Friday, February 22, 2013

How to alienate a country

Have you seen the letter that Titan International CEO Morry Taylor - who so delights in his nickname "The Grizz" that he features it in his bio on the Titan corporate website - wrote to the French minister of industry on Feb. 8? It's quite an addition to annals of corporate communiques:
Dear Mr. Montebourg: 
I have just returned to the United States from Australia where I have been for the past few weeks on business; therefore, my apologies for not answering your letter dated 31 January 2013. 
I appreciate your thinking that your Ministry is protecting industrial activities and jobs in France.  I and Titan have a 40-year history of buying closed factories and companies, losing millions of dollars and turning them around to create a good business, paying good wages. Goodyear tried for over four years to save part of the Amiens jobs that are some of the highest paid, but the French unions and French government did nothing but talk. 
I have visited the factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way! 
You are a politician so you don’t want to rock the boat. The Chinese are shipping tires into France - really all over Europe - and yet you do nothing. The Chinese government subsidizes all the tire companies. In five years, Michelin won’t be able to produce tires in France. France will lose its industrial business because its government is more government. 
Sir, your letter states you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with money and talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tires. He does not care if the tires are from China or India and these governments are subsidizing them. Your government doesn’t care either: “We’re French!” 
The US government is not much better than the French. Titan had to pay millions to Washington lawyers to sue the Chinese tire companies because of their subsidizing. Titan won. The government collects the duties. We don’t get the duties, the government does. 
Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour and ship all the tires France needs. You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amien North factory. 
Best regards, 
Maurice M. Taylor, Jr.
Chairman and CEO

The downside of this missive for Titan is pretty obvious: It alienates the French government, which can make it difficult to do business in the country; it insults the French, who buy Titan products; and it suggests that the company has an arrogant leader who can't curb his tongue, with all the problems that implies for investors, business partners, etc.

I assume The Grizz saw some benefit to sending such an incoherent rant, but I can't imagine why he just didn't write: "Thanks so much for thinking of us for this opportunity, but it isn't something we can pursue at the moment."