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Turnaround at Oak

October 29, 1985|Bill Ritter

Now that E.L. McNeely has negotiated a cash infusion and restructured the back-wrenching debt of troubled Oak Industries, he may be able to fulfill a goal that has eluded him since he became Oak's chairman and chief executive a year ago: He may replace himself with a permanent executive.

Since his fellow Oak directors implored him to take the top spots after the forced resignation of Everitt Carter, McNeely has maintained that the jobs are more suited for someone younger, more energetic and ambitious.

But, not surprisingly, McNeely found that he rather enjoyed the challenge of trying to turn around a company whose fortunes fell as quickly as they had risen.

Now, with McNeely's swift moves last week to sell off one of Oak's divisions and convince giant Allied-Signal to become a major Oak investor, McNeely "should begin thinking about finding that replacement," according to a source close to Oak. "He's worked hard and turned the company around."

Even Oak's staunchest critics were impressed with McNeely's maneuverings, dubbing the infusion as a bailout and a corporate rescue that averted a likely bankruptcy.

McNeely doesn't see it quite like that. Asked if he had harbored any thoughts of Oak filing for bankruptcy, he quickly retorted that "bankruptcy is anathema."

Indeed, it was McNeely who in 1982 resigned as chairman and chief executive of Wickes Cos. rather than accompany the once high-flying retail giant into Chapter 11 reorganization.

He has previously denied that he is on a "White Knight" mission at Oak to save the company and make up for Wickes.

"But that's what he's doing," said a McNeely associate.

"What he has done with Oak," said another long-time McNeely-watcher, "is a feather in his cap."

Top-heavy Pay?

The issue of executive compensation for Signal Cos. (now Allied-Signal) executives was apparently viewed as a sensitive one, according to documents filed Friday in court by dissident Signal shareholders who are protesting what they claim is more than $100 million to be paid to company officials.

So concerned were Signal officials about the public's perception of the lucrative compensation package tied to the Allied merger, that Marc Stern, Signal's executive vice president, penned his thoughts about it to Allied Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Hennessy Jr.

Wrote Stern: "Let's hope the whole world will be on vacation during the first couple of weeks the proxy statement hits the street."

Meanwhile, the court documents state that the "golden parachutes" description of the executives' compensation would "more accurately be termed 'golden giveaways.' "

Book Price

Students and faculty at San Diego State University are learning a bit about competition and monopoly, as they fight back against what they perceive as too-high prices charged for textbooks at the on-campus Aztec Bookstore.

A new bookstore has opened next to the campus and many professors, angered by the Aztec Bookstore's prices, have apparently withheld their textbook lists from the on-campus bookstore.

The board of directors of the Aztec Shops, parent of the campus book store, is considering a proposal that would require university professors to submit a textbook list to Aztec Bookstore.

That proposal promoted one student to write in the Daily Aztec Monday that if competitors were indeed allowed "access to the lucrative SDSU textbook market," university officials "might have to adjust . . . prices on a more realistic scale."

All in Fun

Who said bankers are stuffy? Not Thomas Sefton, president of San Diego Trust & Savings Bank.

Earlier this month, The Times ran a "Dollars and Nonsense" cartoon that showed a man on bended knee, playing his guitar and serenading a bank employee at her teller's window.

The caption read, "That's very sweet, Mr. Sefton, but you still don't have enough money in your account to cover this check."

All of which prompted a letter to The Times from the real Mr. Sefton, whose grandfather founded San Diego Trust in 1889. "Father was the next president, I have been president since 1960 and have a son waiting in the wings," he wrote. "As you can see, the bank is well-endowed with Seftons, which I have found to be an unusual name."

Oh, oh, a demand for a retraction? Far from it. "I am sure the name 'Sefton' was picked at random by the cartoonist and would you be kind enough to pass along the message that we're pleased with the coincidence at San Diego Trust."

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