Executive Times

Volume 9, Issue 8

August 2007


 2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC

Note re: links---certain hyperlinks assume that you are registered as a subscriber to the site. If you are not a subscriber to certain sites, the links will fail. If you register, the links should work. Also, certain hyperlinks expire and may not be available when you try to go to the site.


Scientists have learned that the human brain is not fully formed and functional until early adulthood. When an exasperated parent asks an adolescent following erratic behavior, “What were you thinking?” and the child answers, “I don’t know,” science has confirmed the answer is both accurate and honest. Executive brains are fully formed, so when observers note certain behavior and ask “What were they thinking?” there’s no scientific excuse available. Executives are rewarded for exercising good judgment, for deciding to take certain action, and for the wisdom to avoid certain actions. The stories selected in this issue all involve the exercise of judgment, and readers have the opportunity to reflect on what judgment you might display in similar circumstances. In a rare exercise of editorial discretion, there won’t be any American political examples in this issue, although temptation lured from every quarter.


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Five books received highly recommended four-star ratings; nine books are rated three-stars, and one book is mildly recommended with a two-star rating. Four of this month’s selections are the latest books from award winning authors. Four others are novels containing characters that have been reprised. Visit our current bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 454 books read or those being considered this year, including 27 that were added to the list in July. The final Harry Potter book is on hand, and will likely be reviewed next month. If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering or if there’s a book lingering on the Shelf of Possibility that you think we should read and review sooner rather than later, let us know by sending a message to books@hopkinsandcompany.com. You can also check out all 2,151 books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.


What was Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey thinking when he posted messages over the past eight years in Yahoo! Finance stock forums using the alias, “Rahodeb,” an anagram of the name of his wife, Deborah? In those forums, Mackey had lots to say about Whole Foods in what a page one story in The Wall Street Journal on July 12 identified as over 1,100 entries (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118418782959963745.html). The postings came to light when the Federal Trade Commission revealed them in its lawsuit to oppose the acquisition of Wild Oats by Whole Foods (http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0710114/0710114.shtm). Mackey’s extensive blog at the company’s website answered our question: “I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms. … I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.” Can and should a CEO do something like that? The SEC has opened an investigation, and the board of directors of Whole Foods formed a special committee to investigate this issue, and has retained outside counsel for advice. Mackey has suspended his blog, which is packed with interaction between him and stakeholders, where he is clearly identified. So why did he post anonymously on Yahoo? On July 17, Mackey apologized, saying: “I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards. I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me.” (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/pr_07-17-07b.html). Stay tuned to see if he is forgiven. How significant will this error and judgment be?


When you draw a line between your role in your organization and the rest of your life, how do you make judgments about behavior that could cross that line? How sensitive are you to the reality that you represent your organization 24-7? Could a pseudonym or alias put you and your organization at risk?


Appearances count. If we had an Emperor Nero award, this month it would have to go to Bear Stearns CEO James E. Cayne. We read in the “Suits” column in The New York Times on July 8 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/business/yourmoney/08suits.html) that while some of the company’s hedge funds were melting down, and operating losses were dropping, Cayne continued to fly from Manhattan to New Jersey in a helicopter every Thursday in June to play a round of golf in the evening, another round on Friday, and then work from home, where he remained in constant touch with the office. Thanks to the posting of golf scores online, the Times correlated his game (consistent scores of 96 or 97) with the company’s challenges. Is this an example of achieving a good work-life balance? Does it show that Cayne didn’t care about what was happening at the firm or to the holders of the troubled hedge funds? We later read this statement on July 16: “CNBC has learned that the Hollywood Country Club in Deal, New Jersey is examining whether Bear Stearns Ceo Jimmy Cayne changed his golf scores to allow him to win the July 4th tournament at the club.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/07/16/bear-stearns-ceo-investig_n_56419.html). If cheating at golf while heli-commuting turns out to be true, this will be a whole other story about bad judgment. In the meantime, it looks like a lack of attention to appearances.


How vulnerable are you to those who could draw conclusions from your behavior that are disconnected from your intentions? Are you likely to be criticized for choosing the wrong actions at the wrong time?  When bad news hits your organization and/or its stakeholders, how alert are you to perceptions about your behavior?



Some executives keep a low profile on themselves, and point attention to their organizations. Others seem to promote themselves in ways that are distinct and separate from their organizations. We read in Carol Hymowitz’s “In The Lead” column in The Wall Street Journal on July 16 that, “some top executives are branding themselves as distinctly as they brand their companies’ products. They want to ensure their names also are quickly recognized and tied to a particular sentiment. They believe they have to do this to retain the support of increasingly fickle directors and investors. A strong public image may also help them build alliances with government officials and business leaders across the globe. And in the Google age, they want their names to be more prominent than those of their rank-and-file employees, who are competing for high placement on search engines and social-networking sites” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118453911577866946.html). Hymowitz advises that, “corporate executives should be wary of too much personal brand-building. Unlike entrepreneurs who boost their companies when they promote themselves, an executive at an established corporation who brands himself is competing with his company's image. Such executives risk quashing the spirit of teamwork essential to innovation and productivity, and they tend to fail to do vital succession planning. A high-profile CEO can make sense for a company that ‘is seeking a stronger identity in the financial markets,’ says Gurnek Bains, chief executive of YSC, a London-based corporate-psychology consultant. ‘But all our research shows that it's humbler executives with less ego -- the ones who stay very connected to their employees and customers -- who get the best results for their businesses.’ Tom Kuczmarski, a consultant on business innovation and a professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, adds: ‘When you're the rock-star brand at the top, you're conveying to people in the ranks that they're second-class citizens -- and you stop thinking about how to develop the next group of people who will run the show.’ Executives calling extra attention to themselves may want to consider some of the potential adverse consequences. Hymowitz concludes, “Only the most confident CEOs are willing to advertise their employees more than themselves.”


Is your personal brand tied to a particular sentiment? Does that help or hurt your organization? Are you confident enough to advertise your employees more than yourself? How does attention to you help your team produce results? How do you exercise judgment in promoting yourself, your employees and your organization?



The late journalist Mike Royko once suggested that the official motto of the City of Chicago should be “Ubi est mea?” or “Where’s mine?” That’s a natural question that underlies most financial and negotiated transactions, and when above board, works perfectly. The fact that some executives stray from their fiduciary duties and pocket something for themselves that rightly belongs to others means that our oversight processes are burdened with the costs of ensuring that self-dealing is monitored and what belongs to a company and what is due an individual remain distinct. Two recent cases of self-dealing are illustrative of the consequences of ignoring the difference between the leader and the organization. Conrad Black and Zheng Xiaoyu have led different and similar lives. We read throughout the business press that former Hollinger CEO Black was convicted of fraud in July. In one situation, he pocketed a non-compete fee for himself that was more appropriately due to his company. The amount of money involved was less than two percent of his net worth; the consequences may be that his fortune will be lost and he’ll wind up in jail. The verdict will be appealed. We read in China Daily on July 10 (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-07/10/content_5424937.htm) that Zheng Xiaoyu, China’s former head of the State Food and Drug Administration was executed for dereliction of duty and corruption. He was convicted of accepting $850,000 in bribes from eight companies. The Supreme People’s Court said, “Zheng Xiaoyu's grave irresponsibility in pharmaceutical safety inspection and failure to conscientiously carry out his duties seriously damaged the interests of the state and people.” We read (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-05/31/content_884392.htm), “A commentary in the People's Daily, the party's official paper, said Zheng's fate was a lesson to other officials. ‘As a case study of a party member and leading official breaking the law and committing crime, the Zheng Xiaoyu case offers profound lessons that all public servants, especially leading officials at every level, should take to heart.’ During his tenure, dozens died in China from fake or bad drugs and food products. In one of the most notorious cases, in 2004, at least 13 babies died of malnutrition in Anhui province after being fed fake milk powder with no nutritional value. ‘Any conduct that hurts the people's interests, any shirking or perfunctoriness, any dereliction of duty will not be tolerated and must be punished.’”


How much dereliction of duty is tolerated within your organization? How do you oversee self-dealing? How clear are the boundaries and roles within your organization?



Here’s an update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:

Ø      In the July 2004 issue of Executive Times we noted the dysfunctional relationship between Sumner Redstone and Mel Karmazian at Viacom broke up about a year after they sounded like everything was hunky dory. What are they up to nowadays? We read rumors on the Reuters wire and in many business periodicals that Sumner’s daughter Shari Redstone, vice chair of the company may be leaving, following a dispute with her dad over pay for performance. Sumner settled a suit with his estranged son, Brent, earlier this year over a share of the family fortune. It seems as if the dysfunction continues. Meanwhile, Karmazian as CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio is promoting the benefits of the merger of that company with XM Satellite Radio. Appearing at the National Press Club prior to the close of the comment period on the merger, Karmazian tried to sell the idea that the combined market share of the only two satellite radio providers would be just 3.4% of the nationwide audience. He’s counting everything a consumer would use to hear stuff.

Ø      In many August issues of Executive Times, we’ve had something to say about Le Tour de France. We read everywhere on July 24 that Alexander Vinokourov, who won the 15th stage on July 23 tested positive for the presence of foreign blood cells and his entire Astana team withdrew from the Tour. In keeping with the opening story in this issue, we ask again, “What was he thinking?” Riders from seven teams refused to start the July 25 stage on time as a joint protest to combat doping in cycling. The winner of the 1996 Tour, Bjarne Riis, admitted prior to this year’s Tour that he used the drug EPO and offered to return the yellow jersey.




The preservation of millions of acres of land throughout the United States and in twenty-nine other countries can be traced to the pioneering efforts of Richard Goodwin. A professor of botany at Connecticut College for thirty years, Goodwin served twice as president of the Nature Conservancy. Goodwin negotiated the Conservancy’s first land purchase, 3,000 acres of virgin forest in California, now called Angelo Coast Range Reserve. Goodwin appealed to owners who loved their land, and offered a way in which they could receive compensation and be sure that their land would be preserved for future generations. Goodwin died in early July at age 96. We read in an obituary in the Los Angeles Times, “He told Investor's Business Daily in 2001 that many scientists and other parties interested in acquiring land failed because they didn't ‘act like real estate agents.’ … ‘If you really want to get something done, start on it, keep at it, and it will eventually happen … Some of the biggest, most interesting preserves that have come about didn't happen overnight.’” According to the Times, he and a botany colleague, William Niering, worked together on some transactions. ‘“We'd visit a farmer and sit in rocking chairs in his kitchen and rock and rock,’ Niering told Nature Conservancy magazine in 2001, ‘until we finally got a price out of him.’” Thanks to Goodwin’s perseverance, and the model he set for operations at the Nature Conservancy, open space has been preserved, and at the time of his death, the Conservancy had preserved more than 117 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of river around the world (http://www.nature.org/aboutus/?src=t5).


Latest Books Read and Reviewed:

 (Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com.  When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com.  Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2007 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


Farewell Summer

Bradbury, Ray


Aged. Over 50 years ago, an editor yanked this second part of the book that became Dandelion Wine. Bradbury has now finished it, with wisdom, and ready for readers to savor.


Bruen, Ken


Melancholy. Crime fiction of the highest caliber in this fifth novel featuring moody and complicated Galway ex-cop, a recovering alcoholic, fine dialogue and dark moodiness.

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

Chabon, Michael


Imagination. Fine writing from master storyteller, this time creating an imaginary community in Alaska where Jewish refugees have been living since after World War II, and which now reverts back to American rule.

The Navigator

Cussler, Clive


Consistent. Latest offering of the Kurt Austin action brand, in which the good guys are consistently virtuous, and the bad guys are ruthlessly evil. Predictable reading when you’d prefer not to have to engage your brain.

The Maytrees

Dillard, Annie


Abiding. Can love last? Fine novelist presents decades of relationships, full of love and longing, closeness and distance. Poetic language and lingering imagery provide much reading pleasure.

A Thousand Splendid Sons

Hosseini, Khaled


Resilience. Powerful story of recent decades of the life of two women in Afghanistan, both of whom are abused and loved, and who struggle to survive.

Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World

MacMillan, Margaret


Transformation. Context and details about Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, packed with the who, what, why and how that will interest readers who want to understand the importance of what happened that week.

On Chesil Beach

McEwan, Ian


Silence. Finely written novel, set in 1963 on the honeymoon of two innocent virgins, whose unspoken fears about sex lead to the consequences of saying nothing when words are needed, and the inability to take back the wrong words expressed.


Ondaatje, Michael


Endless. Episodes build atop each other, connecting past and present in this masterfully written complex novel. A second reading enriches the experience from the first.

Spare Change

Parker, Robert B.


Dad. The sixth Sunny Randal novel has the expected complicated characters, crisp dialogue and fast-moving action, with a bonus motif on the parent-child relationship.

Out Stealing Horses

Petterson, Per


Remembering. Even as translated from Norwegian, the skilled writing is evident in this novel of a 70-year-old man’s reminiscences of his father, what happened to them during WWII, and the connections that remain among people after decades apart.

The Naming of the Dead

Rankin, Ian


Demonstration. Inspector John Rebus returns for the eighteenth time as the G8 summit arrives in Scotland to media frenzy, demonstrations, and murder. The names of the dead are spoken so they’d know they weren’t forgotten.

Stalin’s Ghost

Smith, Martin Cruz


Digging. Arkady Renko returns for the sixth time as his investigation into a sighting of Stalin in a Moscow subway leads Renko to Chechnya, war crimes past and present, and buried bodies.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas


Unknowns. Quirky and thoughtful book riffs on the notion that the highly improbable does happen, is unpredictable, and has a huge impact, all of which we find reason to explain and ignore.

The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef

White, Marco Pierre


Freedom. Chef’s memoir of obsessive work, perfectionism, setting goals, achieving recognition, and then having the freedom to quit at the top and go do something else.


2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC.  Executive Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s office at 723 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. Subscription rate for first class mail delivery of the print version is $60.00 per year (12 issues). Web version subscriptions are $30.00 per year. Single issues: $10.00 print; $5.00 web. To subscribe, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html, send an e-mail to executivetimes@hopkinsandcompany.com, call (708) 466-4650, or fax to (708) 386-8687. For permission to photocopy or e-mail Executive Times, call (708) 466-4650 or e-mail to reprints@hopkinsandcompany.com. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archives.html contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date. 

To subscribe to Executive Times, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html and we’ll bill you later.  Consider giving clients or friends Executive Times as a gift. Gift subscriptions to the web version include an e-mail notification of the gift.  Print version gift subscriptions can also include “Compliments of (giver)” with your corporate logo on each copy. 

About Hopkins & Company

In addition to publishing Executive Times, Hopkins & Company engages in a variety of other activities focused on helping executives succeed, including:

Ø      Coaching: helping individuals or teams find ways to do more of what works for them, and ways to avoid what's ineffective

Ø      Consulting: helping executives solve business problems, especially in the areas of strategy, service to market, performance and relationship management

Ø      Communications: helping executives improve their written and oral messages

To engage the services of Hopkins & Company, call Steve Hopkins at 708-466-4650 or visit www.hopkinsandcompany.com.