Archive for the ‘Big Al’ Category

Neuharth faults age for Wall Street ‘wobbles’

December 5, 2008

[Age appropriate? His mug shot in USA Today, left, vs. reality]

Like rubbernecking past a car wreck, I can’t resist octogenarian retired CEO Al Neuharth‘s weekly column, every Friday in USA Today.

It’s those gosh-darn whippersnappers running Wall Street that have caused all of us so much financial pain, the multi-multi-multi-gazillionaire growls this morning. Typing by Depression-era candlelight on his fabled black 1926 Royal typewriter, the 84-year-old Neuharth harrumphs:

“The recent wobbles” — wobbles?!!! — “on Wall Street day to day, hour to hour and even minute to minute have been caused by decision-makers who are acting like kids. Actually, many of them are barely beyond that, in age, or frame of mind.”

[Photos: The more rakish picture that USA Today uses to illustrate Neuharth’s column up there on the left is, well — let’s just say it’s not the one taken three months ago]

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Neuharth: Kiss off CEOs who can’t fix problems

November 21, 2008

[Perpetrators or victims? GM’s Wagoner, GCI’s Dubow]

Like rubbernecking past a car wreck, I can’t resist octogenarian retired CEO Al Neuharth‘s weekly column, every Friday in USA Today.

As General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner and other Big Three auto bosses rattle tin cups before Congress, Big Al asks a question that’s on everyone’s mind: “Why should any bosses who got their company into a mess be saved from their misdeeds?”

(A snarky question even closer to home: Why should retired bosses who got their companies into a mess continue collecting platinum retirement benefits? Like, you know, a company-paid nanny for their kids? Or lifetime free health insurance? But I digress!)

“Boards of other troubled companies should follow these same guidelines,” Neuharth writes today. “If the boss inherited a mess, be a little bit patient and help him or her. If the boss caused it and/or didn’t know how to fix it, kiss him or her goodbye.”

Well, pucker up Gannett board of directors, as you compare the closing stock performance of Gannett vs. General Motors since July 15, 2005 — when Craig Dubow became CEO:

  • Gannett: down 91.3%
  • GM: down 91.2%.

More financial pearls of wisdom!
From the treehouse archives of Big Al:

Reasons we should be nice to Al Neuharth

November 8, 2008
“Living without me for the rest of his life is punishment enough.”

— exotic dancer Naja “Boom-Z-Boom” Hara, in a new comment on reaction to her kiss-and-tell expose, From the Gang to Gannett.

Hello, USAT? Neuharth’s column briefly missing

November 7, 2008

Like rubbernecking past a car wreck, I can’t resist octogenarian retired CEO Al Neuharth‘s weekly column, every Friday in USA Today.

For a few panic-stricken minutes this morning, I couldn’t find Big Al’s column online, so I called the paper’s customer service number (1-800-USA-0001) for help. By the time I got through, Neuharth’s Plain Talk had appeared on the site — but not before I got an eye-opening lesson in 21st century newspaper customer service.

Earlier: More episodes on Gannett Blog‘s YouTube channel.

Defying Neuharth, Gannett Blog endorses!

October 31, 2008

Like rubbernecking past a car wreck, I can’t resist octogenarian retired CEO Al Neuharth‘s weekly column, every Friday in USA Today.

No presidential election would be complete without Big Al reminding us — again and again! — how much he hates it when newspapers endorse candidates seeking election.

But this year, we’re told, media bosses are finally taking cues from our favorite treehouse dwelling Floridian. “Newspapers making presidential editorial endorsements this year likely will be the lowest percentage ever,” Neuharth opines, without any discernible evidence backing that up.

So, how does Gannett Blog‘s esteemed editorial board (that would be me) come down on the 2008 election? Why, we endorse — voting!

Earlier: our paper-by-paper list of Gannett presidential endorsements

Was Big Al the company’s second presidential CEO?

October 20, 2008

[CEOs as candidates? Neuharth and Gannett]

Calling ubiquitous presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin!

As we tally presidential endorsements by Gannett papers, a reader says former CEO Al Neuharth‘s scheme to jack up his autobiography’s sales was part of a bigger stealth plan, testing support for a late-1980s White House bid. “The idea was to achieve and maintain best-seller status in conjunction with his ‘Buscapade‘ trip around the country,” the reader says. “All of this was rumored, believe it or not, to be a bid to get himself considered as a presidential candidate!!”

If true, Neuharth would have been at least the second Gannett CEO with eyes on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Co-founder Frank Gannett, a Republican, “campaigned as an avowed presidential candidate in 1939 and 1940, and his name went before the convention at which Wendell Willkie was nominated,” the Harvard Square Library says. (Willkie lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

Earlier: Challenging Obama fanboy Neuharth

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

So cute! Neuharth tyke gets pint-sized mortgage

October 17, 2008

Like rubbernecking past a car wreck, I can’t resist octogenarian retired CEO Al Neuharth‘s weekly column, every Friday in USA Today.

[Neuharth vs. Marie Antoinette: Has he finally lost his head?]

Once more channeling Marie Antoinette, our favorite pampered, multimillionaire media mogul delivers a message to all you whining, soon-to-be laid-off workers: Let them take out mortgages!

To be sure, the focus of today’s Neuharth column isn’t the thousands of Gannett employees losing their jobs in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Nor is it about the dozens of workers on the verge of getting walking papers at Neuharth’s own version of Marie Anoinette’s palatial Versailles: the Newseum. Indeed, none of that dreary news is even mentioned!

Instead, Neuharth is teaching another lesson in commonsense Prairie values, set in his sainted South Dakota birthplace, Eureka. Small community bankers there didn’t get mixed up in any of that crazy stuff going on back at Wall Street, he sneers. (Neuharth’s reliable source for this news: a flack for a bank trade group.)

“Seven years ago,” he writes, “I had a chance to buy the old family home here for $15,000. Could have paid cash, but we wanted our oldest child, Alexis, then 10, to learn about things like mortgage payments. The Great Plains Bank agreed to loan us $7,500 for 10 years, but only after careful examination of my financial statements. Alexis became a co-signer of our $91.03 monthly mortgage checks.”

So, what are your kids getting for Christmas?

Ethics: Big Al, and exotic dancer Boom-Z-Boom

October 14, 2008

[A dancer’s new tale about Al Neuharth is part Puzo, Susann]

I always knew where my reporter’s paycheck came from: advertising sales. But the so-called Chinese wall separating news-gathering from the paper’s business side meant I could report freely, without favoring some powerful interests over others.
It’s a more complicated story now that I’m a blogger trying to make a buck. Exhibit A in a new dilemma: Naja Hara, a self-described exotic dancer, back in the days when Rochester, N.Y., was Gannett’s headquarters town. Hara, who says her stage name was Boom-Z-Boom, has self-published online an excerpt of her unlikely expose: From the Gang to Gannett. I first learned about her website last month from a reader.
Hara is offering free excerpts on her website, until Oct. 31. After that, they’ll cost $3.29 a pop. Part Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, Hara’s story covers her romantic ties to gangsters in organized crime families active in 1970s Rochester. She devotes a chapter to Al Neuharth, the famously colorful retired Gannett CEO who launched USA Today.

I had been considering her story when, apparently weary of waiting, Hara used Google’s AdSense program to advertise (left) her website on my blog last night — “breaking” her story here, and creating an ethical dilemma. If I don’t write about her site, thereby forcing Hara to keep advertising, I make more money. (Maybe lots, after factoring in possibly higher per-click ad prices). Yet, if I do write about Hara, she might stop advertising — potentially costing me big money. Such is the life of a new publisher, eh?
With this post, you see the decision I made — and all the new ethical considerations I never faced as a traditional journalist.

About Hara’s Neuharth story

I cannot independently corroborate a key scene because, in her version, Hara and Neuharth were the only ones present. So, I’m not going to repeat the story here. (I will say this much, however: It brings new meaning to my nickname for Neuharth.)

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Annals of advertising: Can’t beat ’em, join ’em?

October 13, 2008

[An unexpected ad, from a target of my criticism]

I haven’t exactly been a rah-rah booster of Newseum financial backer Freedom Forum, what with my snarky suggestion that the non-profit foundation’s CEO, Charles Overby, was recently in bed with legendary retired Gannett CEO Al Neuharth. (Ick: there’s an image!)

So, you can imagine my amusement when I saw a Newseum text ad (screenshot, above) at the top of my blog last night. To be sure, it’s one of the new Google-served advertisements I began publishing over the weekend. I doubt the $450 million museum’s marketing department chose this venue. Then again, politics make strange (prison) bedfellows. . .

See a promo worth highlighting in Advertising Watch? Post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

All in the family? Neuharth reveals son’s new book

September 20, 2008

Like rubbernecking past a car wreck, I can’t resist octogenarian retired CEO Al Neuharth‘s weekly column, every Friday in USA Today.

Our man-with-the-tan disclosed a couple surprising tidbits in this week’s column, when he wrote about filling in for his temporarily ailing son at a newspaper conference in Denver. We learn that Dan Neuharth is writing a book about the industry, one based on more than 40 interviews with newspaper CEOs. Now, I wonder if Dan will offer the same candid treatment he gave in a USA Today op-ed piece he wrote in 2006. In that essay, Dan questioned his father’s legacy on the pages of the very paper that made Neuharth pere so famous.

Big Al also writes that he spoke at the conference with Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock — asking Hussman how he succeeded in boosting his daily’s circulation 4%, to 182,202, over the past decade, even as other papers suffered declines. Of course, Neuharth fails to mention another more important measure of Hussman’s success: He ran Gannett out of town in 1991, after GCI closed The Arkansas Gazette just five years after Neuharth bought the daily in the twilight of his career. Gannett was by then losing up to $30 million a year in that newspaper war.

And speaking of tans . . .
I should now be basking in the glory of winning the Hawaiian Tropic George Hamilton-Christina Aguilera Grand Prix du Festival Cup. As you know, that hotly contested trophy was awarded on Labor Day to the winner of the newly revived Gerald R. Ford Pro-Am Summer Biathlon International Tanning Competition. I was, after all, the odds-on favorite, given my choice tanning spot on the Mediterrean island of Ibiza.

But, no! In an 11th-hour switch, crafty Neuharth arranged for the original panel of judges to be replaced with his crony-packed Freedom Forum board of trustees! My riposte: See you in Brazil this winter, Al, because that’s the next stop for Sparky and yours truly, in our Endless Summer of 2008-09!