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Fall 2004 / Issue 36 (originally published by Booz & Company)

I'm Looking Through You

Dear Monte:

Congratulations on yet another outstanding quarter at the helm of AmSmelt, "The All-American Smelter."

The stock is steady, you beat back the unfriendly takeover (playing the outsourcing card -- preserving jobs in America's "strategically critical industries" -- was a brilliant ploy), and, contrary to the current conventional wisdom, your tenure has proven that bringing in an outsider as CEO doesn't always result in, ahem, less-than-Stellar success.

Way to go, Monte! In fact, my team is pitching a story to Harvard Business Review: "Outside In: How Monte Stellar Forged His Own Way in the World of Molten Metals."

Meanwhile, as we discussed, I've checked into concerns about some possible trouble ahead.

My guy upstate confirms that, yes, one "Royal S. DuPree" -- your state attorney general -- has developed a serious case of Eliot Spitzer envy. Apparently, he's thinking about running for governor. And he seems to believe the path to power goes right through your office.

Monte, I know you're not a Rigas, Kozlowski, Skilling, Fastow, Lay, Stewart, Ebbers, Grubman, or Quattrone. But these days, it seems that every Anderson & Sheppard suit comes complete with a bespoke target on the back. So let's make sure you're not setting yourself up to become the next corporate piñata. Here are the areas of sensitivity:

- Art. I don't know much about it, but I know what I like: The tax receipts.

- Home office decorating expenses. Two words, Monte: Pottery Barn.

- The current Mrs. Stellar's upcoming 30th birthday party. No video, please. No chartered jets. Think Sizzler.

- Off-balance-sheet transactions, forgiven loans, outrageous compensation packages. Make sure they're as dead as Arthur Andersen.

In the meantime, my people are starting the PR spin on this: The Eliot Spitzer Wannabe versus The Hardest-Working Man in Smelting. My guy at the Journal has already expressed some interest. As he puts it: "It's not that Royal S. DuPree is in over his head ... but he seems to think Sarbanes-Oxley is the name of a Worcestershire sauce."

I'll be in touch --

The Biffster.

P.S.: In your continuing power struggle with AmSmelt's founder's 62-year-old twins -- board directors Otto and Carl -- I note that their brother-in-law, Gustav, continues to be the sole provider of AmSmelt's travel agent services. Is this something for the next board meeting? Or, perhaps ... Royal S. DuPree? Let's discuss.

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