Let’s hear it for former Chrysler CEO Bob Eaton and Knight-Ridder’s Tony Ridder, a duo scorched by many for selling two corporate icons. Those deals look pretty sweet today.
Eaton was burned in effigy in Motown for turning Chrysler over to the Germans in '98. He was mocked for pitching the deal as a “merger of equals.” Eaton put $58 into the pocket of Chrysler stockholders for every share that they owned. He “retired” as Daimler-Benz co-chairman in March 2000 just prior to the launch of Chrysler’s PT Cruiser.
A friend at lunch last week mused that perhaps Eaton hit the road because he knew full well the clown car was the only thing Chrysler had going for it. Chrysler milked the Cruiser for all it was worth. It made it a convertible, slapped wood paneling on its sides and would have put wings on it if a customer asked. There were 14 factory editions of the Cruiser including the PT Turbo, Dream Cruiser, Route 66, Pacific Coast and Sunset Boulevard editions.
Good luck to all. One guy I miss from Chrysler’s German era is advertising pitchman “Dr. Z” (Eaton’s successor Dieter Zetsche). Granted he was no Iacocca, but the good doctor added some personality and zip to Chrysler's image.
Ridder raced into the welcoming arms of McClatchy Co. to escape pressure from Wall Street. The K-R deal was worth $67-a-share ($40 cash and the rest in McClatchy stock) at the time of the March '06 merger announcement. Tony’s timing — right before the crash of the newspaper ad market — was impeccable.
McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt (pictured) promised shareholders the deal would practically pay for itself as his master plan called for the sell-off of some K-R papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
McClatchy’s stock is on a roll following last week’s announcement that its credit agreement has been revamped. Shares now trade at $1.07, which is a long way to go before reaching Tony’s territory. Though responsible for one of the media world’s worst takeover (Time Warner/AOL is No. 1), Pruitt hangs on. '