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All about Citi, Sandy, and Chuck


"Citi's new act" (Cover Story, July 28) tells us that Sanford I. Weill's successor, Charles O. "Chuck" Prince, "rose through the ranks, starting as corporate counsel." Somehow that doesn't have quite the same Horatio Alger "hardship to head-of-ship" ring to it as the traditional "rose through the ranks, starting as messenger." Corporate counsel is not an entry-level position -- in anybody's corporation.

Wes Pedersen

Public Affairs Council

Washington

As a former employee of Citicorp, I wonder why you (and others) say about Sandy Weill that he "created a global powerhouse" and "built Citigroup (C) into the world's most profitable company." The facts show that Citigroup is mainly the former Citicorp that was built by Walter Wriston, John Reed, and the senior management that worked with -- and before -- them, together with hundreds of thousands of employees. Weill merely maneuvered himself to the chairmanship of Citicorp by combining it with his Travelers Group, taking over the combination, and then selling Travelers.

George Roniger

Larchmont, N.Y.

You say, "Chuck Prince, Sandy Weill's top troubleshooter, is the unlikely choice to become CEO. Does he have the right stuff to lead the world's most important bank?" Nice touch! How about giving the guy a chance? Is it possible that Weill and Citi's board of directors know more than BusinessWeek?

Harry Pelton

Palm City, Fla. I'm all for effective and tough regulation, but letting 50 attorneys general have their way with American business is not the answer ("States vs. the SEC: What's all the shouting for?" News: Analysis & Commentary, July 28). It is hard enough for a company to satisfy the Securities & Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Justice Dept., and probably the European Union every time it makes a move. To have to deal with 50 states on top of that is ridiculous. The motives of the states are certainly questionable. Look at what they did with the money from the tobacco settlement. Instead of paying for health costs and antismoking programs, most states just used it to fund their spendthrift programs.

Jay Goldberger

New York

The SEC's problem is that it is powerless to take any action that offends so-called "business groups" that own (or lease) a congressman or so. It doesn't take long for even the most impassioned enforcer to realize that there's not much upside in going after the really big bad guys or the real problems. The ability of state attorneys general to take over the role abdicated by the SEC was probably more due to their prior invisibility than anything else. Now that those who regard securities laws as an inconvenience or meddlesome intrusion on free markets know that they have another group of policemen to neutralize, you can assume that they'll be working on that project. Which will leave us with only the class action lawyers to worry the fast-buck crowd. Not exactly the guys you would hope to see with a sheriff's badge, but it's what's left.

Arthur O. Armstrong

Manhattan Beach, Calif. I have been amused every time a reporter or expert writes about the need for China to revalue the yuan without knowing the Chinese psyche. The latest offerings are "How China is threatening a global recovery" (Economic Viewpoint, July 21, North American Edition) and "Should China revalue? Soon, it may have no choice" (International Business, Aug. 4). The yuan was pegged at 8.28 to a dollar, and it was not an arbitrarily chosen number. To the Chinese, 8.28 sounds like "prosperity brings more prosperity." So far, it has been true. So why bother to change something that has worked extremely well? Imagine if it were to revalue and double its value, to 4.14 to a dollar. This would just be terrible, because 4.14 sounds like "die, and die once more."

James S. Ang

Florida State University

Tallahassee, Fla.

Is Jeffrey Garten seriously asking another country to revalue its currency, hoping it will sort out the U.S.-EU-Japan mess? China is already helping the U.S. dollar by having the world's second-largest foreign-exchange reserve of $347 billion. In other words, Garten suggests that China should revalue in a big way, then watch foreign investors flee, ignore the resulting crisis in China, and keep its dollars locked away.

Bouko J. de Groot

Hengelo, The Netherlands

Jeffrey E. Garten is wrong. Americans should be glad that China is suppressing the rise of its currency, and the Chinese people should be angry. When market prices indicate that, for example, a project is unprofitable, investors naturally stop investing in such a project. Otherwise, factors of production such as land, capital, and labor would be wasted. Every government manipulation of market prices is a step toward economic breakdown and chaos. Land, capital, and labor that are invested in the exporting business in China because of suppressed currencies have changed the economic structure in China and are malinvestments, and Americans are getting something free. You don't need to export anything to pay for this "extra importation of Chinese products."

Bjorn Lundahl

G?teborg, Sweden General Mills Inc. (and others) should eliminate the cereal box and replace it with a plastic bag ("Thinking outside of the cereal box," Management, July 28). This would save a third of the bulk, reduce shipping costs, save storage space and restacking time, and reduce the retail price to the consumer. I suggest that General Mills start leaving the box out of their thinking and bag it!

W.H. Mayfield

San Diego

General Mills Chief Technical Officer Randy G. Darcy really needs to focus on is the implementation of his benchmarking "discoveries." Minneapolis is teeming with companies effectively implementing lean manufacturing, theory of constraints, Six Sigma, and other enterprise-wide improvement techniques. Less focus on "discovering" big ideas and more on execution of good business practices might serve General Mills a whole lot better. And although it doesn't compare to a company-paid junket, achieving sustained, double-digit productivity gains is actually pretty fun.

Bill Rose

Minneapolis I read with great interest your profile on GE Transportation Systems President and CEO Charlene Begley ("Crashing GE's glass ceiling," People, July 28) and also the results of the careerbuilder.com survey ("The mommy ladder," Dividends, July 7) that reported that 71% of full-time working mothers don't feel they've had to sacrifice job advancement as a result of motherhood. I suspect that most of the respondents in that survey had something in common with Begley: a supportive husband. For the many of us who are single full-time working mothers, the story is much different. Please give us a more realistic example.

Lesley Bass

Montgomery, Ala.

"Crashing GE's glass ceiling," while very well written, took an undeserved swipe at Erie, Pa., and cities like it. Erie is a solid community and home to thousands of hard-working people, good companies, universities, teaching medical facilities, seven miles of sandy beach, and houses you can afford. Erie is not "bleak" by any stretch of imagination.

Kevin J. O'Connell

Erie, Pa. "Inside Wall Street: A report card" (Finance, July 28) seems overly generous to Gene Marcial's stockpicking prowess. The initial price that you use is from the close on Thursday prior to the article being available. Should you use the opening price on Friday, or an average price from Friday, the results would be considerably worse. No doubt in the area of 2.8% worse (the average first-day gain).

Marc Jacobs

Poway, Calif.

Marcial is actually a major cause of the one-day advance, and the best way to use his recommendations is to short the stocks he recommends after the first day of artificial gains and ignore the ones that don't go up that first day.

Arthur M. Field

Easley, S.C. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is not remotely close to providing the individual product tracking suggested in "Bar codes better watch their backs" (News: Analysis & Commentary, July 14). Each retail shelf would need a reader costing hundreds of dollars. Manufacturers won't want to add 10 cents to each item they sell. The frequency in question, 915 MHz, operates at several meters of range, which makes moot the suggestion that this technology may be used during cashier checkout. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) Inc. will be attempting to tag pallets, bins, and totes that come and go from their warehousing and distribution facilities -- identifying larger quantities of items, not individual toothbrushes.

James E. Heurich, President

RFID Inc.

Aurora, Colo.


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