Getting a Charge From Emerson Electric and Its CEO
It seems unfair to vilify leaders who are rash or pungently candid. French author Jules Verne (1828-1905) wrote in his triumphant book "Around the World in 80 Days," "It may be taken for granted that, rash as the Americans are, when they are prudent there is good reason for it."
Perhaps that is also true when the CEO of Emerson Electric (EMR) decided to dispense with prudence and lambast those who see EMR as a one-trick pony. At a meeting earlier this month near Columbus, Ohio, David Farr, EMR's outspoken chief executive, reacted to the notion that his company is "one-dimensional."
In truth. EMR is a global, diversified technology company that excels at designing and supplying products and technology, and providing engineering services and solutions to the industrial, commercial and consumer markets. Farr doesn't want his company to be under-rated or misrepresented, and who can blame him? Isn't that what shareholders want as well?
The Wall Street Journal , in an article titled "Emerson CEO Raises Eyebrows By Unleashing His Salty Tongue," drew attention to a shareholder-friendly company that many investors want to own.
Farr, who has used profanity in public before, reacted to those in the media who insist on minimizing the capacities and dimensions of EMR. "If I see that in writing, one more g-- d-- time, I'm going to tear them apart."No doubt the CEO was speaking figuratively, and he later apologized for the way he said what he said:
"I apologize for swearing. You guys p-- me off when you write that. You haven't figured that out. And I've been training real hard the last couple of years to kick your a--."The 57-year-old CEO does look fit and like a force to be reckoned with. That's part of the reason why he's a very effective leader.
The Journal article quoted Scott Davis of Barclays Capital as saying about Farr that he "is well-liked and proven, yet his questionable outbursts at analyst events and conference calls do not inspire confidence."
In an interview mentioned in the article, Jeffrey Sprague of Vertical Research Partners aired similar concerns. "I always take such comments from David with a grain of salt, because he is very aggressive, passionate and competitive. I don't think he means any harm, but I do think he at times goes too far, which needlessly raises investor questions and concerns," Sprague said.
To that last part I beg to differ. I'm not approving of public profusions of profanity, but I'm even less tolerant of the media judging an obviously outstanding corporate leader by an occasional outburst or two. Farr's candor and willingness to call a pig's ear a pig's ear and not a silk purse is rather endearing. Plus, if you've ever seen him on Jim Cramer's "Mad Money" TV show you know he's a good communicator.