Saturday, September 28, 2013

Labor Day 2, the Waltons

A multinational corporation (MNC) or multinational enterprise (MNE) is a corporation that is registered in more than one country or that has operations in more than one country. It is a large corporation which both produces and sells goods or services in various countries. It can also be referred to as an international corporation.
 They play an important role in globalization. Arguably, the first multinational business organization was the Knights Templar, founded in 1120. After that came the British East India Company in 1600 and then the Dutch East India Company, founded March 20, 1602, which would become the largest company in the world for nearly 200 years. -Wikipedia

   He is said to have began his work day at 4:30 each morning. I begin mine at 3:45, so I’ve got him beat by a good 45 minutes.
   Some capitalists might say he put his time to better use as at the time of his death in 1992 of bone marrow cancer he was worth a cool  $65 billion dollars, American. Some lists have him at the 24th richest person in the history of the planet.
   He left his fortune to his widow (Helen, who passed away in 2007 of heart failure) and four children (John Walton was killed in a plane crash in 2005. The surviving children are Rob, Jim, and Alice Walton, pictured above).
   I’m not dead yet, but my current total net worth is about... $446.52, Mexican pesos.
   Samuel Moore Walton (he liked to be called Sam) was born in 1918, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. About a year and a half before my dad. He lived there with his parents on their farm until 1923. Sam’s dad, Thomas, decided farming was not profitable enough to raise a family so he decided to go back to farm mortgaging, in which he repossessed other families farms during the Great Depression.
   So we have Thomas Walton to be thankful for being one of the influences prompting John Steinbeck to pen “The Grapes of Wrath.”
   Chased out of Oklahoma by vindictive farm owners, the Walton family moved around throughout the country for a few years, eventually settling in Columbia, Missouri, about 130.5 miles from where my mother was growing up in Kansas City. I don’t think Sam and my mom knew each other, at least she never mentioned it (she did know James Garner and Robert Conrad, the famous actors, but that’s a whole different story, and I wish I’d stay on point. Jesus! I suffer from WMS, Wandering Mind Syndrome).
   Sam was the youngest Eagle Scout in Missouri’s history.
   It being the Great Depression and all Sam did what he could to help make money for the rest of his family (he now had a younger brother, James, born in 1921), by milking the family’s cow, bottling the surplus and selling it, delivering newspapers (just as I did at one time), and selling magazine subscriptions.
    He attended the University of Missouri in the ROTC (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) program. He waited tables in exchange for meals. He graduated in 1940 with a Bachelor's of Economics degree.
   Three days after he graduated he got a job at J.C. Penney’s (founded by another Missourian, James Cash Penney) as a management trainee in Des Moines, Iowa, for $75 a month. He also worked in a DuPont munitions plant near Tulsa, Oklahoma (which probably wasn’t as safe as it sounds. The DuPont family had a history of their powder plants blowing up), about 139 miles from where he was born.
   Sam married Helen Robson on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1943.The daughter of a prosperous rancher, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma at Norman with a degree in business.
   At one point in her life she was the richest American, and the eleventh richest woman in the world.
   He had a degree in economics. She had one in business. He was a guy, She was a girl. They both came from Oklahoma... the two were made for each other.
   After the United States joined the Allied Forces in World War II, Sam joined the U.S. Army  Intelligence Corps, supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps at Fort Douglas just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, from 1943 to 1945. He ended up with the rank of Captain, and never saw combat.
   My father ended up with the rank of Sargent, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge, which was a famous battle in Europe close to the end of the war there (afterwards we would still have to deal with the Japanese who had been rather obstreperous by bombing Pearl Harbor), and the costliest battle in terms of casualties for our country. They even made a movie out of it starring Henry Fonda (“The Newsroom’s” Jane Fonda’s late father), Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, and Robert Shaw, the shark catcher guy from “Jaws.”  
   I’m not disparaging Sam for not seeing combat and getting shot at. That’s pretty smart if you ask me, and it probably wasn’t up to him anyway.
   After leaving the Army at the age of 26 Sam decided to start his own retail business. He had saved $5,000 from his army days, and borrowed $20,000 from his rich father-in-law, and then  bought  a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain, one of the largest wholesalers in the country at the time (that was using some innovative techniques like making weekly shipments from their warehouses, where tens of thousands of items were kept in inventory, unlike many of the other franchises).
   As a member in the Butler Brothers’ franchise system Sam was required to buy his merchandise directly from Butler Brothers, and was not allowed to sell anything that wasn’t approved by them, nor could he change the price he charged his customers.
   Always the renegade, Sam decided to ignore the Butler Brothers’ rules.
   Sam initiated the Walton system of looking for manufacturers that would sell to him directly at a lower price. This allowed him to save money and generate higher profits.
   Unlike his competition, he was not afraid to innovate. He adapted customer self-service in his stores (at the time customers required the use of store attendants to make purchases. Sam let them browse through the store and pick out their own merchandise. This also gave rise to the modern Shoplifting Industry). He also utilized discount merchandising.
   By purchasing merchandise directly from manufacturers, marking up the price, and selling it in large quantities, he was able to increase his profits.
   But he needed more stores to make this work.
    Sam was a natural and ruthless competitor. He leased a space next door to his main competitor in Newport just so they could not expand, and opened his second store there. Thus begins a continuing practice of knocking out local rivals.
   Sam enjoyed a huge degree of success, with sales increasing annually from $80,00, to $225,000 in three years. However, his landlord informed him of his intent not to renew Sam’s lease on the stores and he decided to move out with a year still on the lease and find a new location. He sold the inventory to the store’s owner for $50,000, and with that money negotiated the purchase of a small store, and the space next to it, in Bentonville Arkansas, with a 99 year lease, having learned a lesson from his loss of the first store.
    The  Bentonville "Five and Dime" opened for business on May 9th, 1950.
    Utilizing his new marketing and inventory control techniques he had developed, Walton was able to keep his prices relatively low, which increased his sales almost exponentially (as any second grader knows, exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of the value of a mathematical function is proportional to the function's current value).
   So now Sam had two stores operating about 255 miles apart, which continued to rake in large profits. He learned how to delegate authority in daily operations and needed to expand. He and brother James (he liked to be called Bud. I don’t know why) began to spend a good deal of time scouting potential store locations, so much so that they bought a small airplane to help them in their efforts (Bud had been a pilot in the navy during the war. Sam and his son John would become accomplished pilots (John, a professional ex-crop-duster among other things, died on June 27, 2005 when his CGS Hawk Arrow homebuilt aircraft, that he was piloting, crashed in Jackson, Wyoming, shortly after takeoff. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the crash was due to improper repairs John had made himself on the rear locking collar on the elevator control torque tube, the result being his inability to control his altitude).
   By 1962, along with Bud, he owned 16 stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas (fifteen Ben Franklins and one independent, in Fayetteville, AK)
   Yet Sam was still restricted in his ability to run the stores independently of the Butler Brothers rules. He asked Butler Brothers to cut their margins by fifty percent to maximize discount marketing. The franchiser declined so he decided to strike out on his own.
   The first true Wal-Mart opened on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. It was called the Wal-Mart Discount City store and located at 719 West Walnut Street. It was built with the help of borrowed money. Like their Five and Dime, Wal-Mart was a self-service discount store that sold clothes, makeup, housewares, appliances, jewelry, and home furnishings. The store flourished.
   Within a few years, Sam and Bud opened Wal-Mart stores in other small towns across Arkansas and Missouri (contrary to what other discount store chains were doing, Sam decided to locate his stores in smaller towns, not larger cities). Two of the company’s key slogans were “We Sell for Less” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” Together these two guiding principles helped build Wal-Mart into a nationwide chain.
   Sam emphasized “logistics,” locating his stores within a day's drive from his regional warehouses, and distributed through its own trucking service. He continued to buy in volume and efficient delivery permitted sale of discounted name brand merchandise.
   Wal-Mart continued to grow almost exponentially, from 1977‘s 190 stores to 1980‘s 800, to 2011‘s 8,970 locations, including 15 international markets  in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City, where the Catholic Church gets a discount on large quantities of pre-blessed, scented Holy Water.
   Wikipedia tells us:
   “Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., branded as Walmart, is an American multinational retail corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. The company is the world's second largest public corporation [according to this list Royal Dutch Shell holds the 1st position], according to the Fortune Global 500 list in 2013, the biggest private employer in the world with over two million employees, and is the largest retailer in the world. Walmart remains a family-owned business, as the company is controlled by the Walton family, who own a 48 percent stake in Walmart. It is also one of the world's most valuable companies.
The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962, incorporated on October 31, 1969, and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart is also the largest grocery retailer in the United States. In 2009, it generated 51 percent of its US$258 billion sales in the U.S. from grocery business. It also owns and operates the Sam's Club retail warehouses in North America.”
   Walmart employs one percent of the American public.
   The largest Walmart store in the world is in Albany, New York. It is more than 250,000 square feet, which is about one-fourth larger than a regular Walmart Supercenter.
   Wal-Mart Supercenters are so big they can be seen from outer space (anything can be seen from outer space if you look hard enough).
   In 1985 Forbes magazine named Sam the wealthiest man in the United States, a declaration that seemed to irritate him more than anything else. “All that hullabaloo about somebody’s net worth is just stupid, and it’s made my life a lot more complex and difficult,” he said.
   His vehicle of choice was a red 1985 Ford pickup. He lived with Helen in the same house in Bentonville, Missouri, since 1959.
   In 1987 Sam and his wife, Helen, established the Walton Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization. The foundation was created to support K-12 education and economic development in northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region.
   Sam displayed little interest in the social functions of the fashionably rich. On business trips that often included visits to six Wal-Mart stores in a day, he rented subcompact cars and spent nights at budget motels, or in the homes of store managers. He was notoriously absent-minded. Driving once, he was distracted by counting cars in a competing store's parking lot and rammed into the rear of a Wal-Mart tractor trailer. No one was hurt.
   He remained the chairman of Wal-Mart until his death. He relinquished the titles of president and chief executive in 1988. He retired briefly from the chief executive's post in 1974 but reclaimed it two years later.
   Sam’s eldest son, Samuel Robson "Rob" Walton, is currently Chairman of the company, worldwide. He has three children from his first marriage to Melani Lowman, whom he divorced to marry Carolyn Funk of Grand Funk Railroad fame. They divorced in 2000. Forbes estimates his current wealth at $33.3 billion dollars making him the 9th richest person in the United States.
   Sam’s daughter Alice is  a board member of the Walton Family Foundation. She has been active on the Board of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock and the Board of Advisors for the University of Arkansas Graduate Business School at Fayetteville. She is a avid art collector, founding  the Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2011. She has been involved in at least three automobile accidents, in one  causing the death of 50-year-old Oleta Hardin, who had stepped onto a road. No charges were filed. Alice has been suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol on two occasions. She was married briefly while in her twenties, but divorced. Her current worth is $33.5 billion dollars, making her 8th richest person in the United States and the 2nd richest woman in the U.S.
   Jim Walton, Sam’s youngest son, is the Chairman of Arvest Bank, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, though operated separately. He has four children by his wife Lynne McNabb Walton, and still resides in Bentonville (as does Rob). He is currently worth is $33.8 billion dollars, making him the 7th richest man in the country.
   James “Bud” Walton, Sam’s brother, owned 20 million shares of Wal-Mart stock and was a senior vice president until his death following surgery for an aneurysm in Miami, Florida on March 21, 1995, at the age of 73. He left his wealth to his two daughters.
   His youngest daughter, Nancy Walton Laurie, is currently worth 4 billion dollars, making her the 110th richest person in the United States. She likes ballet and is the owner of the Columbia Performing Arts Centre, a dance studio located in Columbia, Missouri. One has to do something with one’s time I suppose.
   Her older sister, Ann Walton Kroenke, is currently worth 4.7 billion dollars, making her the 95th richest person in the country. Her husband, Stan Kroenke, is a real estate developer and majority owner of the Saint Louis Rams (NFL), Arsenal F.C. (Premier League, English football (soccer)) Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rapids (Major League Soccer), and Colorado Mammoth (National Lacrosse League).
   Remember John Walton? Sam’s son who died in a plane crash? Well he had a wife who’s name is Christy, who is a philanthropist giving to organizations such as The Philanthropy Roundtable, The San Diego Natural History Museum where she is a board member, as well as the San Diego Zoological Society and the Mingei International Museum. She is the 6th richest person in the U.S., the richest woman in the U.S., and the richest woman in the world with a current worth of $35.4 billion dollars.  
   Let me add this up... let’s see, zero, carry the ought, times 12, plus 33, divided by the exponential growth factor, comes out to be about $144.7 billion dollars, making them the richest family in the world that there is detailed information available (the Rothschild and Rockefeller family fortunes are difficult to discern but estimated to be greater than that of the Waltons).
   Michael Terry Duke is the current President and CEO of Wal-Mart, and is flat broke. He’s probably embezzling money hand over fist as I write this.
    “Though he was generally admired, Walton’s success was not without its critics. A 1995 article published in Economic Development Review revealed that, in thirty-four small communities studied, small businesses in towns with a Wal-Mart suffered cumulative sales declines of 25.4 percent after five years, while towns lacking a Wal-Mart lost 12.9 percent of their general merchandise sales in the first year a Wal-Mart opened in a neighboring town. Other studies suggest that the increased cost of roads, water, sewage, telephone, and other services installed in Wal-Mart locations exceeds the sales and property tax revenues collected from new stores. In efforts to protect their home-grown businesses and cultures, dozens of municipalities have lobbied hard to keep Wal-Mart out of their towns. While many consumers, particularly in the South, were grateful to Wal-Mart for serving small rural markets, others feared for the survival of their local merchants and economies. The editor of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger wrote on June 3, 1990, ‘Is it really worth saving a few bucks to virtually destroy the heart and soul of our small town business community?’
   In an effort to keep labor costs low, Wal-Mart pioneered the use of part-time and temporary help, thus eliminating such overhead as employee health benefits and overtime. Some employees have accused Wal-Mart of demanding “off-the-clock” work, as well. Wal-Mart has been sued for gender discrimination and accused of profiting from the use of third-world sweatshops.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
   A month before his death President George H. W. Bush presented Sam Walton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, for his contributions to business and commerce.
   "If we work together," Walton said at the time, "we'll lower the cost of living for everyone...we'll give the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better life."
   In the next installment of this post we will examine the “better life” Sam promised, the better life of his own employees.
   We’ll discuss some other things as well. In the meantime here’s a recipe for the best macaroni salad ever.

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