OLD Media Moves

A CEO's thin skin

September 9, 2005

When will CEOs ever learn that if you want to get better coverage in the media, the last thing you should do is criticize those covering you out in public?

The latest CEO to make this reporter/source faux pas is Gillette’s CEO James Kilts, who has taken criticism from the Boston media about the planned sale of the company to Procter & Gamble. Kilts is now blasting the coverage in the Globe, the Herald and other media in the Boston area who have portrayed him as selling out because of a nice severance package he gets when the deal is completed. You can read the story in the Globe today online here.

Maybe it’s just the poor journalist in me, but $165 million does seem like a lot of money for one person to receive for selling the company he or she ran to another company. OK, I’m not that poor, but it’s still a lot of money.

In his op-ed piece written a day earlier, Kilts conveniently neglected to mention how much fatter his wallet will be.

CEOs sometimes forget what the rest of the world is like and how their moves are viewed by the rest of society. Roberto Goizueta, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, once had a fit that I wrote a story about the fact that he was giving about $40 million of company stock to his foundation — even though it was documented in an SEC filing.

What CEOs need to understand is that they’re in that position for a reason — to confront the public, which includes the media, and accept criticism and praise. The problem with many of them is that they seem to forget that they can make mistakes and that their moves sometimes do look like a money grab.

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