Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 6:52 pm

Why you don’t want insane Ayn Rand fanboys running your company, Sears Holdings edition

It’s well known that libertarians want government shrunk, and that many of them profess to have been influenced by the Objectivism, the “philosophy” of the awful novelist Ayn Rand, who preached that properly channeled selfishness created the greatest good for the greatest number. And such techniques are supposed to make businesses prosper, right? So after this insane Rand-spouting hedge-fund guy, Eddie Lampert, became CEO of Sears Holdings, broke the company into more than 30 units and told them to be selfish (i.e., turn on each other), guess what has happened?

In January, eight years after (Eddie) Lampert masterminded Kmart’s $12 billion buyout of Sears in 2005, the board appointed him chief executive officer of the 120-year-old retailer. The company had gone through four CEOs since the merger, yet former executives say Lampert has long been running the show. Since the takeover, Sears Holdings’ sales have dropped from $49.1 billion to $39.9 billion, and its stock has sunk 64 percent. Its cash recently fell to a 10-year low. Although it has plenty of assets to unload before bankruptcy looms, the odds of a turnaround grow longer every quarter. “The way it’s being managed, it doesn’t work,” says Mary Ross Gilbert, a managing director at investment bank Imperial Capital. “They’re going to continue to deteriorate.”

Plagued by the realities threatening many retail stores, Sears also faces a unique problem: Lampert. Many of its troubles can be traced to an organizational model the chairman implemented five years ago, an idea he has said will save the company. Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money. An outspoken advocate of free-market economics and fan of the novelist Ayn Rand, he created the model because he expected the invisible hand of the market to drive better results. If the company’s leaders were told to act selfishly, he argued, they would run their divisions in a rational manner, boosting overall performance.

Instead, the divisions turned against each other—and Sears and Kmart, the overarching brands, suffered. Interviews with more than 40 former executives, many of whom sat at the highest levels of the company, paint a picture of a business that’s ravaged by infighting as its divisions battle over fewer resources. (Many declined to go on the record for a variety of reasons, including fear of angering Lampert.) Shaunak Dave, a former executive who left in 2012 and is now at sports marketing agency Revolution, says the model created a “warring tribes” culture. “If you were in a different business unit, we were in two competing companies,” he says. “Cooperation and collaboration aren’t there.”

That’s just moronic. Either you’re a company, with all units competing toward a single goal, or you spin off the units you don’t need. You don’t make your people fight internal wars; you have them fighting for customers and you, the CEO, need to have their back with a sensible strategy and adequate supplies/training.  Sure, it’s fun to play sand tiger shark and have your babies eating one another in your womb, but it’s also a good way to become a “species of concern,” “vulnerable” or even endangered.

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Friday, April 29, 2011 6:37 pm

Objectivism objectively assessed

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 6:37 pm
Tags: , ,

So the movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s delusional screed Atlas Shrugged — whoops, I’m sorry, Part 1 of the movie adaptation, etc., etc. — is on track to gross about $3.1 million. It cost $20 million to make. And this is, somehow, all the critics’ fault. The possibility that, in fact, you might not be able to polish a turd never seems to have crossed the movie makers’ minds.

Then again, that may not have been their point.

We now know for a fact that despite her praising of independence and rejection of government, Ayn Rand received Social Security (though she did not need it) and may also have received Medicare, perhaps under an assumed name.

But wait! There’s more! Commenter Brian H. at Roy Edroso’s Alicublog points us to this 2007 newspaper article documenting that John Aglialoro, the Galtian corporate overlord who was primarily responsible for bringing Atlas Shrugged to the big screen, shook down Massachusetts taxpayers for $15 million for his company just a few years ago.

No wonder he’s not worried about how much the movie’s going to make. We’ve already covered his bet for him.

Finally, Twitterer @PROTIPZ has been kind of live-tweeting his reading of Atlas Shrugged, and he’s only the most stylish of the many critics who have noted that Ayn Rand appears to have found domestic abuse Teh_SeXXor. But what do we get all the complaints about? Mark Twain using the N-word — and the complaint are more like trolling than complaints. So I guess Objectivists think it’s objectively OK to unsafely, insanely, nonconsensually slap the bejesus out of their significant others … or, you know, talented women with whom they’re not even involved yet but  just want to mack on. Yeah, yeah, trust the song, not the singer, I know, but it really does kind of tell you where they’re coming from.

Monday, February 14, 2011 8:44 pm

Quote of the Day

… from Kung Fu Monkey, actually two years ago, on Atlas Shrugged, which is relevant now that the trailer’s out (and, hell, no, I’m not going to link to it):

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

We’re also now being told that the movie version of Atlas Shrugged will be filmed in three parts. No word on the other 27.

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