Do We Have To Wait Another Seven To Ten Years To Make A Merger Happen?
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, July 30, 2012
Our piece, A Modest Proposal For Reviving The Merger Of PMA And United, was an attempt to identify a strategy for selecting a new CEO for the new combined PMA and United, since, technically at least, this was the hang up that was identified publicly as the reason the merger could not go through. We have dealt with some of the responses we received in separate pieces in this edition of the Pundit; here is some additional feedback received:
This came from one who works with both Bryan and Tom:
We have spoken to many board members and many staff members, and we have good reason to believe that at least one of the CEOs involved would have no problem if the industry decided to adopt a fair and unbiased mechanism, and, further, that the specific mechanism we suggested in the piece would be acceptable to them as fair and unbiased.
We suspect that if the industry’s leaders wanted to make it clear — say by having the top ten financial contributors to the associations write a letter saying that they wanted the merger to go through and they wanted to resolve the CEO question by adopting a fair and objective process such as we defined in the Pundit — the leaders could probably get the board of one association to endorse the concept and that would put great pressure on the other board to do the same.
After all, what would they be holding out for — an unfair and biased process?
The big problem now is that, as we mentioned in a subsequent piece titled, United/PMA Impasse More Than Just A Decision About A CEO — It Is A Battle For The Soul Of The New Association, it may be only technically true that all the issues were resolved and only the CEO issue remained. The very fact that the issue of the CEO has risen to such importance strikes us as proof that the “constitution” of the new association is too vague.
The agreement to form the new association needs to define its priorities — then you can make a technocratic management decision as to the top staff position.
A former Chairman of the Board of PMA also weighed in on this issue:
Yes, of course, the key point is that there are mechanisms for making a decision. Our choice of whom and how many people should serve on such a committee could, of course, be altered or changed. We appreciate Dick’s vote of confidence that our recommendations for the committee were good ones.
We certainly can defend our choices, but there are many people who would surely be acceptable. The world is filled with critics who contribute nothing; at least we put out a real proposal that is actionable if the industry wants to identify a CEO for the new association.
A former Chairman of United’s Business Development Council joins Spezzano in endorsing the Pundit’s proposal:
Another industry veteran was prepared to accept the Pundit’s proposal to choose a CEO because he saw the merger as imperative:
An important industry leader says the concept of a search committee is a good one but wants the search to go beyond the current CEOs:
An executive at an important importer thinks we need both a mechanism to select the CEO and a rallying cry for the industry::
Craig’s letter reminds us of a song in Les Misérables, the musical, titled Red and Black:
We need a sign
To rally the people
To call them to arms
To bring them in line!
The student revolutionaries were seeking a symbol to summon the people to join their small band against the national guard.
We are all in favor of a slogan, but, alas, in Les Mis, at least, the “people” never came.
We wonder how engaging this issue actually is to more than, at most, a hundred companies. These are the big companies that pay out significant amounts to the associations. For most, if they don’t like two trade shows, they only go to one; if they don’t like two dues, they only join one. The question really comes down to whether the big players want to push this through.
Another correspondent laments that this may all just be a lesson for history:
To some extent, the point of all these discussions is that those who Rick Antle, in his letter, called the “ownership” don’t, in fact, have to wait. FMI killed its trade show a few years back because the CEOs of the big supermarket chains got together and said that they wanted this ended.
We have now provided one mechanism to choose a CEO if the industry wishes to implement the merger as negotiated.
We have also provided an alternative plan that we could argue might more perfectly allow for an expression of industry will.
In general, we would say that the boards would feel a need to respond if 10 or 20 top players wrote a letter urging the boards to act in accordance with the spirit of either of these proposals.
What we are about to learn is the degree to which those who advocate for merger are willing to actually push for it.
If not, as Bruno points out, we write for history. The archives here at the Pundit are forever, and hopefully someone will have the good sense to review them should this issue not be resolved now and arise again at some undetermined date in the future.
It strikes us that this would be sad. The conditions for merger, as Dick Spezzano points out in his letter above, are as close to perfect as they are ever likely to be. Individual companies can serve their own interests while also serving the greater industry interest, and we can do it now. Why should we falter?
As Hillel the Elder, in the Pirkei Avot or “Chapters of the Fathers,” taught us, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
We thank Bruno Dispoto and all our letter-writers for contributing to this important discourse that may help define the produce industry for years to come.