I had planned my trek so as to be in Florida the first winter and this winter, I would visit the 35 companies on my list located in the Los Angeles area and three more I missed on my first visit to Phoenix, Arizona.
Los Angeles is about 120 miles north of San Diego and over the years, I had ridden my bike quite a few times between the two cities so it wasn't something new for me. What was new for me would be riding the Amtrak train between the two places. I had read somewhere where the Los Angeles to San Diego corridor carries more Amtrak passengers than any other route in the country except for the New York to Washington corridor. I called up Amtrak and got the information on taking my bike and was surprised to find out the following: I could catch the 7:17 a.m. train in Del Mar (which is about 20 miles north of San Diego), AND I could put my bike in the baggage car without boxing it. Amtrak was experimenting on letting people take their bikes on the train unboxed because it was becoming very popular for people to take the train to Los Angeles, spend the day riding around the city and catching the train home to San Diego later in the day. It really makes a difference to someone like me because I have to take all my saddlebags off, then the pedals, twist the handlebars and so on. So, I get up early, ride to the train station, buy a ticket and wait near the tracks with the other commuters for train #573. Over the loudspeaker system, the stationmaster announces the train will be late because they're having trouble getting the engine started in San Diego. Pretty soon, an hour passes and we keep getting periodic updates on the train's arrival. According to several regular commuters, breakdowns are very, very rare. At around 8:30 a.m., a cheer goes up that the train had left San Diego and is on the way. A few minutes later, we are told the engine broke down after leaving the San Diego station. The stationmaster calls in a bus to transport people to Los Angeles. Many people get on the bus but, I, like several others hate buses and elect to wait for the train to be repaired. A minute after the bus leaves, we are told the engine has been fixed and it's on the way!! Boy, those people on the buses sure were stupid. The train is due in Del Mar any minute now and believe it or not, the stationmaster announces over the speakers that several illegal aliens have been hit crossing the track about a mile from the Del Mar station. The train can't continue because if the aliens were killed, the train has to wait for the Coroner's office to go to the sight and make a report. It is now 11:00 Am. and the stationmaster announces the cancellation of train #573. No big deal, just catch another train right? WRONG! Even though a train goes from San Diego to Los Angeles about every ninety minutes, bikes are allowed only on the 7:17 a.m. and the 4:45 p.m. Would they make an exception because of the train mishap? Nope. You know what else is interesting? Even though Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country and San Diego the seventh largest, there is only ONE railroad track connecting the two. When there is a mishap such as the one I experienced, it clogs up the whole system. I left the Del Mar train station at 12:00 noon and decided to try again tomorrow morning.
Security Pacific National Bank
Tuesday morning, January 26, 1988, I visited Security Pacific National Bank in downtown Los Angeles. I met with Mr. Charles Lemoine, Vice President, who told me even though the company's logo is atop the building and the place is known as "Security Pacific Plaza", the bank only leases space. The owner is Metropolitan Life Assurance Company. About 900 employees work in the 55-story structure which was built in 1974. The company occupies floors 1-23 and the 53rd and 54th floors with the 55th floor being for building storage. I did get to see the boardroom and the CEO's office, both located on the 54th floor and have a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Senior vice presidents on up, get reserved parking. The corporate art collection is rotated and is contemporary, there's a cafeteria which is open to the public and executive dining rooms. Los Angeles Airport is 20 miles away and the company has one helicopter and one plane. Mr. Lemoine scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
First Interstate Bancorp
First Interstate Bancorp occupies space in the tallest building in Los Angeles. Like Security Pacific, First Interstate has its logo atop the building but, only leases space in the 60-story structure which was built in 1976. I met with Simon Barker-Benfield, Vice President, who told me the bank owns part of the structure in a partnership arrangement. The company doesn't have a corporate art collection, vice presidents on up, get reserved parking spots and there's a cafeteria which is semi-public, which means: other tenants in the building or people who know of its existence can eat there. I did eat lunch in the cafeteria with Barker-Benfield and the food was pretty good. The executive dining rooms are named after cities in which First Interstate has branches. For instance, there's the Sacramento Room and the San Francisco Room. I did get to see the boardroom and the impressive office of the CEO. Mr. Pinola, the CEO, has a huge corner office with a view of Dodger Stadium (about a mile away), and the ocean (about 20 miles away). He can also look down his largest local rival; Security Pacific, located a few blocks away. What I really remember though, is the armed security guard standing right outside Pinola's office door. On my travels, I had found it wasn't that unusual to have an armed security guard stationed near the elevators on the executive floors but, having a guard stand right outside a particular office was, indeed unusual. Barker-Benfield scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
I had to go to Atlantic Richfield's headquarters twice because the first time I got the runaround. On my first visit, I went into the 51-story building and couldn't find Public Relations on the building directory so, I took the elevator to the executive offices on the 50th floor. Coming off the elevator, I met a receptionist who was absolutely useless, he wasn't interested in pointing me to the public relations department and refused to let me use the phone which meant having to take the stupid elevator back down to the lobby on the first floor. I went up to the 42nd floor where I was then sent to the 32nd floor and upon arriving on the 32nd floor, I was told the man I was to see wasn't in.
On my second visit later in the day, I went to a pay phone in the lobby and called up the CEO's secretary and was told my postcard had been probably sent to Carson Moss, Jr., Director, Public Issues. A few minutes later, I was in Moss's office going through my questionnaire with him. The 51-story structure was built in 1972 and was at one time owned by a partnership of Atlantic Richfield and Bank of America but, it was recently sold to a Japanese company. Atlantic Richfield leases 32 floors in the building which, at 25,000 square feet to a floor, comes out to 550,000 square feet. About 1400 employees work in the corporate offices which have NO company cafeteria, although there is an executive dining room.
The company has a very extensive corporate art collection, with an emphasis on contemporary art although I did see Indian artifacts and totem poles. Roy Anderson, the former CEO, was responsible for the company's well-known involvement in the arts. Mr. Moss made a wry comment about the company's art collection which I've found to be true in most of the corporations I've visited, "The higher you go, the nicer it gets" meaning, the higher up you go in the building, the nicer the art. I got to see the boardroom on the 51st floor and was walked by the CEO's office because he was in. There is a heliport on top the building and car pooling and van pools are subsidized. Why is Atlantic Richfield headquartered in Los Angeles? According to Moss, when the company decided to move the corporate offices from New York City to the West Coast, San Francisco was the number one choice but, they opted for Los Angeles because they didn't want to be second banana to Chevron. Moss, a nice guy, scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
H.F. Ahmanson & Company
H.F. Ahmanson & Company is a financial holding company whose principal subsidiary, Home Savings of America, has the largest deposit base of any savings and loan in the country ($22 billion). The 11-story headquarters building of H.F. Ahmanson is located about five miles west of downtown Los Angeles and looked to be between 20-30 years old. I took the elevator to the top floor which is known as the "Penthouse" floor which required having to change elevators on the tenth floor. I sat in a small waiting/ lobby area for about 15 minutes until Marion Knebel, Investor & Media Relations, came out and said no one had time to talk and for me to come back another time. I was told, however, that H. F. Ahmanson was getting ready in the near future to move into a new, almost completed headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles.
CalFed, a savings & loan holding company, is headquartered in a 27-story, company-owned office building located about ten miles from downtown Los Angeles. When it opened in 1965, the building, for a few weeks, held title to being the tallest building in Los Angeles. I met with Paula Preveau, Vice President, Consumer Affairs, who was returning to work after a three-month absence due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident. About 1000 employees work in the 438,860-square foot structure which has the name, "California Federal" in big letters atop the side.
Because of the building's close proximity to the famous or infamous La Brea tar pits, there is a subterranean drainage system under the structure which pumps out-not water, but oil! The company has two helicopters and there is a heliport on top of the building. The cafeteria is open to the public, there are formal dining rooms for two executives and a fitness center which is for executives only. Only four people get reserved parking spots; Chairman, Vice Chairman, President and Chief Financial Officer. The CEO's office is on the 15th floor. Why the 15th? According to Preveau, there are three reasons: 1) express elevators; 2) better security; and 3) management can be "at the heart of business." I was given a tour of the 15th floor (executive floor) but, I couldn't see the CEO's office because he was in a meeting. I did see the boardroom which was located on the 4th floor. Preveau scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Whittaker Corporation, a diversified manufacturer with sales of about $500 million, wasn't big enough to be on my list but, I had added them on because they are located across the street from Occidental Petroleum and Castle & Cooke and since I was in the area, I figured what the heck. What a mistake! I got a "could care less" welcome from the receptionist as I came off the elevator to the 8th floor reception/lobby area. Corporate offices are in an office building which I guesstimate to be about 15 to 20 years old. The unhelpful receptionist allowed me to use a lobby phone as I called up the CEO's secretary to find out where my postcard had trickled down to and I was told by her, "Whittaker does not respond to questionnaires." That sure was short and sweet. The plainly furnished lobby area reeked of cigarettes and for some reason it reminded me of visiting companies in downtown Chicago.
Castle & Cooke
Castle & Cooke, the world's largest producer and marketer of fruits and vegetables, leases space in an 18-story, red brick and glass building located several blocks from the UCLA campus. Corporate offices, until recently, had been in San Francisco but, financier David Murdock bought the company and moved it to Los Angeles (Mr. Murdock lives in nearby Bel Air). I took the elevator up to the reception area on the 15th floor and checked in with the receptionist, who was wearing a headset because she also doubles as switchboard operator. Receptionists wearing headsets are not my favorite people to deal with because they will look right at you and think they are talking to you when actually, they are talking to someone on the phone. After a few minutes of waiting in the reception area which is furnished in traditional English, (including several fox hunting pictures), I met with Becky Gonek, Personnel, who took me to a nearby conference room and answered my questions. The building was built in 1982 and at one time was owned by Mr. Murdock. One of the perks the 120 employees receive at the corporate offices is free Dole juices and frozen fruit bars. Gonek took me to a kitchen area and opened a refrigerator/freezer and sure enough, instead of cans of Cokes or Pepsi, there were Dole fruit juices and frozen juice bars. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom was met by a "no way, even I haven't been up there", by Gonek.
The CEO's office is on the 16th floor and there is suppose to be "a lot of antiques up there." On the 18th floor is a private eating club called, the "Regency Club" which is owned by Mr. Murdock. Vice Presidents on up, get reserved parking spots and the WHOLE building (which includes many other tenants), is non-smoking because Mr. Murdock is adamant about no smoking. Why is the company located in Los Angeles? Because Murdock lives in nearby Bel Air. Gonek scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
Gilbraltar Financial, a savings & loan holding company, is headquartered in a dumpy-looking, 8-story building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The building was probably built in the 1960's and looked it. I took the elevator up to the top floor which is known as the "Executive" floor and noticed a plaque above the elevator door which read, "Top of the Rock" which evidently refers to the company's main subsidiary, Gilbraltar Savings. I was told by the receptionist that the man I was to talk to was located in another building in another part of town, North Hollywood.
Located about midway between Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles is Farmers Group, an insurance holding company. The 7-story headquarters building (Home Office building) which reminds me of an Art Deco Masonic Temple, was built in 1940 with the last three floors being added on in the 1950's. The lobby reception area is very tiny and I was given a very unfriendly welcome from the receptionist who informed me I needed an appointment, wouldn't call up to find out where my postcard ended up and wouldn't let me use a phone. Located across the street from the Home Office building are two recently built 3-story annex buildings. I walked to one of the annex buildings and, after spending 10 minutes explaining to the security guard why I wanted to use one of their pay phones, I finally got to call up Public Relations. Jerald Clemans, Vice President-Public Relations, initially said he didn't want to talk to me but, after I explained to him I had visited hundreds of companies and dozens of insurance companies, he relented. Actually, I could see where Clemans might not want to talk to me because Farmers Group was in the middle of battle with B.A.T. Industries, a London-based company which was trying to take over Farmers.
Clemans met me in the tiny lobby area and we talked for a few minutes. I jokingly told him if he hadn't met with me I would have put my "takeover whammy" on the company. About 1200 employees work in the three buildings, there is a cafeteria, formal dining, reserved parking-depending on your function, no recreational facilities, no corporate aircraft and I was told it wasn't possible to see the CEO's office and boardroom. What a blah reception from a blah-looking company. Clemans scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE B.A.T. Industries did win its takeover battle.
Tosco, the largest independent oil refinery on the West Coast, leases space on the second floor of a 3-story office building complex located a few miles from the Pacific Ocean in the city of Santa Monica (population 90,000). I checked in with the receptionist and told her I had sent a postcard to Mr. Talbot, the CEO, and the receptionist informed me Mr. Talbot left several years ago. I said, "Oops" and asked if the current CEO Clarence Frame, had received the postcard. She went into another room and a minute later returns with Ann Jarrett, a secretary (to whom I don't know). Jarrett proceeds to go down my questionnaire in a rapid-fire, abrupt manner. It took no longer than two minutes for Jarrett to dispose of me and her cold, "I'm too busy to waste my time on someone like you" attitude seemed to be the result of years of practice. I never did get a word in edgewise. I was told if I wanted to find out the square footage of Tosco's office space to "go see Southmark, the owner of the place." The name, "Tosco", stands for "The Oil Shell Company." According to Jarrett, 898 employees work in the corporate offices, there is a cafeteria, no corporate aircraft, smoking is allowed anywhere, the corporate art collection consists of several quilts and parking is "open." I was told I couldn't see the CEO's office or boardroom. Jarrett scored 3 points on my 1-10 scale. I would have given Jarrett a lower score but, she got points for physically coming out and talking to me.
First Executive Corporation
First Executive Corporation, an insurance holding company, is headquartered in a box-shaped, blue-glassed, 11-story building in Inglewood, a suburb with a population of 95,000 located twelve miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. On the side of the building at the top in large letters it says, "Executive Life Center." I walked into the lobby and was greeted by security guards who signed me in. I counted the number of television screens the security guards were monitoring and counted eighteen. As I was signing in, I looked to my right and saw an employee cafeteria called, the "Garden Cafe." I was sent up to the main reception area on the second floor where Greg Courtney, Assistant to Mr. Carr (the CEO), came out and informed me in a nice manner that the company has a general policy of not answering surveys and questionnaires. After explaining a little bit about my project, Courtney agreed to take one of my questionnaires, fill it out and mail it to me. As I was leaving, I did notice a basket of apples on the receptionist's desk and was told it had become a tradition for apples to be supplied at various reception areas for company employees. I also noticed quite a bit of modern art on the hallway walls. Courtney scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Courtney did send me an annual report along with the completed questionnaire. About 850 employees work in the building which was built in 1984. There is a fitness center which offers treadmills, Lifecycles, Nautilus equipment and martial arts training. The company has no corporate aircraft and it's nine miles or 46 blocks to Los Angeles Airport.
National Medical Enterprise
National Medical Enterprise which owns and operates hospitals around the country, is headquartered in a plain-looking, 11-story building about 15 miles from Los Angeles Airport and 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles. I went into the building which has other tenants and, after looking over the building directory, I followed my instincts and made my way to the corporate communications department. I gave the receptionist my postcard and she handed it to a man who, after reading the postcard said, "What is it you want?" I said, "I was wondering if someone would have 10 or 15 minutes to answer some questions I had about your corporate headquarters." The man said he was all tied up and if I made an appointment and came back another time, he would talk to me. I started to explain how I had forty companies to visit in the Los Angeles area and this was kind of a one-shot deal for me. Before I could finish my spiel, this man cuts in and curtly says, "Well, if you don't want to make an appointment, then I suggest you go visit another company," and, with that comment he walks away. I asked the receptionist the name of the man I just had the encounter with and was told it was Tony Pace, Director of Corporate Communications. Hmmm.
Wickes Companies, Inc.
Wickes Companies, Inc., a retailer of building materials, supplier of wallcoverings and manufacturer of apparel, hosiery and automotive products, surprised me by not being located on the waterfront. The address I had was 3340 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica. I found out headquarters is in a 3-story, unmarked building 33 blocks from the ocean in the coastal city of Santa Monica. About 250 employees occupy the first and third floors of the 3-story building which was built in 1982 and is part of a business park. I met with Ann Julsen, Director of Shareholder Relations. The pictures hanging in the lobby and hallways are mostly of Africa and were taken by Sanford Sigoloff, the CEO, on a safari trip. The offices are pretty functional. Executive vice presidents on up, get reserved parking spots. There is no cafeteria but, a vending area.
CEO Sigoloff has a reputation as a turnaround artist. He's taken several ailing companies and, by slashing costs, employees, etc., he's turned them around. Along the way, he's gotten the nickname of "Ming the Merciless." Anyway, when I asked if I could see the boardroom and the CEO's office, I was told the boardroom was possible but, the CEO's office was off limits because he was gone. So, we're walking around the offices when I come to a corner office with the door closed and above the door is a plaque which reads, "The Ming Room." I asked Julsen if that was a conference room and she shook her head as if saying, "no." I'll bet a million bucks that room with the sign over the door is Mr. Sigoloff's office and for some reason she didn't want me to know. My question about the number of corporate aircraft Wickes has, drew a "No comment." I know they have corporate aircraft because I've seen one of the planes at the San Diego Airport. Julsen scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE I did receive a package in the mail from Wickes which included a beach towel, pair of socks, a small duffel bag, a coffee mug and a tape measure. It is also worth noting that in my writing to many corporations and individuals in obtaining sponsorship and funding for this project, Sanford Sigoloff, the CEO, sent me a personal check for $500.00 to help my project along which was the only money received from any company or person.
Lear Siegler, a holding company with interests in manufacturing of plastic, bedding, glass, pumps, brakes, office furniture and other products, is located a few blocks down the same street from Wickes in an office building which seems to be part of an office park. I walked in the front door and spent a few minutes trying to find a reception area. The place looked like it had been cleared out. I finally ran into a maintenance man who told me that's exactly what happened. The company had been bought by a New Jersey group and headquarters was being moved to Livingston, New Jersey.
Northrop, an aerospace and defense contractor, owns a 19-story building in an area known as, Century City. A sign visible from the street says, "Northrop Plaza" and another near the first floor entrance says, "Northrop Corporation." Century City is a complex of high-rise office buildings located about a half mile from Beverly Hills. After waiting in the lobby/reception area for about thirty minutes, which by the way has no reading material and a very unfriendly receptionist, I was met by Terry Clawson, Manager, Public Information. The building was built in 1970 and has a total of 266,000 square feet with Northrop using 112,000 square feet. About 400 employees work in the building in which Northrop occupies floors 12 through 19. There's a cafeteria and a gym which includes two outdoor tennis courts on the top floor. Northrop has three corporate aircraft. My request to see the CEO's office and boardroom was denied. Closed-circuit security cameras were visible in the first floor lobby and the company is located in Los Angeles because that's where the company was started. Clawson scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Rockwell International was listed on all my lists as being headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but, if you recall, I showed up at their Pittsburgh offices and was told they had dual headquarters with the CEO spending the majority of his time in the El Segundo, California office. Rockwell leases space in an 11-story, glass building located right across the street from Los Angeles International Airport. Rockwell occupies floors 6-11 (110,000 square feet), and has been located in the building since 1974. Across the top of the building in big letters is "Rockwell International." I checked in with the security guard/receptionist and was told there wasn't a rest room I could use. (I needed to change from my riding shorts to long pants.) I went to several other buildings in the immediate area and couldn't find a rest room. Finally, I went back to the reception desk and was allowed to use a rest room only after getting clearance to meet with someone. That someone was Frank Shukis, Director, Facilities and Capital Planning. I was escorted to his office which overlooks the airport and had a quick visit. Vice presidents on up, get reserved parking, smoking is restricted, there is a formal dining room (for executives) and no cafeteria. There is no corporate art, no recreational facilities and a heliport. Shukis wasn't sure about the number of corporate aircraft but, with executives commuting back and forth from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, you can be sure they have several. I never got past Shukis's office with my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom being denied. Shukis scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
On my third visit to Occidental Petroleum, I was finally able to meet with someone; Howard Collins, Director of Communications. Corporate headquarters is in a 16-story office building on Wilshire Boulevard about a block from the UCLA campus, in the upscale suburb of Westwood. The building was built in the early 1960's and looks pretty dumpy when compared to other neighboring office buildings. I took the elevator up to the 15th floor reception area where, upon exiting the elevator, I eyed a prominently displayed bronze facial sculpture and large oil portrait of the famous 89-year old CEO Armand Hammer. I had read quite a few articles on Hammer and knew he wasn't exactly Mr. Modest. A spiral staircase winds up to the 16th floor and that's where Collins took me to see the boardroom. At one end of the 16th floor is the boardroom and at the other end is Hammer's office and in between the two is a long hallway filled with an incredible array of art by masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt, Rubens, Claude Monet and Renoir, just to name a few. Gilbert Stuart's famous painting, "Portrait of George Washington", was on display as well as the "Codex Hammer", which is essentially eighteen double sheets of informal notes in mirror writing by Leonardo da Vinci. I counted at least three security guards on the 16th floor and I imagine there is a large amount of unseen security.
About 500 employees work in the building which is 70% occupied by Occidental Petroleum and vice presidents on up, get reserved parking spots. Smoking is not restricted (Collins lit one up as we talked in his office), and there is no cafeteria but, a formal dining room. There is a heliport and Occidental Petroleum has a 727, along with a Gulfstream 3. I wasn't able to see the CEO's office because "Mr. Hammer was napping" but, did get to see the boardroom. I was also told some employees brown bag lunch in the boardroom and get to eat amongst some of the most famous works of art in the world. Hammer lives nearby which would explain why the corporate headquarters is located where it is. Collins scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Great Western Financial
Great Western Financial, a savings & loan holding company, is headquartered in a company-owned, distinctive, 10-story, all black glassed, oval-shaped building in Beverly Hills. Out front of the building is a larger than life-size sculpture by Harry Jackson of John Wayne on a horse. Mr. Wayne used to do commercials for Great Western Savings, the company's main subsidiary. On my third visit, I was finally able to meet with someone after having been previously told "No one was in" and "Everyone's out to lunch." I could tell my visit was high priority for the company because they had Terry Allen, a USC student who was doing an internship in the Corporate Communications department, meet with me. Allen must have been about 20 years old and I think I knew more about the company than he did. Built in 1970, the building has quite a few other tenants. Smoking is allowed anywhere and there's a cafeteria (which is open to the public), and a formal dining area. I asked if I could see the boardroom and the CEO's office so, we took the elevator up to the top floor and as we got off the elevator, Allen told the security guard stationed near the elevators that he was going to show me around. We were walking around (more like wandering around), when a secretary stopped us and asked if we needed help. Allen explained to the lady what I was doing and she proceeded to show us around the executive offices. The office of James Montgomery, the CEO, had quite a bit of western paraphernalia scattered around including, several more sculptures by Harry Jackson depicting western scenes.
After seeing the CEO's office, the three of us went into the boardroom with the door being closed behind us. As she was pointing out the view from the boardroom windows, there was a knock on the door and, when she opened the door, there were four security guards standing there wanting to know if everything was okay. Evidently, one of the other secretaries had panicked after seeing two unknown guys walk into the boardroom with a secretary and shut the door (with me carrying about a backpack I guess someone thought I could have a bomb or something). Allen scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale and he's easily the youngest person I've met with (so far), during my visits to the various companies.
American Medical International
American Medical International, a health care company, leases space in a 12-story building in downtown Beverly Hills. I waited in the small reception area for about twenty minutes before meeting with Julie Klein, Production Manager. During my wait in the lobby, I ended up talking to several employees about my trek. An executive who walked by asked me what I thought of their offices and I told him I didn't think a health care company would allow smoking in its offices (he was smoking a cigarette as he talked to me). The receptionist was very nice, especially when you consider she was quitting after today. I did notice closed-circuit security cameras and the 300 employees get free, assigned parking (which is a big perk when you consider how tough it is finding a parking spot in downtown Beverly Hills.) There is no cafeteria but, there is a snack area in which employees get free soft drinks. I did get to see the CEO's (Mr. Weisman), office (a corner office with a view of Beverly Hills) and the boardroom. There are no recreational facilities, no corporate aircraft and smoking is allowed anywhere. I did receive a small first-aid kit from Ms. Klein (with the company's name on it). Klein scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Friday night I caught the train back to San Diego because it was important for me to get back home. Why? Because Super Bowl XXII was being played Sunday and it wasn't being played at just any old place; San Diego was the host city. Why was it such a big deal for me? Because San Diego Airport (Lindbergh Field) was expecting almost 300 corporate and private jets to fly into town to attend the festivities. I spent all day Saturday and most of Super Bowl Sunday (including during the game), watching corporate jets come and go. It used to be many corporations would have their company's logos on their aircraft but, in the last few years due to terrorists and disgruntled shareholders, many have become discreet. Which corporation had the biggest fleet of corporate aircraft lined up at the airport? Union Pacific, which is headquartered in New York City, had five. The funniest thing I saw was Mr. Gene Klein, former owner of the San Diego Chargers who lives about 25 miles from the football stadium in Rancho Santa Fe (one of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the U.S.), and his wife were picked up at their home via his private helicopter and dropped off at the airport which is ten miles from the stadium. They were supposed to have a limo waiting at the airport to whisk them off to the game but, they ended up having to wait 35 minutes for the limo to show up and one only had to look at Mr. Klein's face to see he was not a happy camper.
Monday, February 8, 1988, was start of my second week of visiting companies in the Los Angeles area and I was curious as to whether my receptions would improve because of a write-up I had in the Los Angeles Times newspaper's "Business" section which included two pictures of me on my bike.
Southern California Edison
Southern California Edison was the only utility company listed in the book, "The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America" and I was anxious to visit to see for myself. Corporate headquarters is a huge complex of four buildings with a total square footage of 1.2 million set in the residential community of Rosemead (population 40,000) which is about 12 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Two of the four buildings are four stories, one is three stories, and the fourth is one story. As I approached company headquarters, I made a left turn onto a company-private road aptly named, "Edison Way". (I later found out that despite the use of "Edison" in the name of Southern California Edison Company, the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, had nothing to do with the founding or operation of the company.) I got a warm welcome from David Barron, Senior Representative, Corporate Communications Department, after checking in with the security guard/receptionist. About 5000 employees work in the company-owned complex which was built in 1971. A few months earlier there had been an earthquake in the area and it had caused an estimated $5 MILLION in damage to corporate headquarters. Which explained why workmen were putting in all new lighting in the hallways and why the boardroom had been moved to the executive dining room (the permanent site of the boardroom had been damaged during the earthquake). Department managers on up, get reserved parking, there are no recreational facilities although walking around the well-kept grounds is popular and the corporate art collection consists of a "few prints." There is a heliport on the grounds and Barron wasn't sure about the number of corporate aircraft although they do have several helicopters. Why is the company located in Rosemead? Because, according to Barron, it's the center of their service territory. As I was talking to Barron in his office, several people came in and wanted to meet me because they had seen my write-up in the Los Angeles Times. Smoking in the complex is optional and Los Angeles Airport is 35 miles away and Ontario Airport is 25 miles away. Barron scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
The Von's Companies, Inc.
The Von's Companies, Inc., a grocery story chain, is headquartered in a two-story building which has a sign out front which reads, "General Offices." The company is located in the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte which has a population of 80,000 and is about twelve miles west of Los Angeles. A big distribution center is visible behind the corporate offices and I could smell bread baking so I assume it's where they bake their own brand of bread. Entering the plain lobby, a sign greeted me which read, "Thank you for Not Smoking." Some of the magazines in the lobby area included, Sports Illustrated, Time, Adweek and Deli News. I met with Suzanne Dyer, Communication Coordinator, who showed no interest in my project as we went to the company lunchroom and zipped through my questions. According to Dyer, the company plans on moving to new offices in 1989, "probably some place nearby." There's no cafeteria but, the lunchroom has a microwave and quite a few vending machines which carry Coke and Pepsi. I was told I couldn't see the CEO's office. The boardroom, which looks more like a conference room, is located off to the side of the lunch room. On one whole wall of the boardroom were posted the company's latest newspaper advertisements and on another wall were posted newspaper advertisements from competing grocery chains. Vice presidents on up, get reserved parking. Dyer scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
This was my third attempt to visit the corporate offices of Pacific Lighting in downtown Los Angeles which owns Southern California Gas Company and had recently diversified by buying Thrifty Corporation, a drugstore chain. Pacific Lighting leases space in a brand new 22-story building. Three times I went up to the main receptionist and three times I was treated shabbily by the snotty receptionist who, for some reason, seemed to think she was better than me. I met with Arnie Berghoff, Director of External Affairs, who informed me the current offices were temporary and the company would be moving in 1989 to a new, almost completed 73-story building several blocks away in which they will own half interest and will occupy eleven floors. The new structure will be known as "Library Towers" and will be the West Coast's tallest structure.
Getting back to their current headquarters, they occupy floors 7-12 and about 300 employees work in the nicely appointed offices which feature an Art Deco look. There is a good-looking, well-equipped fitness center which even has a machine I haven't seen before, a Stairmaster, which simulates climbing up stairs. The company has one corporate aircraft and employees get free parking. I did get to see the boardroom (which was very traditional) but, I wasn't allowed to see the CEO's office. Berghoff also told me the company was announcing a change in its name and logo next week but, he wasn't at liberty to tell me. Berghoff scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale. *NOTE Berghoff sent me material on the company which included the company's new name, "Pacific Enterprises."
Beverly Enterprises, a health care company, leases space in a new 5-story office building near downtown Pasadena. Total office space in the building is 104,653 square feet, with Beverly Enterprises occupying 85,208 square feet. I originally had gone to their old headquarters several miles away and being the quick learn guy I am, I figured the empty buildings meant they had moved. The new quarters have a sign visible from the street which reads, "Beverly Enterprises." Entering the lobby area, I found the whole first floor unfinished, empty, as if they hadn't finished construction. The building directory listed Beverly Enterprises as being on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th floors. There is a security guard in the lobby near the elevators and he sent me up to the main receptionist who turned out to be very unfriendly and unhelpful and told me I needed an appointment. I went back down to the first floor and got the security guard to let me use his phone (because the receptionist wouldn't let me use hers), and I called up CEO Robert Van Tyle's secretary. Calling the right person pays off and in a few minutes, I was in the offices of Jack MacDonald, Vice President, Government Relations. The company logo is an oak tree which signifies long life. The boardroom is pretty typical and I got to meet the CEO, Mr. Robert Van Tyle, and check out his office which was not a corner office. There are vending machines but no cafeteria, no corporate art collection, no recreational facilities, no corporate aircraft and Los Angeles Airport is forty miles away. MacDonald gave me two business cards with one being in English and the other in Japanese. While waiting in the lobby area to meet with MacDonald, I thumbed through a well-done booklet put out by the company called, "To Touch, To Hold, To Give, To Love", and it showed tender scenes (pictures) of elderly people with kids and nurses (Beverly Enterprises operates nursing homes). MacDonald scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Golden State Foods
Golden State Foods, with revenues of only approximately $850 million wasn't big enough to be on my original list but, I added 'em on because I was curious as to what their headquarters would look like. Golden State Foods is a food processor and distributor for McDonald's Corporation. I had envisioned headquarters being in an industrial part of town and so I was somewhat surprised to find myself on the 8th floor of an 8-story office building in downtown Pasadena. I checked in with the receptionist and was told everyone was in a meeting. After waiting forty minutes in the average-looking lobby, I told the receptionist I couldn't wait any longer and left.
Avery International Corporation
Avery International Corporation, a manufacturer of self-adhesive products, is headquartered in a residential area on a beautiful, 7-acre site about a half mile from the Pasadena Rose Bowl. The company-owned, 3-story, 93,000-square foot structure is home to 170 employees. A sign out front near the street reads, "Avery Corporate Center." The grounds are very well landscaped and, as you approach the front entryway, you cross over a meandering stream/pond filled with fish via a walkway, to enter the building. I met with Jean Henry, an executive secretary who, among other things, told me that even though the corporate logo looks like three paper clips forming a triangle, they ARE NOT paper clips. Sure.
There is a cafeteria, formal dining, a fitness center and, as you enter the building, a plaque on the receptionist's desk says smoking is not allowed in the building which explains why I saw several people puffing away in a patio area. Officers get covered, reserved parking, there are no corporate planes and I spotted several closed-circuit security cameras. I got to see the corner office of R. Stanton Avery, the Founder Chairman and the corner office of Charles Miller, CEO and Chairman. Miller has a view of the mountains and of a nearby freeway. Why is the company located in Pasadena? Because the company was started in Pasadena in 1935. Burbank airport is fifteen miles away and Los Angeles Airport is thirty miles away. Across the driveway is a beautiful restored home run by the Pasadena Historical Society. Henry scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
GlenFed, a savings and loan holding company, has its corporate headquarters in a company-owned, 13-story building located in downtown Glendale, a city of 140,000. The name of one of their subsidiaries, Glendale Federal, is atop the side of the building which was built in 1981. Glendale, which is about fifteen miles north of downtown Los Angeles, has a pretty impressive downtown skyline of new office buildings. I found GlenFed's headquarters only after first going to their former offices several blocks away and finding they had moved. Even though the building is thirteen stories tall, it has fourteen floors because there is no 13th floor in the 202,315-square foot structure. Approximately 175 employees work in the building which has other tenants. I met with Melissa Duncan, Assistant Vice President, Public Relations Manager, California Division. I had a funny experience with Ms. Duncan. When I first entered the building, I was directed up to the floor on which Duncan is located. As I came off the elevator, I didn't see anyone and had a "lost" look on my face when Ms. Duncan walked by and said, "Seth?" I shook my head and said, "No" and Duncan walked away. Well, as it turns out, Duncan told me she had been expecting a "temp" (temporary help) and when she saw me walk off the elevator in my shorts, she was aghast because she thought I was the "temp" and had specifically told the temporary agency to make sure the fellow sent over was dressed conservatively.
There is no cafeteria but, an executive dining room. Covered parking for officers is free with non-officers paying $15.00 a month. Customers and the chairman get the only reserved parking spots. There is an interesting crystal collection on the executive floor. Glendale Federal Savings, one of their subsidiaries, was the first savings and loan in the nation to open a branch. On the executive floor (top floor), you have to be buzzed in by the receptionist and pass a security guard before being allowed into the offices. A plaque on the executive floor reception area states that on the fourth Thursday of every month tours are conducted of the executive offices. I did get to see the corner office of CEO Norman Coulson and the boardroom, which had pictures of past Chairmen on the walls. Duncan scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
I headed back to downtown Los Angeles and on my third visit, I was finally able to talk to someone at Unocal. The company-owned, 12-story complex was built in 1958 and looks it. The company's name is on top of the building in large letters which evidently light up at night. The lobby area is filled with pictures and memorabilia of events in Unocal's history; opening of a new refinery, christening of a new oil tanker, etc. And what does each event have in common? A photograph accompanies each event and each picture includes CEO Fred Hartley.. You can tell just by looking at the displays who's in charge. My first two visits were something else. The receptionists in the lobby wouldn't let me use a phone so I had to use the pay phones near the entry doors. I would get transferred then transferred again, then, I would be told the person I was supposed to talk to wasn't in. On my third visit, the two names of people I was supposed to contact weren't in so, in frustration, I called up CEO Hartley's secretary and in a few minutes I was in the office of Mike Thacher, Manager, Executive Communications, who showed no enthusiasm and just went through the motions. The "top guys" get reserved parking, there is no cafeteria, no recreational facilities, six floors are connected by escalators and the company has 1, 2 or 3 corporate aircraft (Thacher wasn't sure). My visit in his office lasted about three minutes and that's as much as I got to see. I was told it wasn't possible to see the CEO's office or the boardroom. Thacher scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
On the grounds of corporate headquarters is a Union 76 gas station which is a regular gas station (open to the public) and I would have thought it would be a "showplace" station but, it looks like nothing's been done to it since it was built in the 1960's. I talked to a couple of the attendants and was told they always have to be on their toes because they never know when one of the "big shots" from next door might drop in. *NOTE Thacher never followed through on finding answers to the questions he wasn't able to answer during my visit and never sent me an annual report.
Rykoff-Sexton, Inc., a food service distributor, has its corporate offices at its main distribution center located three miles east of downtown Los Angeles in a rundown warehouse area. The five-story distribution center/warehouse/office complex was built in the 1920's and has over 1 million square feet of space (250,000-square foot manufacturing plant and a 900,000-square foot warehouse). The company's delivery trucks were constantly going in and out of the complex and it wasn't the best place to be riding a bike around. Atop one of the warehouse structures is a green water tower with the company's name painted on. Because I live in Southern California, I always see their distinctive green trucks on the roads, along with the familiar saying, "Enjoy Life, Eat Out More Often" painted on the sides. To get to the corporate offices, you walk up a flight of steep concrete steps attached to the side of a building. The outside of the building LOOKED like it was built in the 1920' but, the office area inside was modern and well lit. There is a whole slew of magazines in the lobby area which included, U.S. News, Beverage World, "Hispanic Entrepreneur, Global Finance, Paper Sales, California Trucker, Business Month, Business Insurance, The Office, Investment Dealers Digest and Corporate Finance.
After changing into long pants (bathrooms have Rykoff-Sexton brand toilet seat covers), I met with Dennis Slipakoff, Director, Human Resources. The company uses a hotel in Century City to have board meetings because they don't have a boardroom. CEO Roger Coleman has a collection of Steuben glass on display in his traditionally furnished corner office. About 200 people work in the corporate offices, which has a snack bar but no cafeteria, with Pepsi being the soft drink offered. There are no corporate aircraft, no recreational facilities and 20 reserved parking spots. Slipakoff scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Walt Disney Company
It was Wednesday, February 10, 1988, as I rode up to the guard gate at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank (population 85,000), which is about a 25-minute car drive north of downtown Los Angeles. The night before, I had called home to see if I had received any messages and I found out a Mr. Ben Cowitt from Walt Disney had called so, when the guard at the gate stopped me, I said I was here to see Ben Cowitt. The guard handed me a Walt Disney Studios map and directed me to take Snow White Blvd. to Minnie Avenue, hang a left, then turn right on Dopey Drive and I would find Cowitt's office in the "Shorts Building." I followed the guard's instructions and, after turning left onto Minnie Avenue, I found cars were banned and it was kind of fun riding my bike amongst the many pedestrians and other bicyclists (the bikes were big, heavy clunkers and looked like they were used for commuting from different parts of the studio complex). I found the "Shorts Building", locked my bike (I didn't want some Mickey Mouse riding off with my bike), and walked into the plain-looking building. I explained to the receptionist/secretary what I was doing and she said Cowitt was busy. I told her I had another company to visit nearby and asked would it be okay to check back in about an hour. I was told it would be but, I should call first. I unlocked my bike and started for the exit. As I approached the exit, a security guard stopped me and said his supervisor wanted to talk to me. A minute later, two security guards on bicycles and one in a golf cart show up and tell me I didn't have "clearance" to be on the property. They asked for identification (I showed my driver's license), and ended up explaining to them about my project and how I was here to see Ben Cowitt because I had received a telephone message from him. The one guard mentioned that Cowitt's secretary was the one who called them. Hmmm. I told the guards I was on my way to see a nearby company and would probably be back in an hour.
I returned an hour later and there, at the guard gate, was the first guard who had given me the studio map. Riding up, I told him I hope I didn't get him in trouble as he muttered something and then told me I had to check in at the Visitor center next to the entrance. I walked into the Visitor center and, as I approached the receptionist sitting behind a tall counter, she turns around and says to someone in a back room in a voice loud enough for me to hear, "That guy on the bicycle is back again." A few seconds later a man, with a name tag that looked like it said "Wil", who evidently is a security supervisor, comes out to the front and, in a very unpleasant voice says, "Are you the guy handing out these cards?" He has in his hands one of the postcards I send to the CEO's (which I had given one to the security guards who had stopped me during my earlier visit when I was told I didn't have "clearance."). I told "Wil" I wasn't "handing" them out and he then asked if I had an appointment. I answered that I sort of did. He said, "Either you have an appointment or you don't have an appointment!" He wouldn't let me say one word to explain my situation and then went on to threaten to have me "thrown off the property" if I didn't leave. This guy, for some reason, was really being nasty and I asked the receptionist if there was a public pay phone I could use. She pointed to a phone on the wall and so, I called up CEO Michael Eisner's secretary and explained to her I was at the front entrance and was having a problem getting to talk to someone. Eisner's secretary transferred me to Community Relations. Community Relations transferred back to Ben Cowitt's secretary, who informed me even if Cowitt could talk to me any information given out would have to go through Corporate Communications. I said, "Fine, could you transfer me to Corporate Communications?" This scenario on the phone had so far taken about twenty minutes and I waited another five minutes before Sherry Mosby in Corporate Communications came on the line and proceeded to give me the most incredible ten-minute verbal thrashing I'd ever received over a phone! Among other things, she berated me for showing up without an appointment, belittled my project, accused me of entering the property under "false pretenses", and never gave me a chance to explain anything. I tried to explain to her that I wasn't some wacko and I had been very successful in just showing up at corporate headquarters. She had a "could care less" attitude. I was finally told the Walt Disney Company would not participate in my project because I "entered the grounds under false pretenses." Unbelievable! *NOTE When I arrived back home in San Diego a week later, I fired off a letter to CEO Eisner rehashing my shoddy treatment and telling him I had never experienced such rude, unprofessional behavior and NOBODY deserved to be treated the way "Wil" and Sherry Mosby had treated me. I also went on to say that if someone had told me two years ago that the worst reception I would receive on my trek would be at the Walt Disney Company, I would have told 'em they were crazy. I'm a guy who grew up watching Walt Disney every Sunday night! About ten days later, I received a letter from Erwin Okun, Vice President, Corporate Communications:
Dear Mr. Wolsfeld:
Michael Eisner has been away from his desk for most of the past several weeks. He has asked me to reply to your recent letter.
Sounds as if you got a first-class runaround here at Disney. I'm surprised. And I regret that Shirley Mosby was unpleasant to you on the telephone.
I'm not sure how many elevators there are at Disney's various buildings here. Since we're putting up a new parking garage on the property, our number of parking spaces is temporarily quite low. Our board room is pretty much what you'd expect--a traditional room with a traditional table. And we serve Coca Cola products in our commissary.
If you have further trivia questions about Disney, I'll do my best to answer them by phone.
Again, sincere apologies on behalf of myself and Michael Eisner for the inhospitable way you were treated here.
Erwin D. Okun
It was late afternoon when I left the Walt Disney Company and I wasn't in the best of moods as I rode about ten miles west to the corporate headquarters of MCA, an entertainment company (movies, music, book publishing, television). Headquarters is a blackish-glass building located next to the Hollywood Freeway in Universal City. Out front of the building which looks to be about fourteen stories tall, is a long, low-hung sign which reads, "MCA World Headquarters." MCA isn't the only tenant in the building because I can see an E.F. Hutton office on the first floor. I walked up to the receptionist/security guard in the first floor lobby area and explained to him what I was doing. He said he had read about me in the Los Angeles Times newspaper as he made a phone call. After about a ten-minute wait in the lobby, a lady comes over to me with an annual report and tells me "MCA doesn't participate in these kinds of things." I asked if my postcard had been received and she said it indeed had been received and she had been instructed by Michael Samuels, Secretary, to come to the lobby and give me an annual report. Hmmm. First it was the Walt Disney Company and now MCA; does making movies give companies the right to be imperious?
It's 7:25 a.m., Thursday morning, and I'm staying a few blocks from MCA's headquarters at the plush Los Angeles Registry Hotel. I'm in my room on the 16th floor of the 24-story building watching the local morning news when the building actually starts to sway! The newsman on TV interrupts his own news report and says the area is experiencing an earthquake. Now, living in San Diego for a dozen years, I've experienced my share of tremors but, to be 16 stories up in a high-rise and FEEL the building actually move back and forth is something you don't forget.
Not wanting to hang around waiting for aftershocks, I checked out of the hotel and headed towards Burbank again to visit privately-held Shamrock Holdings. I had dropped by their offices the day before (Shamrock Holdings is about a mile from offices of the Walt Disney Company), and was told to check back. Built in 1984, the company-owned, 3-story office building known as Shamrock Center is located on a quiet side street-one block from Burbank Studios. As you walk into the building, there is an atrium with an indoor pond filled with koi.
Shamrock Holdings wasn't on my original list of companies to visit but, when visiting Central Soya Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, (agribusiness-with over $1 billion in revenues), I was told Shamrock Holdings owned them and Roy Disney, the nephew of THE Walt Disney, was the owner of Shamrock Holdings.
There are other tenants in the building, with Shamrock Holdings offices being on the second floor. As I waited in the second floor reception area to talk to Terry Hill, Administrative Assistant, I picked up one, of two, loose-leaf notebooks sitting on a coffee table and started to thumb through it. In the notebook(s) were clippings of newspaper articles concerning the company along with personal correspondence between Stanley Gold, the CEO, and business acquaintances. It was quite unusual and fascinating reading. For instance, several letters to Mr. Gold were from attorneys congratulating him on getting a nice write-up in Forbes Magazine.
Do you know how hard it was for me not to tell Hill about my lousy reception at the Walt Disney Company? I knew Roy Disney was still a substantial holder of Walt Disney stock and I was hoping to get to talk to him or Gold about my shoddy treatment but, alas, it was not to be because neither one of them was in. About 45 employees work in the corporate offices which has a wide range of art scattered all over the place and it's definitely eclectic. Gold's office has a view of the Los Angeles River which is kind of a joke because it's a large, wide, concrete aqueduct with very little water running through it. The furnishings in Gold's office were not the typical furnishings I had come to expect to see in a CEO's office; there were three different types of cactus plants in his office along with African art on the wall.
Even though there's no cafeteria, there are vending machines which give free soda pop, a fitness room which has Nautilus equipment and exercise bikes and, parking is free to all employees. The company has one corporate aircraft with Burbank Airport being five miles away. Why is Shamrock Holdings located in Burbank? I was told it's because Mr. Roy Disney lives nearby.
The men's rest room at Shamrock Holdings definitely takes the prize for being the most interesting I've seen so far on my trip. In the bathroom are such things as real baseball bats hanging from the walls, pictures of the company softball team, a framed reprint of an article about the company in Fortune Magazine, pictures of Gold dressed up in various costumes but, my personal favorite is the ten business cards which are in a picture frame on the wall and they read as follows:
Air Courier Service
Hughes Tool Company
Wright Cycle Company
Dr. Albert Einstein
John D. Rockefeller
I don't know if it was given to Gold as a gag gift or what, but Gold definitely has a sense of humor. There is also an electric shoe buffer in the rest room. I told Hill about some of the interesting items I saw in the men's room and asked her if I would find such items in the women's rest room. "No", she said. There was something different about Shamrock Holdings, maybe it was the unusual art or the friendliness of the people but, it seemed like a "fun" company to work for. Hill scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. I had left my bike locked outside the building near the front entrance and, while I was inside visiting, the gardener had turned on the sprinklers to water the grass and a wayward sprinkler had completely soaked my bike. I make mention of it because when I was in the Midwest, it rained at one point for almost thirty days in a row and I very seldom got my belongings wet because I had everything wrapped up in plastic bags INSIDE my saddlebags. Here, I'm in Los Angeles where it very seldom rains, with none being expected, and I get all my gear soaked by a crazed sprinkler.
Hilton Hotels Corporation
From Burbank, I headed back to Beverly Hills and to the corporate headquarters of Hilton Hotels Corporation. Though the company only had about $800 million in sales ($1.2 billion was the minimum to be on my list), I wanted to visit their headquarters because I had stayed at many of their hotels and had already visited Holiday Corporation, Marriott and Hyatt. Corporate offices are in an office building complex which looks to be about four stories tall and brand new. Located about two blocks from Beverly Hills City Hall, there are no signs visible from the street identifying the place. I walked up some steps, past a plant-filled courtyard to find the main entrance. On the entry doors it reads, "Hilton Hotels Corporation." It's a good looking office building complex, with a lot of glass mixed in with light pink granite. As you enter, to the right is a receptionist and to the left is a waiting area which has brochures mounted on the wall for about 150 different Hilton Hotels. I ended up getting the runaround at Hilton Hotels. I went through talking to three different people on the phone (including the CEO's secretary, who referred me to public relations, to whom I had already spoken), and finally, after waiting in the reception/lobby area for about twenty minutes, a woman calls down to the reception desk telling me she has a minute to talk to me on the phone. I told her I was hoping to see someone in person because, otherwise, I could have stayed home in San Diego and talked to everyone on the phone. Well, she said she couldn't see me in person but, for me to leave a copy of my questions with the receptionist. As I left, I had a feel I would never hear from them. *NOTE I was right. I never heard or received anything. A classy organization would have handled my visit differently.
American Protection Industries
American Protection Industries is a privately-held holding company with sales of approximately $600 million. It's holdings include Teleflora (one of the flower wire services); The Franklin Mint; API Alarm Systems; API Telephone Systems; Paramount Farming Company (which grows pistachios, almonds, grapes and olives); Paramount Citrus (orange growing, processing, packing); and Jay Dee Tomfor Transportation Company (transportation of handicapped children). There's nothing like being a little diversified. Corporate headquarters consists of three suites of offices (about 9000 square feet), in a large, company-owned, three-story, cedar-shingled office complex called, "Teleflora Plaza." According to Rachel Taylor, Human Resources Administrator, Corporate Headquarters, about 35 employees work in the corporate offices which has an extensive collection of modern art scattered throughout. "Bizarre" was the answer I received from several secretaries when I asked them to describe the unusual art on the walls.
Aerobic classes are held outside in the patio area. Employees get free assigned parking in the complex which is about two miles south of UCLA (Westwood). Though there is no cafeteria, there is a lunch room and employees get free soft drinks and popcorn. Entering the offices, a sign thanks you for not smoking, even though Loren Rothschild, President, smokes. The complex was built in the early 1980's and API has been headquartered in Teleflora Plaza since 1986. I was told the current logo which is of a chain-link fence, will be changed shortly. Stewart Resnick, the Chairman of the Board, is very seldom in his Los Angeles office because he spends most of his time in the Franklin Mint offices in Pennsylvania. Men and women share the same bathroom so, a note is posted on the door reminding you to make sure you lock the door. I didn't see any security and there's no corporate aircraft. Taylor scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
After leaving UPI, I wandered around the office complex to see what type of businesses had offices in the complex. I came across the West Coast offices of Forbes Magazine. I walked in and found the plainly-furnished offices heavy with the stench of cigarettes. I talked for a minute with Kathleen Wiegner, Senior Editor, telling her how much I enjoyed Forbes Magazine and then, mentioned the project I was working on and how I was in the complex visiting a company on my list. The conversation didn't last long because she showed no interest in conversing with me so, I was back out the door in about one minute. *NOTE I don't know if I was responsible but, the 1986, 1987 Forbes magazine lists of the 400 largest private companies in the U.S. did not list API, even though it had high enough revenues to qualify. I'm wondering if Ms. Wiegner investigated which company in the complex I was visiting during my February, 1988, visit because when Forbes Magazine came out with their listing in December, 1988, there was API, listed as having $805 million in revenues.
Kaufman & Broad
Kaufman & Broad, a homebuilding and life insurance company, leases three floors in a 25-story (there's no 13th floor), office building about fifteen miles west of downtown Los Angeles and about a mile from Westwood (UCLA campus). On my second visit to the offices, I was able to meet with Linda Kazynski, Corporate Communications Coordinator. About 225 work in the corporate offices which has an extensive contemporary art collection throughout the lobby, hallways, offices and even in the rest rooms. Eli Broad, the CEO, is one of the founders of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. I did see closed-circuit security cameras on the 12th floor reception area and I wasn't able to see the CEO's office or boardroom because meetings were going on. Senior executives get reserved underground parking in the building which was built in 1984. The company has no corporate aircraft. The corporate logo is a triangle which, according to what I was told, means "house" in ancient history. Kazynski scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Teledyne, a conglomerate with interests in aerospace/defense, insurance and consumer products, is headquartered on the 18th floor of a 20-story building in Century City which is located next to Beverly Hills. The plainly furnished reception area is a little unusual in that music is being played on a large stereo-television system. Also in the reception/lobby area is an American flag and the State of California flag along with a Water-Pik (which is one of Teledyne's products). I was told to come back because no one was around who could talk to me. Judging from the furnishings, I decided it wasn't worth me returning. I was somewhat disappointed in not getting a chance to see the office of Henry Singleton, the reclusive CEO.
I had returned home to San Diego and two weeks later, I was on the train again making my last trip up to Los Angeles. Lockheed is headquartered in a good-looking, three-story, Spanish-style building in Calabasas, a suburb about thirty miles west of Los Angeles. Situated on a 21-acre site, the 191,000-square foot building blends in well with the hilly, neighboring residential area.
It had rained all morning as I rode from downtown Los Angeles to Calabasas, finally stopping as I approached the security guard booth. A sign on a white wall next to the guard booth reads, "Lockheed Corporation." A black, wrought-iron fence wraps around the property as I eye the headquarters building which is white with an orange tile roof. I can see a U.S. flag, a State of California flag, and a company flag flying. Entering the building, I'm given a not-too-friendly welcome by the receptionist who tells me to sign in and hands me a visitor badge.
Many of the companies I've visited have different rules concerning visitors. Many companies require you to sign in and sign out and require you to wear badges. Most badges identify you as a visitor, although at National Semiconductor (San Francisco), Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (Springfield, MA), Safeway (Oakland, CA), and Dow Chemical (Midland, MI), it says you're a guest. At Sun Company in Radnor, PA, the badge says you're "a friend of Sun Company." Many badges identify you as a visitor and specify on the badge whether an escort is required; at American Cyanamid in Wayne, NJ, I was a "Visitor-Escort Required", at Stroh in Detroit, I had a badge with the letter "V" and underneath it was "No Escort." At Perkin-Elmer in Norwalk, CT, my badge said I was a "Special Guest." At Mack Trucks in Allentown, PA, my badge said I was a "VIP." At Abbott Laboratories in Chicago, I wore a round button which said I was a guest. At Rich Products in Buffalo, I was given a yellow sticker to wear which read, "Pass." Northrop Corporation in Los Angeles makes you fill out a "Visit Record" before giving you a badge and it reads that you agree to return the visitor's badge to the receptionist "prior to departure from the facility." As with a lot of defense contractors, Northrop's "Visit Record" asks you if you are a U.S. citizen.
After I had made my trip through Texas, I got the idea to start collecting visitor badges from the companies. It's getting to be a real challenge, especially from defense contractors. Many of them have been pretty good about letting me have a "voided" badge. When I was at General Electric in Fairfield, CT, their visitor pass is a 3-1/2" x 7-1/2" piece of somewhat sturdy cardboard paper (which I guess you're supposed to stick in your suit pocket), and I was allowed to have one as a memento but, I wasn't allowed to have one without a name being written in after where it says, "Name." What name did I fill in? Mr. Donald Duck, of course.
Anyway, getting back to Lockheed, on the back of their visitor badge is an extensive amount of fine print. It reads as follows:
THE HOLDER OF THIS PASS AGREES THAT
1. While on the premises of Lockheed-California company the visitor will:
A. Observe security regulations applicable to U.S. Government classified matter in the possession of the company and its employees.
B. Exercise reasonable safety precautions while in manufacturing areas to avoid injury.
2. The visitor will hold in confidence and not disclose to others for a period of three years from the date hereof, all information received from Lockheed during the course of the visit to the extent that such information is not public knowledge or otherwise legally available from other sources of the company represented; provided, however, that disclosure of such information may be made (I) in connection with the furtherance of Lockheed business interests or (II) at any time after such information is publicly disclosed by Lockheed or becomes legally available from other sources to the visitor or to the company represented.
PLEASE SURRENDER THIS PASS
TO THE OFFICER AT EXIT
During the period I was waiting in the lobby to meet with Paul Binder, Director, Public Relations, I got to talking with the receptionist who seemed to warm up after a few minutes of idle chat. I saw two security guards in a side room looking at security monitors and I mentioned to her I didn't see any closed-circuit security cameras in the large, high ceiling lobby and was told by her that I was being watched as we speak. I walked around and around the lobby and, after failing to spot 'em, she pointed to two very tiny holes in the wall. I was also told if some weirdo were to walk in, the security people can listen to the conversation between the weirdo and the receptionist. The lobby receptionist also has a "panic button" when the button is pressed-glass doors located outside the hallway leading to the executive offices upstairs, automatically slam shut.
Between 270-320 employees work in the company-owned facility. Forbes and Business Week Magazines were in the lobby area, there's a cafeteria and a fitness center which includes a jogging trail. The corporate logo is a flying star, there's no corporate art collection, the boardroom was pretty typical and I wasn't able to see the CEO's office. I did get to see the view he has from his corner office which would be of the well-landscaped grounds (which includes a par-course and of a canyon running behind the property.) Smoking is optional with the CEO, Mr. Lawrence Kitchen, being a cigarette smoker. The company has a Gulfstream 3 jet, with Burbank Airport being 22 miles away and Los Angeles Airport being thirty miles away. There is assigned underground parking for employees, with a small parking lot out near the front entrance doors for visitors. From what I was told, if the company gets too many visitors at once, visitors are told to park down the street a few blocks near a small shopping center. Evidently, constructing Lockheed's headquarters so close to a residential area angered many of the residents and Lockheed tries to keep the traffic down. Binder scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving Calabasas, I rode to Beverly Hills for my third attempt at visiting Litton Industries, an aerospace and defense contractor. Corporate headquarters, known as Litton Plaza, is comprised of two beautiful, white, Georgian-Colonial style buildings and a multi-level parking structure across the street. The smaller of the two buildings is known as the "North building", nicknamed the "White House" because of its curved brick driveway and the oval office on the second floor. The 25,000-square foot, 2-story North building was built in 1937 to serve as the headquarters of the Music Corporation of America (now known as MCA). In 1964, Litton Industries bought the building along with several nearby residential properties. In 1968, the 159,000-square foot South building was built on the acquired residential property. What's remarkable is that you can't tell one building is 40 years older than the other. Paul Williams was the architect on both buildings.
The place looks more like a museum than anything else. The small lobby/reception area is filled with replicas of 18th Century furnishings. Rodeo Drive is five blocks over. I met with John Thom, Manager, Public Relations. About 375 employees work in the corporate offices with directors, on up, getting reserved parking spots. There is a cafeteria, formal dining room and a gym. I never got much of a tour. I was taken to see the boardroom but, it was locked, the South building has 348 original works of art displayed throughout and the North building has a collection of around 500 prints, etchings and engravings, many of them are reprints from original lithographs by Currier & Ives. Some of the corporate art was purchased from MCA when Litton bought the North building. Why is Litton Industries located in Beverly Hills? Because the company was started in Beverly Hills in 1953. Thom scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
Columbia Savings & Loan
Columbia Savings & Loan is headquartered in a company-owned, 3-story building built in 1985 and located in Beverly Hills on busy Wilshire Boulevard. This was my third attempt at trying to meet with someone. My other two visits were marred by unhelpful and unprofessional personnel in the corporate communications department who had a "what do you want" attitude. I met with Leslie Hogan, Corporate Communications Administrator, whose offices are located in another building a few doors down from the building housing the executives. I was told a new corporate headquarters was being built a few blocks away and they would probably move into the new building sometime in 1989-1990. About 500 employees work in the corporate offices which covers several buildings. Senior vice presidents, on up, get reserved parking. There is no cafeteria but, there is a formal dining room. The company has two corporate aircraft, one being a Gulfstream and the other a Hawker. I was told security in the executive offices is quite extensive because the CEO Thomas Spiegel, and the Chairman Abraham Spiegel, (father and son), are Jewish. I never got past Hogan's office but, after visiting with her I did walk in the front entrance of the building housing the executives and was greeted by a receptionist and a security guard. I did notice quite a bit of modern art lining the walls of the reception area and lobby. Ms. Hogan scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Carter Hawley Hale Store
After leaving Columbia Savings and Loan, I headed back to downtown Los Angeles and, for the fourth time, I tried to meet with someone at Carter Hawley Hale Store, a retail store chain. Corporate offices are located in a bank building which looks to be between 20 and 30 years old. Each time I would take the elevator up and each time I was told by the receptionist that Bill Dombrowski, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, wasn't in. Each time I would ask, "Is there somebody else who I could talk to who could answer my questions?", and each time the receptionist would say, "No."
Times Mirror Corporation
My attempt to visit the corporate headquarters of the Times Mirror Company in downtown Los Angeles has got to be one of the biggest disappointments of my trek so far. On my first day of visiting companies in downtown Los Angeles, I showed up at the massive black headquarters building which looked to be about seven stories and is connected to another structure which is the headquarters for the Los Angeles Times newspaper. Across the street is a large plaza area and on the other side of the plaza area is the Los Angeles City Hall. I counted at least sixty homeless people SLEEPING in the plaza area-on steps, in bushes and man, was there ever a stench! Entering the lobby of the Times Mirror, I explained to the security guard/receptionist what I was doing and she sent me around to the other building housing the offices of the Los Angeles Times newspaper. After talking and being transferred on the phone to several people, I was given the phone number of Bonnie Chaikand to call. I talked to Chaikand and was told I needed an appointment AND for me to send her a list of the questions I was asking. I mentioned I was on a tight schedule the rest of the week, having to go all over Los Angeles County to visit companies and didn't want to make an appointment because it would restrict my being able to visit other companies and if all the companies required me to make an appointment, I would be in Los Angeles for months. Against my better judgment, I agreed to mail her a copy of the questions I was asking and after giving me a choice of several appointment times, a 10:00 Am. appointment two weeks later was tentatively set-up for Monday, February 8, 1988. When I returned home to San Diego later that weekend, I typed Chaikand a short note and mentioned Wednesday, February 10th was a better date for me, along with sending her a copy of my questionnaire. I really didn't like the idea of having to make an appointment and sending my questions to her in advance because I hadn't done that with the other hundreds of companies I had visited and I was trying to be consistent in dealing with each company. I was also surprised on how inflexible the Times Mirror, which owns quite a few newspapers, was being. Anyway, I show up at 10:00 a.m., checked-in with the security guard/receptionist and am sent up to meet with, I guess, a Mr. Peter Lichtgarn. I found a rest room to change into my long pants and I no sooner walked out the rest room door when a man comes up to me and says no one has time to speak with me and that I had been expected on Monday not Wednesday. I told the man (I don't know who he was), about my having changed my appointment time but, he wasn't exactly Mr. Friendly. As I walked out the doors of the Times Mirror Company, I was pretty angry and frustrated. I had scheduled my whole week of visiting companies around this 10:00 a.m. Wednesday appointment and I felt like I had been given the "bums rush" out of there. Actually, it was kind of ironic because as I mentioned before, I had a large write-up in the Los Angeles Times Business section on February 4, 1988, (which was a week before my "appointment"), and in the article I was quoted as saying, "part of my book deals with how flexible companies are...some companies roll out the red carpet for me and some people could care less about me." The article also said, "He makes appointments only under extreme duress."
I also thought about how I had sent, not one, but two letters spaced about a year apart to Robert Erburu, the CEO, to see if the Times Mirror would be interested in funding/sponsoring my project and I never received any kind of acknowledgement which to me shows a lack of something. I still, however, am a faithful reader of the Los Angeles Times and rank it as one of the four best newspapers in the country (Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY).
I stayed at quite a few hotels during my visits in the Los Angeles area but, two really stood out: the recently renovated Biltmore Hotel which is located right smack in downtown Los Angeles and brings back the glamour of the grand hotels of yesteryear and, the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. What made my stay at the Four Seasons so memorable was the J. Seward Johnson, Jr., sculpture exhibit. The hotel had seven of Mr. Johnson's works scattered around the property. My two favorites were: "The Gardener" which is a gardener crouching down planting flowers and, "Waiting" which portrays an executive reading a newspaper on a park bench, his glasses having slid to the end of his nose.
When I was checking out from the hotel, I learned from the front desk that Seward Johnson, Jr., had been staying at the hotel and had left the day I checked in. Geez, it reminded me of my visit to Princeton, NJ, and how I found out after I left that Mr. Johnson lived in Princeton. The Four Seasons is supposed to be one of THE places for show biz people to stay and be seen. Did I see any during my one night stay? Well, I did get a kick out of walking through the lounge area and seeing the guy who plays the older brother, Rick, on the television show, "Simon and Simon." I got a kick out of it because here it was after dark, the lounge is dark and the guy's wearing sunglasses. Evidently, the guy has a problem with fans.
During my stay in the Los Angeles area, I checked out the campus of USC which is a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles in a not-too-nice area. Wasn't impressed at all. The buildings on campus (mostly red brick) were boring, the landscaping was blah and the off-campus services (restaurants, shops for students, etc.), were limited.
About thirty miles south of Los Angeles in Orange (population 92,000), is the four-story headquarters building of Bergen Brunswig, a distributor of health care products (drug distributor). A U.S. flag is flying out front of the building which looks to be only a few years old. In front of the flag is a low-slung sign which reads, "Bergen Brunswig." Across the street is a large shopping center which has a Penny's and a Broadway. Entering the small lobby/reception area I noticed on the receptionist's desk a plaque which read, "Welcome to a smoke-free environment." The receptionist called up the CEO's secretary, who said they hadn't received my postcard. As I waited in the lobby area to see if they could find someone to meet with me, I thumbed through some of the magazines which included, Pharmacy Times, Southwest Art, Forbes, Business Month, Drug Topics, and U.S. Pharmacist. I did use the rest room to change into my long pants and found them to be equipped with toilet seat covers. A security supervisor came to the lobby and was very helpful in attempting to find someone to speak with. Unfortunately, everyone was tied up so I was told to come back another time. I did see closed-circuit security cameras. *NOTE Several weeks later, I did receive a phone call from the company apologizing for not having anyone available to meet with me and I was invited back up for a visit. Nice touch.
Pacific Mutual Life Insurance
Pacific Mutual Life Insurance is headquartered in the waterfront community of Newport Beach (population 65,000), in what looks to be a five-story, glass building which reminds me of a spaceship. Across the street is a large, upscale shopping center called, "Fashion Island" (Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Brooks Brothers). About a block away is a Marriott Hotel and a Four Seasons Hotel, the latter having several more Seward Johnson, Jr., sculptures on the grounds including one of several people throwing a Frisbee.
I had to walk around the perimeter of the building before I could figure out where the main reception area was. You have to walk up steps to enter the building and quite a few people were hanging around the building entrances smoking because I was told it wasn't allowed in the building. In the middle of this structure is a large patio area and in the middle of this patio area is a large cylinder which is about five stories tall and looks kind of like a totem pole. I checked in with the receptionist who was very pleasant and helpful. The receptionist called up someone and was told the man wasn't in so, I got the receptionist to call up Mr. Gerken's (CEO) secretary and Mr. Gerken's secretary referred her back to the office of the man she had originally called, who, I believe, was Robert Haskell in Public Affairs. Eventually, a woman came down to the reception area and gave me a T-shirt, a pocket-sized address book and some background information on the company and said no one would be available to see me. I left there feeling like the T-shirt and address book were supposed to appease me. The receptionist was telling me there's Muzak in the building and it was broken today so she really noticed the difference. As I stood across the street it looked like the upper floors had views of the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles away.
Financial Corporation of America
Financial Corporation of America, a savings and loan holding company whose primary subsidiary is American Savings & Loan, leases space on the 4th and 5th floors of a 5-story office building in Irvine which is about 60 miles south of Los Angeles and has a population of 65,000. What's the name of the building? The Marine National Bank Building. I went up to the fifth floor and the receptionist said she didn't have time to read my card. She was very suspicious of me and told me, "Soliciting isn't allowed." I was sent to two other people before I finally met with Dianne Seeber Nelson, Vice President, Manager Corporate Communications. About 100 people work in the corporate offices which have no cafeteria but, a kitchen area with a microwave and vending machines. There is no corporate art, the CEO gets a reserved parking spot, no corporate aircraft but, John Wayne Airport is about a mile away. I thought it a little unusual that the corporate offices of one of the largest savings & loan companies in the country would have their offices in a building with ANOTHER bank's name on it. The company has been in the building since 1985 and I was told it's close to the airport and it's loan processing center. I saw no security guards or closed-circuit security cameras and the receptionist is definitely on my list of "Worst Receptionists." I wasn't allowed to see the CEO's office and the boardroom. Initially, Seeber Nelson seemed to be leery of me and after we got to talking, she warmed up. The leeriness might stem from the problems the company has been having in that they've been losing lots of money. Seeber Nelson scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
Fluor Corporation, an engineering, construction company, is located next to Interstate 405 in a huge complex (1.8 million square feet) called, "Park Place." Built in 1977, the huge, blue-glassed complex used to be owned by the Fluor Corporation but, it was recently sold to the Trammel Crow company. About 130 employees work in the corporate offices which are on the 9th and 10th floors of the tallest structure in the complex. The structure is nicknamed the "mushroom building" by some and others call it the "Trojan helmet building" because it really does look like a Trojan helmet. I met with Lila Churney, Manager, Investor Relations, who told me the company has been leasing space since 1985. There's a cafeteria, formal dining, reserved parking for managers and directors, on up, and there is a heliport on the grounds. The company leases several aircraft, John Wayne Airport is a five-minute drive away and Los Angeles Airport is a 45-minute drive. I got to see the boardroom which was furnished very traditionally and the CEO's office which has a view of the grounds. The cafeteria is very large and is open to the public with an area for sitting outside. Churney scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.