Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present

By Maury Klein | Go to book overview

21
The Empire

By 1990 no one could doubt that UP had departed from many of its traditional ways. Every year Lewis acknowledged as much in the company’s annual report. “At the Railroad,” he said in 1988, “the cost-cutting, consolidation, work force reduction and reorganization programs of the past two years have brought about a complete transformation.” A year later he declared that “the search for new efficiencies has become a way of life for Mike Walsh and the Railroad.” In 1990 he boasted that “at Union Pacific Railroad we have achieved a cultural change of sweeping proportions…. Underlying this achievement is a total commitment to change.”1

If, as Lewis noted, the railroad was on the right track, what about the corporation? During the late 1980s the UPC empire reached its apex. In the beginning it had sought only to separate out the nonrail assets to better manage and protect them. Under Cook and Lewis this intent was enlarged to the more ambitious goal of a diversified company in which the parts formed a synergistic whole and functioned smoothly together. The company turned into a transportation conglomerate that included energy, waste disposal, real estate, and technology components as well.

During Lewis’s reign as emperor of UPC, its trajectory ran a bell-shaped curve that could be traced in the annual reports. In his first year Lewis radiated enthusiasm and optimism in laying down the direction he planned to take. He concluded his remarks by saying, over Schuster’s strenuous objections, “Not only am I excited about the potential of our company, but I look upon this as a job that will be a lot of fun.”2

A year later, in 1988, Lewis highlighted the parade of changes, including UPC’s move to Bethlehem, the forthcoming consolidation of the regional offices of UP Resources into its Fort Worth headquarters, and the shift of UP Realty from Omaha to Dallas. Resources continued to be plagued by fluctuating energy prices, which prompted the corporation to get out of the refining business altogether. “By divesting itself of these downstream operations,” Lewis

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Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America's Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Prologue - The Celebration 5
  • Part One - The Kenefickera, 1970–1985 13
  • 1 - The Industry 15
  • 2 - The Fat Old Lady 30
  • 3 - The New Approach 46
  • 4 - The Godfather 60
  • 5 - The Shifting Landscape 72
  • 6 - The Corporate Relationship 84
  • 7 - The Return of Hump Ty Dumpty 95
  • 8 - The Year of Decisions 110
  • 9 - The New Partners 127
  • 10 - The Coming Together 142
  • 11 - The Right Stuff 154
  • 12 - The Operation 165
  • 13 - The Marketing Maze 180
  • 14 - The Studies 190
  • Part Two - The Walsh Era, 1986–1991 203
  • 15 - The Succession Scramble 205
  • 16 - The Whirlwind 215
  • 17 - The Quest for Quality 229
  • 18 - The Enigmatic Dynamo 242
  • 19 - The Problem 254
  • 20 - The Unstable Chessboard 267
  • Part Three - The Davidson Era, 1992–2004 281
  • 21 - The Empire 283
  • 22 - The Improbable Leader 293
  • 23 - The Bidding War 309
  • 24 - The Shaking out 325
  • 25 - The Sorting out 339
  • 26 - The Changing of the Guard 350
  • 27 - The Nightmare 360
  • 28 - The Road to Redemption 377
  • 29 - The Lessons Learned 391
  • 30 - The Clash of Styles 402
  • 31 - The Lessons Relearned 412
  • Epilogue - The Next Railroad 426
  • Abbreviations 431
  • Notes 435
  • Index 485
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