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(originally published by Booz & Company)

Dear Monte:

Congratulations on an outstanding first quarter at Amalgamated Smelting.

By every critical metric, you’ve been an overwhelming success: A 4000% rise — to 640 — in positive mentions by the business press; a 6:1 lead over competing CEOs in chat-show appearances (loved Ron Insana’s speculation after your Business Center segment about a run for the Senate); and — in all of this — not a blip on the radar screen about that executive compensation unpleasantness at the last job.


Moreover, as always, you massaged the analysts’ phone call like the Dalai Lama of Due Diligence. The stock is up eight clicks; and you delivered on our three-point strategy, starting with the number-one rule of American business:

First, Establish Blame. Former management is responsible for everything from shrinking margins to heightened sunspot activity.

Second, Stupefy ’em with Stats. Between special charges, changes in accounting, currency fluctuations, EBITDAs, ROIs, P&Ls, and industry-average P/Es, even a $37 per-share loss sounds like a godsend.

Third, Lower Those Expectations. Yes, the low-ball CFO whisper number still serves a purpose. But you just can’t beat the hours we spent in that online chat group disparaging the stock the week before you announced. (By the way: You ARE deleting these e-mails, aren’t you? The backups, too?)

(And in a side note here, a mea culpa: Getting patched in to the conference call from the 9th at Greenbrier was not “idiotic.” Who would have expected that right after you finished outlining your global strategy, you’d put the Chinese Ambassador on the phone to say “hi”? A stroke of genius, if you’ll pardon the pun. I’ve already contacted my guy at Business Week to see if he’ll use the anecdote.)

In other news, here are a few things to think about as you wing your way through the worldwide tour of AmSmelt’s International Offices.

1) Personnel Recruitment. As we’ve often discussed, every trend results in a countertrend. So now that the dot-com boom has gone bust — and all those law firms look so foolish for offering those outlandish compensation packages — consider this new ad campaign: “No Foosball. No Casual Fridays. No Worthless Stock Options. At AmSmelt, We Mean Business.” (I don’t know about you, but I see a book deal here. At the very least, a chat with Oprah.)

2) Sports Metaphors. Heads up: I read an interview with Steve Friedman (producer, Bryant Gumbel’s CBS morning show) where he walked around with a baseball bat, spouting off about “early innings” and “home runs.” This convinces me that jock talk is now officially last-century. (No, don’t give up the Sky Box. Some things remain sacred.) Metaphors for the new millennium: Children, learning, education. Ideal statement: “We’re learning as we go; and with each quarter, we’re working to build a better future for our children.” (So you can see this new-speak in action, I’ll send tapes of the current presidential campaign speeches.)

3) Ford’s Environmental Strategy. Was Ford crazy to admit its SUVs aren’t exactly leading the clean air parade? Crazy like a fox. In one press release, they manage to deflate their enemies and co-opt an entire generation of striving accumulators who can now find inner peace along with the leather seats as they “seek a better world for their children” in a Ford Explorer. (See #2, above.) Something to keep in mind as you visit the more picturesque Smelting outposts in Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Taipei, and Mexico City.

Have a great trip; I’ll be in touch to brainstorm ideas for your Bohemian Grove presentation.

The Biffster.

PS: I hope you weren’t affected by that computer virus. Any man who opens an e-mail headed “I love you” that isn’t from his wife probably deserves to get his hard drive wiped.

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