Breaking with my nearly unswerving policy of looking forward in these ramblings, I want to glance briefly backward this morning in hopes of discovering one or two valuable lessons.
-I was wrong about Donald Trump’s motivations in running for president, I learned in yesterday’s New York Times. I had long held that his run was a publicity move that got out of hand. Trump’s great business innovation was the concept of branded luxury residential real estate, and the brand is his name. So for 40 years he has been finding ways to get the media to pay attention to him, thus growing more famous and building the brand. Running for president, a notion he has toyed with before, fit the pattern perfectly. My hypothesis suggested that he never intended to become the nominee, and I found that real estate veterans who know him agreed.
But he did intend to win, in fact wanted to win more desperately than virtually anyone but a close circle of advisers realized, as the Times makes clear in a substantial article. It pegs the decisive moment as the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, which Trump attended and at which President Obama gave a speech filled with jokes at Trump’s expense. We’ll never know whether that humiliation was the spark – Trump denies it – but it coincided with the launch of a well coordinated four-year offensive, involving pollsters, strategists, and others, focused on getting him where he is today. Even back then, an adviser envisioned on his website “a Trump candidacy steamrolling to the nomination, powered by wall-to-wall media attention,” the article reports.
This goes a long way toward explaining the Trump phenomenon and answering the great question of why his opponents and Republican Party leaders didn’t take him seriously sooner. The answer is that, first, they assumed his outrageous statements would doom him, and second, that in any case he didn’t actually want to be president. It all made sense, which is why no one looked deeper or discovered that an intensely serious campaign apparatus – and more important, a burning desire – was driving him.
-Former Johnson & Johnson CEO Ralph Larsen died last week, a passing that was unfortunately overlooked in the hurly burly of election news. He wasn’t a celebrity CEO, and he certainly didn’t seek attention. But he was an exemplary leader who should be remembered for many reasons – especially, in my view, for saying this while talking about J&J’s famous credo, set down by Robert Wood Johnson in 1943: “The core values in our credo might be a competitive advantage, but that is not why we have them. We have them because they define for us what we stand for, and we would hold them even if they became a competitive disadvantage for us in certain situations.” That statement was recorded by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, co-authors of the bestseller Built to Last. Lots of CEOs today rhapsodize about their corporate values, then point out that, by the way, they’re also good for business. Larsen is the only one I know who said his company’s value were simply “what we stand for” regardless of whether they’re good for business. That’s an extremely powerful stance. If only more leaders had his courage.
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What We’re Reading Today
Starwood Hotels receives takeover bid
An investor group led by China’s Anbang Insurance Group, which last year bought New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria, has offered $12.8 billion for Starwood. Arne Sorenson‘s Marriott International has already agreed to a $12.2-billion acquisition of Thomas Mangas‘s Starwood, to create the world’s largest hotel group. Last week Anbang agreed to buy Strategic Hotels & Resorts from Blackstone Group for $6.5 billion. CNBC
Goldman revamps its trading platform
When Goldman Sachs hired Raj Mahajan as partner last year, it assigned him the goal of making its electronic exchange faster than that of its main rival, Morgan Stanley. Goldman’s technology had received criticism for not synching up with the systems of quantitative hedge funds, and James Gorman‘s Morgan Stanley has invested heavily in trading in recent years. Goldman will unveil its new system in the next couple of months. Reuters
Former Treasury Secretary was referred to DOJ for investigation
The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2010 referred Bill Clinton‘s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to the Justice Department for investigation. The panel believed Rubin and other Citigroup executives may have intentionally understated the bank’s exposure to subprime holdings to investors. There’s no indication that Justice ever pursued the case. Fortune
Returning to work
As United CEO Oscar Munoz returns to work after suffering a heart attack in October and getting a heart transplant in January, other business leaders warn him to expect limits to his energy. Former GM No. 2 Harry Pearce said that after a stem-cell transplant for leukemia, he struggled to go as hard as he did before the procedure and had difficulty concentrating. Munoz faces a possibly proxy fight from two hedge funds, which means constant phone calls and travel to visit shareholders. WSJ
Building a Better Leader
Growth comes from improving in one of these 5 areas
Focus your efforts based on whether you’re trying to grow via customers, geographies, products, capabilities, or culture. Knowledge@Wharton
VMware’s headquarters looks more like a zen retreat
It offers three nature trails, a soccer field, and horseshoe pits. Fortune
Want a more diverse workplace?
Consider blind recruitment. Remove identifiable info from the resume, including name, age, and education. It’s what organizations including Deloitte, HSBC, and the BBC do. Fast Company
Brazilians call for Dilma’s resignation in mass protest
Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians participated in anti-government rallies on Sunday, calling for President Dilma Rousseff to step down. The corruption investigation of state-owned oil company Petrobras has reached her inner circle, leading to speculation she may also have been involved. Making matters worse, the economy has fallen into a deep recession. Fortune
Trump’s lawsuit trail
Donald Trump has a long history of suing over even minor issues. He sued Palm Beach County for $100 million because planes were flying too close to a resort of his; he filed suit against a Miss USA contestant for ridiculing the pageant on social media; he even sued a law firm he works with for using his name in marketing. The GOP has long argued that the vast number of lawsuits filed in the U.S. has hurt jobs and increased costs of goods. It isn’t clear if the number of suits filed by Trump is more or less than typical for organizations of similar size. WSJ
Obama’s early-release initiative is barely moving
Two years ago, President Barack Obama urged imprisoned non-violent drug offenders to file for early release. Some 44,000 cases have been filed, but only 187 sentences have been shortened. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch wants all cases decided by the time Obama’s term ends. Reuters
Up or Out
Michael Goguen has been fired as a partner at Sequoia Capital in the wake of a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse. CNBC
Ralph Larsen, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson, died on Wednesday. He was 77. NYT
Fortune Reads and Videos
VW whistleblower sues the company for being fired
The suit alleges the employee was fired because he tried to stop Volkswagen from deleting evidence relevant to U.S. authorities as it investigates the emissions scandal. Fortune
Apollo Management will buy Fresh Market
The private equity firm won an auction with a $1.36-billion offer. Fortune
Iran announces it won’t close the oil spigot anytime soon
The decision could end any chance of an oil production freeze by other countries. Fortune
Honda offers almost-autonomous car for $20,000
The Civic LX Sedan can make a 25-mile drive by itself so long as lanes are clearly marked and another car is in front of it. Fortune
Quote of the day
“You want to say, ‘No, no, I’m back, I’m fine, it’s all cool…I had to learn some executive patience.” — Catherine Bessant, COO and CTO of Bank of America, discussing her experience returning to work after surgery for breast cancer in 2010. WSJ
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|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|