Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Media Shouldn't Keep Eternal Spotlight on Giants

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Media Shouldn't Keep Eternal Spotlight on Giants

Article excerpt

I'm fed up!

"Two-bit labs can't make megabuck materials," proclaims Business Week's July 29 lead editorial. Materials science is undergoing a revolution, we're told. And Business Week characteristically insists that we should, ho hum, copy the Japanese model, get organized and subsidize most any American outfit that's interested, as long as it's a giant.

That same issue featured the Chemical Bank-Manufacturers Hanover merger. Put the two slugabeds together, we learn, and, by golly, you'll have "No. 2 in the U.S." (behind sickly Citicorp) _ "but just a distant also-ran globally."

An "also-ran"? By what measure? Since when is $135 billion in assets too small to be effective? And who sez big is better in banking anyway?

Business Week, that's who. (Don't be put off by performance figures that demonstrate the opposite.) Meanwhile: The National Management Association anointed GE Chairman Jack Welch "CEO of the Year." (NMA also seems to grovel at the alter of B-I-G. Former GM chief whiz Roger Smith bagged their 1986 honors.) The association's tribute tells us that Welch discovered ears _ using these virgin instruments has become a holy writ labeled "Work-Out" at the giant firm. Translation: GE's know-it-all managers are being commanded, by Jove, to listen to employees. Read the clippings and you'd think that GE and Welch invented listening in 1990.

(By coincidence, The New York Times Magazine ran a July 28 cover article on ABC, CBS and GE subsidiary NBC. Welch's NBC came in for special derision because it managers, uh, pay no attention to their employees. Will the real Jack Welch stand up?) But let's take another tack and look at bigness' role in the industries that will most effect our long-term economic health _ information and biotechnology. In "Biotech Firms Tackle the Giants" (Fortune, Aug. 12), writer Gene Bylinsky provides a breath of relief from gargantua worship.

"Although Japan has announced its intention to become a world leader in biotechnology," he said, "it is hopelessly behind."

Hooray! Merck and Johnson & Johnson saved the day, eh? Well, not exactly. Our winners are a pack of unknowns _ Amgen, Genzyme, Immunex, Xoma, and Centocor among others.

The U.S. aces, which "the Japanese lack," Bylinsky reports, include "top scientists willing to help start pioneering new companies and venture capitalists ready to back them." And one of those aces, ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical CEO Richard Bagley, a SmithKline and Squibb veteran, says of our pharmaceutical giants, "It isn't clear that just because they're big they're going to survive."

The Harvard Business Review, addicted to big itself, provides a fresh perspective on the information sector in the July-August 1991 issue. In "The Computerless Computer Company," industry guru Andy Rappaport and his colleague Shmuel Halevi offer an upbeat view of the American high-tech scene. …

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