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Reader's Digest - book about the owners to be made into a film... - bobb's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Bob Bain

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Reader's Digest - book about the owners to be made into a film... [Apr. 6th, 2007|12:05 pm]
Bob Bain
[Current Mood |cynicalcynical]

http://www.cinematical.com/2007/03/31/readers-digest-founders-get-a-biopic/

Link to Amazon (and a review)

"For their first 50 years, as WWII helped it expand internationally, Digest sales leaped year by year; then, during the Cold War years, the magazine began to become a political football. The conservative Wallaces had carelessly let it be used by the CIA and the FBI, and when Ed Thompson, a more liberal editor, tried to turn the magazine into a real force for truth, the knives were out in Washington. At the same time, as the founders began to fail, with no heirs to take on their vast fortune, avaricious eyes were cast on it, notably those of Laurence Rockefeller, who, ostensibly to help with taxes, began to siphon off stock worth millions into his chosen charities. The end for both Wallaces was pitiful: awkward but upright Wally, who never wanted to take ads and hated anything underhand (such as the current Digest Sweepstakes), when he lay dying and alone in his vast mansion, was actually carted off to a hospital by a faithful chauffeur. Narcissistic, charming Lila wasted away, her death eagerly awaited by the lawyers and business types poised to take the business in their own directions, in the process cheating many faithful, longtime staffers who had hoped always to prosper, as the Wallaces had promised they would. Rockefeller today still pours millions into causes the Wallaces cared nothing for, while those they did cherish are largely neglected. George Grune, chair from 1984 to 1994 and now a retired multimillionaire, presided over a degradation of the operation into a cynical business far from its founders' hopes. It is a sad and bitter story, magnificently told, with a full sense of its implications for contemporary, "bottom line" America."

Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.  (From Publishers Weekly).

The emphasis in bold is mine !

 Back to 1996 and an address to Australian staff by the new Financial Director (which appeared to have been written for her) and I paraphrase.  "This is no longer a philanthropic organisation.  We are not providing shareholder's with an adequate return on their investments.  There is another word for this.  It is called theft."  The word was that those whose output could not be directly related to revenue would be "out".  Since then a company which was once a privately owned company has recorded ever declining profits and recently a loss and as previously posted has been "acquired" by an equity firm.

My thoughts at the time (1996) were that profit from the point of view of shareholders is normally considered a reward for risk (rather than theft).  This is the essence of all the studies I have ever done and which I continue to pursue and which forms the basis for "capitalist idealism."  (risk vs return).  From personal memories of working in the organisation (for just over 20 years) the founders were reputed to hate "profiteering".  It was only 20 years after the foundation of the publication that the magazine permitted advertising.

The role of the US administration in using the magazine as an illustration of "American values" may not be widely known.

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