest supplier of diesel engines in the 150-300 horsepower range. Actually, it's a Russian 1912 paper currency of 500 rubles denomination and its only value is one of numismatic interest as a souvenir of a bygone era. Gregory Lennes, Corporate Secretary-Records Manager and Archivist, says the company was booted out and their operations taken over by the Russians when Lenin came into power in 1924 and the only compensation received were worthless ruble notes.
Navistar International (1193 revenues $4.7 billion, net loss $501 million) occupies five floors in a new high-rise off of Michigan Avenue. The reception area walls are lined with old truck ads from the 1930's.
Looking out the window and seeing the multitude of gleaming high-rises, it's hard to picture or imagine when Lennes says the current offices are on the same site of the company's first manufacturing plant back in 1846.
Odds & Ends of other downtown Chicago companies
As usual, Ameritech Corporation, a former Baby Bell, gives me the runaround. Three visits in the last six years have produced the same result. Must be afraid I'm going to ask why their pay phones charge 30 cents for a local phone call. Headquarters are on the upper floors of a 40-story building, which is also home to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Baker & McKenzie, world's largest law firm with over 1,700 lawyers and $500 million in revenues, occupies about 25% of One Prudential Plaza, a 40-story structure. Been in the same building since the 1950's. Meet with Frank Wheeler, Chief Operating Officer and an avid cyclist.
Quaker Oats Company (1993 revenues $5.7 billion, net income $171 million) owns its 35-story headquarters. Built in 1987 and called Quaker Tower, the lobby contains two 15-foot tall boxes of Quaker Oats cereal. My questions are answered by Ronald Bottrell, Director-Media Relations, while we sit in a conference room drinking Gatorade. The 2,000 employees in the place enjoy a small perk: free oatmeal in the morning. Bottrell doesn't know why CEO is located on the 27th floor.
Sears Roebuck and Co. still occupies four floors in the 110-story Sears Tower. Perry Chilan, Manager-Corporate Media Relations, says, except for 200 employees, everyone else has relocated to a newly-built campus out in suburban Hoffman Estates. I can't see CEO Edward Brennan's office on the 61st floor. Chilan says it's a no-go because Brennan's a "private person". Then what the heck is the man doing running a high-profile company with revenues over $50 billion?
My visit to the white, 82-story headquarters of Amoco Corporation is foiled for the third time in six years. Robert Schoen, a vice president for Amoco is my contact person, but he's unavailable each of the five days I drop by. The Amoco Tower, clad in nine thousand tons of granite, is no slouch: when built in 1972 it was the world's fourth tallest building.