Magazine

Putting Managers in Their Rightful Place


"The best (and worst) managers of the year" (Cover Story, Jan. 13) should be required reading for all CEOs and corporate board members in the country. Robert L. Nardelli, who took over at Home Depot Inc., did get a well-deserved thumbs-down in "The Welch legacy," but he should also have been among the worst managers.

Nardelli was obviously trying to show those country boys at Home Depot how to run their company General Electric Co.-style. He did that with disastrous consequences.

Home Depot store personnel, prior to Nardelli's arrival, always helped with suggestions on what to buy for a certain job and where to find it. Now, if I can find someone at all, I frequently get shrugs or half-baked answers to my questions. A friend of mine, a general contractor, now takes most of his business to Lowe's.

E.W. Spieckerman

Pineville, La.

"Best manager" Rich Barton has done an impressive job of building Expedia Inc. into an Internet success story. But based on my terrible experience as an Expedia customer, I recommend that he work to improve Expedia's customer service, especially if it wants to win in the business-travel market.

Mark Manzo

Stevenson, Wash.

Steve Ballmer is one of America's "best managers" because Microsoft Corp. sales grew 12% in fiscal 2002. Hello? Microsoft is a monopoly. Of course there was growth. And its settlement with the Justice Dept. means it can continue to fob off substandard software on us for even higher prices. A real success story! America should be proud.

William B. Fankboner

La Quinta, Calif. I recently had the privilege of speaking with David Henry about a story he was writing on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and, specifically, its CEO, Barry C. Melancon ("Bloodied and bowed," Finance, Jan. 20). Shortly after the interview, I was stunned to read that BusinessWeek included Melancon in its list of the worst managers for 2002 (Cover Story, Jan. 13). Melancon led our profession in supporting the creation of a new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. He was also instrumental in garnering the support of those most affected--witness the AICPA announcement on Jan. 17, 2002, in support of the Securities & Exchange Commission plan to create such a board.

This is leadership, great leadership, which you should recognize.

James Castellano

St. Louis

Editor's note: The writer is the immediate past chairman of the AICPA board of directors.

Since you named L. Dennis Kozlowski as one of the best managers of 2001, I am assuming that you used the same performance measures in naming Barry Melancon as one of the worst managers of 2002. As a practicing CPA in a local 55-person firm, a member of the AICPA board of directors, and chairman-elect of the board, I have a working perspective on Melancon's performance. Initiatives explored and dollars spent by Melancon were member-driven and approved by the 23-member board and 265-member governing council. That the credential initiative cited in your report was voted down by the membership at large is a testament to the fact that members, unlike stockholders, drive the organization. Leaders like Barry Melancon provide them with opportunities.

Scott Voynich

Columbus, Ga. Your comparison of Joseph P. Nacchio to Joe Pesci--an actor known almost exclusively for his Mafia and other crime roles--exploits a harmful and negative stereotype ("The fallen," in "The best (and worst) managers of the year," Cover Story, Jan. 13). I have known and worked alongside Mr. Nacchio for the past five years and know him to be a caring and honest individual who has made tremendous contributions in the civic and philanthropic arenas.

John Salamone

Executive Director

National Italian American Foundation

Washington

Editor's note: Nacchio is a member of NIAF's board of directors. Families are not attempting to sue just any manufacturer of vaccine components as a way to circumvent the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), as you suggest in "Why inoculating Big Pharma from vaccine lawsuits makes sense" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Jan. 13). Parents are seeking compensation only from the manufacturer of the additive Thimerosal. The VICP limits claims to within the first three years after the onset of symptoms. The link between Thimerosal and autism was not theorized until very recently because of the slow systemic degeneration caused by mercury toxicity. There are thousands of families past the three-year limit who have only recently come to believe that their children's autism results from mercury toxicity due to Thimerosal overdosing.

Thimerosal was removed from the vaccines in the standard pediatric schedule in March, 2001. Because a diagnosis of autism is typically not made until age 3, it is too soon to conclude that reduced exposure to Thimerosal will have an effect in the autism epidemic. Like thousands of parents of children with autism, I pray that it does.

Max Salinas

Keswick, Va. Having spent more than 40 years between a local Bell telephone company and AT&T, the solution to the local-access dilemma seems obvious to this old monopolist ("Phone giants let the fur fly," Information Technology, Dec. 9). The fallacy in the competitive-local-access model promised by deregulation would be apparent to everyone if city telephone lines still ran above ground as they did in 1900. There is just not enough space for all the lines that are needed to cover the last mile to every customer. The answer is to consider separating the regional Bell operating companies' local-access network from their product and services businesses. The local-access network part of the business would again become a regulated monopoly offering a tariffed price schedule to all potential users.

Herman Anschuetz

Washington Your reader's suggestions that mainland China poses no threat to Taiwan and that U.S. concern about the situation is unwarranted are sadly incorrect. ("Greater China: Progress--and misplaced anxiety," Readers Report, Jan. 13, in response to "Greater China," Special Report, Dec. 9). Beijing has put pressure on other nations to exclude Taiwan and prevent its people from having a voice in the global community. The mainland has more than 400 missiles targeted at Taiwan, and has rebuked Taiwan's repeated goodwill gestures and calls for friendly negotiations across the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan cherishes and depends on the support and friendship of the U.S. to ensure peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and in the Asia-Pacific region. Were the U.S. to ignore the high tensions still present in the region, terrible consequences for the people of Taiwan and the world could be the result. Certainly, Taiwan's people wish to increase trade and improve relations with the mainland. But they also know the importance of safeguarding their hard-won rights and freedoms.

Jung-tzung Yih

Taipei Economic & Cultural Office

New York


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