Albert Dunlap and Corporate Transformation (A)
On March 3, 1998, Sunbeam Corporation announced the acquisition of three companies Coleman, Mr. Coffee, and Signature Brands - for a price of $1.8 billion. The move came five weeks after the company had announced record sales and earnings for the fourth quarter and full year 1997 and served to quiet some of the critics of Sunbeam’s CEO, Albert Dunlap. Both praised and defamed for his radical approach to turning around troubled enterprises, Dunlap took command of Sunbeam in July 1996, six months after completing the sale of Scott Paper and departing with $100 million compensation. Many expected a repeat of the Scott Paper model: aggressive cost-cutting through plant closings and lay-offs, sale of non-core business units, and a flurry of new product introductions, all generating increased investor interest, a rising stock price and sale of the company. The three acquisitions, however, coupled with a new three-year contract that Dunlap had signed a few weeks earlier, appeared to signal an intent to build, rather than sell, Sunbeam, and the CEO boasted of creating “a potential Procter & Gamble of worldclass branded durable goods.” This was his biggest accomplishment in a long career.
To Dunlap, the acquisitions offered a means to “unleash a quantum leap in creating shareholder value” and a way to achieve the sales and growth targets he had set in the fall of 1996. The market reacted to the March 3 news by driving up Sunbeam shares 24% in a week to a record $53, more than quadruple the price when Dunlap was hired (see Exhibit 1). Many analysts continued to recommend the stock, noting additional opportunities for Dunlap to cut costs from the acquired companies and citing Sunbeam’s increased ability to service large retail customers, which were eliminating smaller suppliers. One observer suggested that Dunlap had “carved a kindlier image of himself: Al Dunlap, builder” and that in...