The Dollar Dance

September 25, 2002
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Sometimes, what goes around comes around.

That seems to be the case with the drawn-out dance between Spectrum Health and the Federal Trade Commission, which on Aug. 28 announced the formation of its merger litigation task force, headed by Bureau of Competition Assistant Director MichaelCowie

Some antitrust experts expect the bureau would make this into a permanent office, but regardless, the group as it stands is designed to “reinvigorate the commission’s hospital merger program,” according to an FTC press release.

And how do they plan to do this? By re-examining old cases, of course.

According to the FTC, the group’s action “includes a review of, and potential challenges to, consummated transactions that may have resulted in anticompetitive price increases.”

That information comes from the Securities Data Publishing Mergers and Acquisitions Report, dated Sept. 9.

In an interview with MarkCecil of Securities Data Publishing, Cowie, who has about 20 attorneys working with him, confirmed that the FTC is reviewing old deals and said that if they prove anticompetitive, the FTC may prosecute.

Attorneys said the FTC has narrowed its list of hospital situations it wants to review to six. While that list is not officially public, it is believed the merger between Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals is among the ones under review.

But when Cecil contacted JoelFifer, vice president of finance at Spectrum, Fifer said that to his knowledge, no one from the FTC had contacted Spectrum.

In fact, Fifer added, the FTC in no way could accuse Spectrum of anticompetitive activities such as inflating pricing, since Spectrum’s pricing is still controlled under the terms of the merger and will be for another full year.

But if the FTC wants to dance again, Spectrum could end up as an unwilling partner.

  • Sometimes you read something and think, “Wow, that’s stupid.”

That was the reaction ArtHasse, president of Kentwood Office Furniture, had when he read a recent column written by JeffreyGitomer in the Business Journal.

Hasse took exception with Gitomer’s stance that “cutbacks are stupid” during recessionary times, and that such actions are just reactionary on the part of CEOs.

Being a CEO himself, Hasse fired off a letter to Gitomer. Being a CEO, he also sent a copy to the Business Journal.

“Your article … had some very insightful comments and some valuable information,” Hasse wrote. “However, your comment that ‘cutbacks are stupid’ was ‘stupid’ (although my guess is that I am probably incorrect in saying that because I would think that only people can be stupid.)”

Hey, when you’re in the office furniture industry these days, you’ve got to keep your sense of humor.

But Hasse’s point is that CEOs don’t get to where they are by being stupid. And he also takes umbrage to the popular misconception that business is all about being cutthroat and ruthless.

In fact, Hasse passed along a humorous story via e-mail last week that is typical of the way CEOs operate locally.

“We are running our annual ‘Ugly Duckling’ sale starting Wednesday of this week. We hope to have a tent in our parking lot. Last spring, Custer Office Environments, whose outlet store is across the street from us, ran a tent sale that started on a Monday. On Sunday, I drove by our building and saw a tent in our parking lot. I thought, wow, our marketing people are on the ball. They are going to piggyback off Custer’s advertising and have our own sale. That afternoon, I found out from our people that the tent people had made a mistake and put Custer’s tent in our parking lot. Being a friend of DaveCuster’s, I thought the honorable thing to do would be to let him know, so I left a message on his answering machine at his home.

“Fortunately, the tent people got out early Monday morning and moved the tent across the street.”

Now, Hasse could have used the situation to his advantage in a variety of ways, but instead chose the honorable route. That’s the point he wants to make with the Gitomers of the world.

“My reaction and response to Gitomer’s article suggesting that most CEOs are bad people reminded me of this specific incident, which I think is more typical of how owners of companies and CEOs behave,” Hasse said. “I believe that most of us who run businesses compete like crazy with each other, but can still be friends and be honorable with each other and our employees.”

Well said, Mr. CEO.

  • Following the office furniture and CEO theme, there is some better news coming out of the industry, as evidenced by today’s page 1 story about Herman Miller.

But while it didn’t make page 1, there’s another heartwarming story out of Holland.

Haworth Inc. is supplying more than $400,000 worth of seating and casegoods to the American Red Cross to furnish 10 Red Cross offices across the country.

Donated products that are not used in Red Cross facilities will be sold to raise funds for the nonprofit organization.

“It makes me feel good to give to an organization that helps so many people,” said Founder G.W. Haworth. “I hope that the furniture will create productive environments for serving communities.”

This isn’t a first-time association, however. G.W. Haworth last year received a plaque from the Red Cross for his continuous support. Also, the company is a leader in annual Red Cross blood drives.

  • FredMeijer owns a lot of retail stores. He owns the region’s largest and most beautiful botanical gardens. Now he owns a golf course.

But he doesn’t own a zoo.

You’d think that, judging by the media frenzy, the man is the second coming of Noah and we can expect to see him leading the animals down Leonard Street, two by two.

There’s probably a better chance that we’ll see him as part of a foursome at Grand Rapids Golf Club.           

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