Auto-making pioneer dies
For several decades after World War II, according to a New York Times piece, Leslie Smith's company was considered the world's largest auto maker.
OK...he held that title on a technicality. Mr. Smith, 87, who died from cancer May 26, was a founder, president and longtime chief exec of Matchbox Toys. His creations-everything from dump trucks to classic automobiles, race cars and elegant Rolls-Royces-were introduced in 1953 and have been prized for years for their craftsmanship and realistic detail.
Mr. Smith's company, which began as a die-casting business, was cranking out 50 million cars a year by 1962, the Times reported. That was as much as all the world's major car producers combined.
In the Baby Boomer years a Matchbox car-the best-known ones measure about three inches long-cost 49 cents; now they're about a buck. Mattel Inc. now makes them.
Lest you think they're strictly nickel-and-dime toys, Charlie Mack, editor of Matchbox USA magazine, told the Times that a rare Matchbox Dodge wrecker truck recently sold on the eBay online auction Web site for more than $9,000. That should send some of you scrambling through your attics and basements in search of similar gold mines.
This, that & other stuff
Sky king-Ever wonder what it is about NASCAR that makes grown men and women get all mushy and weak-kneed?
Here's an example: Late last year two Georgia State Patrol helicopter pilots were suspended without pay after they shuttled NASCAR driver Bill Elliott from his home in Dawsonville, Ga.-where Mr. Elliott, a licensed pilot, had dropped off an airplane-to Blairsville, where his car was parked.
The pilots' action delayed for 90 minutes a marijuana field-search operation for which the whirlybird was to be used. Were they smokin' some of that wacky terbacky?
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Quotes du jour-``Speak when you are angry, and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret,'' advised the late author Laurence J. Peter who is...yes...the father of the oft-stated ``Peter Principles.''
Chewing gum magnate and baseball mogul William Wrigley Jr. once said that ``when two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.''
Joyce Clyde Hall, businessman and founder of Hallmark Cards Inc., came to the conclusion that ``if a man goes into business with only the idea of making money, the chances are he won't.''
Before he retired from the tire business and dropped out of sight for several years, Tom Gegax was the head coach and zenmeister of Tires Plus Ltd., the Minnesota-based dealership chain he sold in 2000 to Larry Morgan and his Morgan Tire & Auto Inc. in Florida.
Eventually, Bridgestone/Firestone acquired majority interest in Tires Plus.
So what's the indefatigable Mr. Gegax been up to since? Well, most recently he wrote a national bestseller titled, ``By the Seat of Your Pants: The No-nonsense Business Management Guide.'' It's being called an easy-access business reference offering practical business management tips geared to helping raise profits and reduce day-to-day stress.
A press release pumping up the tome says it ``taps into the mind, body and soul'' of Mr. Gegax, described as ``an entrepreneur who grew a less-than-sexy business from a sketch on a restaurant napkin to a leading nationwide retailer.'' After spending much of the 1980s struggling to grow Tires Plus, the then-gruff, seat-of-the-pants leader had an epiphany, experiencing cancer, a divorce and spiraling company profits-all at the same time.
So he took a radical turn, changing his leadership style to one that put his employees-and ``guests'' (customers)-first. The result saw the dealership grow from 30 outlets to 150.
Recently, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Sam's Club wholesale unit ordered 50,000 copies of the book by Mr. Gegax, who said he has expanded Gegax Management Systems' ``robust menu of tools and services that quickly and affordably help business leaders raise profits and reduce stress.'' You can check them out at www.gegax.com.
Why the ``seat of the pants'' title? The book's dust jacket said the phrase ``conjures up a frantic, disorganized business leader'' and ``dates back to a time when pilots guided their planes without the aid of complex navigational systems.''
As you plod through life, the older you get the more everything eventually seems to come full circle.
After years of squawking about how its food is good for you...honest-it seems that KFC, Colonel Sander's pride and joy, is saying ``to hell with healthy.'' The Yum Brands chain has decided to make a 180-degree turn to embrace its fried, finger-lickin' heritage and ignore the chorus of critics blaming fatty fast food for America's so-called obesity epidemic.
The company said it is reviving the full Kentucky Fried Chicken name the chain abandoned in favor of the more obscure KFC initials and is bringing back the bucket it kicked in the 1990s and its ``Finger Lickin' Good'' tagline.
John R. Neal, a company franchisee with 155 stores who also is vice chairman of the chain's National Council and Advertising Co-Op, perhaps said it best: ``To hell with the healthy stuff,'' he told Advertising Age, a sister publication of Tire Business. ``Everybody talks `eat healthy,' but only the tree huggers and bark snappers'' eat that way.
The next sound you hear will be the clogging of arteries across the land. Spare tires, indeed.
Will work for...
Poor Bill Ford. Poor, poor Bill Ford.
The 48-year-old CEO of Ford Motor Co. recently told shareholders no profits, no paycheck for him. He won't get paid until Ford's automotive business achieves ``sustainable profitability,'' not including profits from Ford Motor Credit.
Until then, he'll only get benefits-such as health care and some executive perks like use of the corporate jet. Automotive News reported that, even with jet privileges, it's a serious comedown. He earned $17.5 million in 2004, including $11.9 million in stock.
He and the car maker's compensation committee will determine what ``sustainable profitability'' means.
Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, Mr. Ford's counterpart at General Motors Corp., Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, received a compensation package valued at roughly $10 million for 2004-about 22 percent lower than in 2003. And his cash compensation of $4.8 million last year was a comedown of 43 percent from the $8.5 million the world's largest auto maker paid him in 2003.
With Ford and GM wallowing in the red, are we approaching the day when we'll see auto execs standing by the roadside holding signs: ``Will work for stock options''?
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk