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THE BOTTOM LINE

It Looks, Sounds, Acts Like a Board, but . . .

April 15, 1986|Bill Ritter

It looks like a board of directors. It sounds like a board of directors. It acts like a board of directors. And, for all intents and purposes, the advisory committee organized last week by Berkman & Daniels, the local public relations agency, will function like a board of directors.

Except for one little thing--the group has no fiduciary responsibility for the company.

"Most companies can't get directors and officers insurance, so people are reluctant to go on boards," according to Duane Nelles, a partner in the local office of Coopers & Lybrand.

It was Nelles who first pitched the idea of an advisory board to Berkman & Daniels. Now, he is one of five local executives--only two of them clients of the firm--who will advise Berkman & Daniels on growth planning and efficient operations.

The concept is a growing trend, said Nelles.

"Lots of companies are doing this--it's a real trend," he said, "because lots of people in the community are well-suited for sitting on these kinds of boards."

The concept, Nelles added, suggests a more informal structure than a traditional board of directors. "And you can remove and add people easier than with a formal board."

The group's first meeting is this afternoon, during which, according to Berkman & Daniels partner Richard Daniels, the committee will be asked to help Berkman & Daniels control costs during growth and gain entry into new industries.

The five advisers will receive an annual--and undisclosed--stipend.

Turn-offs and Turn-ons

Consumers probably won't feel sorry for San Diego Gas & Electric's utility bill collection problems, but the numbers are nonetheless impressive.

Monthly, the utility receives 2,200 bad checks, while as many as 12,000 energy bills go unpaid, according to Terry Thomas, SDG&E credit supervisor.

That translates into 2,000 customer cutoffs each month.

But living in the dark doesn't last long. The average shut-off time is 24 hours, according to Thomas.

Call it the leverage principle.

Christiana Puts Its Toys Away

Investors need a score card to keep track of Christiana Cos.' wheelings and dealings, as well as its changes in corporate direction.

The latest curveball is the San Diego-based company's sale of F.A.O. Schwarz, the New York-based retailer of upscale children's toys that the company purchased last summer for $10.6 million.

The move recalls the olden days, when Christiana was owned by Texas investor John H. Roberts Jr.

Since then, the company has been sold to a Dallas-based financial institution--Western Savings Assn., which has steered Christiana back to its real estate roots.

So, adios F.A.O. Schwarz. The retailer was sold to a group headed by Philadelphia investment banker Peter C. Morse and Peter L. Harris, Schwarz's president and chief executive.

And Now, the Man Behind the Legend

It's not as if San Diegans haven't heard enough about developer Ernest Hahn--what with all the hoopla in the last nine months from Horton Plaza and North County Faire.

Now, the marketing staff at Ernest W. Hahn Inc. is peddling story ideas to local reporters designed to promote Hahn's 40th anniversary in business.

In a four-page letter from Kim Wenrick, Hahn's director of corporate communications, reporters are asked if they would like to write a story on Hahn as a leader in the shopping mall industry, the sociological impact of shopping malls, a history of the Hahn company or simply a story on Ernie Hahn, which Wenrick called a "profile of a legend."

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