DuPont CEO Irked By Reporters

Here at the Chemical Notebook, we recently posted about some rumors swirling regarding DuPont possibly putting its coatings business up for sale. At DuPont’s investor day yesterday, DuPont CEO Ellen J. Kullman fielded a question about this from Deutsche Bank analyst David Begleiter. In her answer, she revealed that she’s none too pleased with the reports:

Yes, I mean, around the rumors that have been swirling, quite frankly, I’m a little appalled at the (inaudible) responsibility of certain media outlets. I think it’s just terrible. I mean, I go into places and some people say, hey, I saw your announcement. Obviously, we didn’t make one. But we have 13 businesses. We put them through a very vigorous portfolio process around markets, competition, our capability, and science. We establish very clear goals. And we expect them to meet them. We put in top leaders like John McCool, who just went in to coatings a year ago. And very specific goals for improving.

She continued…

But we’ve been very clear. If things — any business. I love all my children equally until I don’t love them. It’s my phrase. Now that does bother my own children, but in business it seems to work. But I mean, so time we’ll tell about any part of our portfolio and where it sits. You saw the pruning that we do on the product lines that both industrial chemicals and crop protection and things like that have done in the list. But if something changes, we’ll be the first one to come out and talk to you. But first and foremost, we’ve established aggressive goals. We have the right kind of leadership. Let’s see what we can get done.

A few points:

1) Two of these reports, from Bloomberg and Reuters, broke on the afternoon of October 28, nearly simultaneously, citing people familiar with the matter. (My previous post links to all three). Dow Jones had its own version a few days later. When a story is deemed solid, journalists are under no ethnical obligation to await an official announcement.

2) Perhaps Kullman should be lecturing the probable leakers. DuPont’s investment bankers would be a good first call. Though, they were probably using their best judgment, too.

3) Extending the children analogy. Is the coatings business that adult child that still lives with his parents and needs a gentle push into his own apartment?

4) I remember back in 2007, Britain’s Sunday Express ran a kooky story about how private equity firms and a Middle Eastern government were planning a takeover of Dow Chemical. CEO Andrew N. Liveris noted that the rumors appeared “on the third page of a third-rate newspaper in the U.K.” It later turned out that such parties, and two Dow executives, really were conspiring to sell Dow. Liveris fired them when he learned about it, straight from the lips of J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon.

Author: Alex Tullo

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2 Comments

  1. Great post Alex. I have to say that #3 also occured to me as I listened in on the Q&A portion of the webcast. Or perhaps the business is the child who needs to get its grades up in college if it wants the parents to keep paying tuition…

  2. Let’s hope that paint isn’t Fredo Corleone.