Pep Boys' slogan for 3rd year of turnaround lacks pep

The playbook for any shareholders meeting is a company’s proxy statement, and usually it contains a letter from the CEO.

Some bosses really know how to write a letter. The best known is Warren Buffett, the only corporate suit who can induce 40,000 people to travel to Omaha, Neb., to hear him speak.

Having read over the Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack proxy, I must say that CEO Michael R. Odell is no Warren Buffett.

The Philadelphia automotive service and parts retailer is in the third year of Odell’s turnaround effort. So his letter gets good marks for explaining what management has done to change and improve Pep Boys’ financial picture.

But he needs a better slogan writer. The first year of the turnaround was dubbed the “year of disruptive change.” It was followed by 2009, the “year of positive change.” Naturally, 2010 must be the “year of optimization and execution.”

Say what?

I think Nike said it more simply: Just do it.


Some highlights from a panel discussion on “Surviving the Recession” I hosted last week before a meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group:

Barry W. Miller, president and chief operating officer of the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center, noted that many of the 4,500 manufacturers in the Philadelphia region coped by cutting costs during 2009. The exception? Those involved in the defense sector.

Autumn R. Bayles, senior vice president for strategic operations and technology at Tasty Baking Co., said customers continued to seek comfort in its cakes and pies during 2009. Sales for 2009 of $181 million were slightly higher than 2008’s $174 million. “That doesn’t mean life’s been a picnic,” she said.

When the conversation turned to the foul mood in Washington, D.C., Liberty Property Trust CEO William P. Hankowsky got applause when he said: “The bashing of business is not productive.”

Hot Potato?

Last week, eResearchTechnology Inc. , of Philadelphia, agreed to acquire the research services division of CareFusion Corp. for $81 million in cash.

Aside from another example of how activity is picking up in the mergers and acquisitions field, the deal is notable in that ERT, as it likes to be called, will be the second Philadelphia owner of this business, which has most of its 250 employees in Germany.

Viasys Healthcare Inc., of Conshohocken, owned the respiratory diagnostics services provider, which has its origin in a company called Erich Jaeger GmbH.

But you’ll need a scorecard to follow how it ended up in ERT’s hands.

First, Jaeger was bought by Thermo Electron Corp. in July 1999 in exchange for $30.5 million in cash and the repayment of debt, as well as the assumption of $13.4 million in debt.

In 2001, Thermo Electron spun off Viasys as a separate company. In 2007, wholesale drug distributor Cardinal Health Inc. snapped up Viasys for $1.42 billion.

Two years later, Cardinal Health spun off many of the Viasys businesses, including Jaeger, by creating a new company called CareFusion.

And now, CareFusion is parting with what was once Jaeger and currently generates about $50 million in annual revenues.