NOTA BENE

CLIFTON HALEY

May 1 1989 by Chief Executive


Was Budget Rent a Car surprised when the luxurious Lincoln Town Car became the company’s most rented or hired vehicle? “Frankly,” says CEO Clifton Haley, “we were. It’s been successful beyond our wildest expectations.” And so, perhaps, has Budget itself, which is now the fastest-growing car rental company in the world. Revenues of the Chicago-based corporation have grown at a rate of 29 percent compounded over the last five years, more than double the average rate of the industry. Clearly, Budget is on a roll, and Haley is now in the driver’s seat.

The election of 57-year-old Haley as Budget’s chairman and CEO in December was the capstone on a carefully planned re-structuring of the industry’s Number Three. The previous month, Budget had arranged for all of its publicly traded stock to be acquired for $335 million by New York‘s Gibbons, Green, van Amerongen investment group. The money behind this deal (except for $10 million from Budget’s management) is from Ford, not coincidentally the maker of those Lincoln Town Cars. (This is the second time in three years that Gibbons has arranged a buyout for Budget; the first was in 1986 when Budget’s management purchased the firm from Transamerica with a public offering.)

Haley had worked for both Chrysler and Ford when he joined Budget as senior vice president of franchise development in 1977. He was brought in by then Chairman Morris Belzberg, Budget’s first licensee in Canada and one of the more innovative strategists in car rental merchandising. (Belzberg remains with Budget as chairman of the executive committee.) Working with Belzberg on a new strategy for Budget, Haley soon began to reacquire, rather than sell, rental franchises. When a franchise would not sell back, a new percentage-based, rather than fixed-rate, arrangement was made. Income rose dramatically.

Along with its re-acquisitions of franchises (which still own 60 percent of Budget’s 200,000 cars worldwide), Budget has also long been developing its special niche in the $10 billion worldwide car rental market: 55 percent of its business comes from personal renters, the fastest-growing segment of the market.

At a time when fewer Americans can afford a second, or even first car, Budget has more rental offices in downtown areas and suburbs than Hertz or Avis, which are mainly concentrated in airport-business traveler locations. In March 1988, Budget signed an exclusive four-year agreement with Sears that is aimed at the giant retailer’s 28 million credit card holders, many of them no doubt among the estimated 85 percent of Americans who have never rented a car. Haley would like to see them all driving Budget Lincolns.

Budget also has a higher general car utilization rate than any of its competitors. Its vehicles don’t sit in airport parking lots during the weekend; they’re transferred to those personal renter locations. Haley has been personally involved in the development of the Budget computer systems that manage all this and recommends a similar involvement to other CEOs, though he acknowledges that “You either get bitten by the information technology bug or you don’t.”

Haley was born, appropriately, in Detroit, where he graduated from the city’s University and College of Law. He worked for the law degree while employed by Chrysler and then went to Ford when he passed the bar. Since then, he’s been too busy moving automobiles to practice law. Car rental industry analyst Charles Ferrie of Alex Brown & Sons, Baltimore, says of Haley: “I would rate him at the top in terms of management skills, in terms of vision of the future.”

Today, Haley and his wife Carolyn, an assistant school principal, live in Chicago, within walking distance of Budget’s corporate headquarters on Michigan Avenue. Both pilot their own Cessna 340A. Haley also likes to run. If he ever races O.J. Simpson to the airport rental counters, he can be sure that a roomy Lincoln Town Car awaits him.

-Peter Lacey

 

 

JAMES B. PATTERSON j

“John Stefanovitch leaned forward and he spit onto St.-Germain’s bloodied corpse.” It’s not the sort of sentence that would be written by the usual CEO, at least not for publication. But James B. Patterson, Chairman of J. Walter Thompson, USA, is, without a doubt, an unusual CEO.

Patterson, 41, is not only one of the few creative directors to head a major advertising agency, he is also a successful writer of mysteries and thrillers. The sentence quoted above is from his most recent novel, The Midnight Club, the story of a brave and crippled New York City detective. Screen rights to the book were optioned before publication, and production begins this year.

The release of his sixth novel almost coincided with the first anniversary of Jim Patterson’s tenure as JWT/USA’s top executive. For both Patterson and the 125-yearold ad agency, it was quite a year. In its annual “National Agency Report Card,” Adweek Magazine rated JWT/USA fifth among the nation’s “10 hottest agencies.”

In 1988, the company increased its billings by an impressive $229 million, for a year’s total of $1.617 billion. In the first quarter of 1989, new billings were already up to $125 million. And this is an agency that was widely regarded as a stumbling giant only two years ago.

It was in August of 1987 that JWT was acquired by Englishman Martin Sorrell’s WPP Group. Sorrell, the former financial director of Saatchi and Saatchi, was now building his own marketing empire and saw the huge, strife-ridden JWT as ripe for acquisition: In 1986, the worldwide agency had billed $3.3 billion and had lost $4 million.

Yet JWT was still highly rated for service and account handling. Management was the problem and, after the takeover, there were massive executive departures, taking away accounts worth $455 million. Then came the crash of October 1987 and WPP’s stock lost half its value as a result.

But Sorrell apparently knew what he was doing. Implementing his belief that the main purpose of an advertising agency is to create successful marketing images, he put JWT’s best “creators” in charge: Burton Manning, former CEO of JWT/USA, was made Chairman of JWT/Worldwide, and Patterson, who had worked with Manning at the agency for 15 years, was named Chairman of JWT/USA.

“Hard-sell that people love to watch,” is how Patterson describes the kind of ad he tried to produce. It’s the appraoch with which he has created successful campaigns for such JWT clients as Burger King, Miller beer and Kodak.

As CEO, he’s also a demanding boss. “We only want one kind of person here: extremely talented, driven to put out a good product, and nice to be around,” he says. “And that’s the only kind of person we will bring in here.”

Patterson is obviously as demanding of himself as he is of others. He goes to bed early (“I have no interest in nightlife at all”) and rises at 5:30 a.m. to write for two hours in his Manhattan apartment before putting on his CEO hat at JWF.

A creative guy-and tough, too. Somewhat like Sylvester Stallone. Guess who wants to play Stefanovitch?

-Peter Lacey

 

HOWARD W. FRIEDMAN

Urban cowboy is not how you would describe Amrep Chairman Howard W. Friedman; the 63year-old CEO looks just like the New York businessman that he is. But in his office on Columbus Circle, he can become as expansive as any westerner when describing the beginnings of Rio Rancho, Amrep’s big development across the Rio Grande river from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“What we did was,” he says, “we bought the ranch, chased the cows away-literally -and started building a new city.” The “ranch” was a 55,000-acre spread-later increased to 92,000-of almost barren land that began just 2.5 miles away from Albuquerque.

That was in 1962. Today, Rio Rancho is New Mexico‘s fastest-growing city. It has a population of 32,000, projected to reach 57,000 by the year 2000. Already the site of several light industries (notably Intel’s $500-million microprocessor facility), Rio Rancho will also be where ShiZuki, New Mexico‘s first Japanese plant, will make film capacitors on a 15-acre site.

Despite running skirmishes with Indians and environmentalists, Amrep is locally respected: “There’s probably 1 percent dissatisfaction with them here,” comments George Hackler, editor-in-chief of the New Mexico Business Journal.

Though he spends at least a week a month in Rio Rancho, Friedman continues to ride herd from Manhattan. A CPA at age 21, he became a successful real estate developer in Florida, and was one of the original founders of Amrep. He’s also an energetic insomniac who sleeps only three or four hours a night and relaxes with golf (“my psychiatry”). But even on the links, he sticks to business: “I don’t have much time. If I play, I only play with a banker or someone like that.” Howard Friedman is a determined man-those range cows learned that right away.

-Peter Lacey