Jan. 13, 2003) — It's time again for the Plastic Globe Awards, our annual tongue-in-cheek look at the lighter side of the industry.
HIRED GUN AWARD: To Lord Melchett, former head of Greenpeace, who last year joined public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to work on its so-called Corporate Social Responsibility unit. Clients include chemical giant Monsanto Co. Melchett once was arrested and charged with criminal damage following an attack on a field of genetically modified grain.
LOST ICON AWARD: To Southwest Airlines, which dropped its colorful plastic boarding passes after more than 30 years of service. The passes saved money for the thrifty air carrier, but the Dallas-based firm had to start using paper boarding passes for security reasons: It made it easier to learn whether anyone who checked a bag didn't end up boarding a plane.
PLASTIC IS A WOMAN'S BEST FRIEND AWARD: To Consolidated Container Co., which on May 7 told workers at its Trexlertown, Pa., plant to remove loose jewelry. Normally that sort of safety move wouldn't make headlines, but some workers of Chinese or Vietnamese heritage complained to a local newspaper because they were forced to take off jade bracelets that they believe pro-tect them from evil and illness.
HOW ABOUT STUFFING A CORK IN IT AWARD: To Britain's Prince Charles, who, in a June speech, decried plastic wine corks as “nasty plastic plugs.” Charles apparently prefers the cork variety, according to the Portuguese Cork Association, a trade group that welcomed his royal endorsement.
LOW-VOLUME BAG CONTRACT AWARD: To pro-euthanasia group Exit, which in July announced it would begin free distribution of plastic bags designed to help its members commit suicide. The so-called “Exit bag” is large enough to fit over a person's head. The group had trouble supplying an earlier model after the maker was arrested.
HOW COME THEY BREAK IN MY ICE CREAM? AWARD: To the plastic spoons that two inmates used to pick locks and escape from a new, $19 million, maximum-security prison near Browns-ville, Texas. One county commissioner commented: “Spoons? Imagine what they can do with a fork.”
QUOTE OF THE YEAR AWARD: To Tim Stojka, who put his former Web-based business venture in a somewhat positive light in August when he said, “At PlasticsNet it was never really about making a lot of money, but about changing the world.”
COOTIE AWARD: To Dr. M. Ipe, an Indian scientist who claimed to discover a termite that would eat plastic waste. He suggested setting up termite farms around the world to munch polyethylene bags and other hard-to-degrade material.
I'D LIKE TO THANK THE JUDGES AWARD: To Martha Williams, founder and president of Stylemaster Inc. Williams received an “Inner City 100” award from Inc Magazine for creating new jobs and bringing economic development to Chicago's South Side. The award was announced just a week after the firm emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
DROP-OUT AWARD: To former General Electric Co. chief Jack Welch and former HPM Corp. owner Neil Kadisha, both of whom dropped off the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest Americans in 2002. Don't feel too bad for them — the cutoff to be included this year was $550 million.
KA-BOOM! AWARD: To the formerly top-secret Donetsk State Chemical Plant in the Ukraine, which has converted to peacetime production of plastic toys. There's just one catch: For its raw material, the plant uses recycled casings from anti-personnel land mines. Step one — remove the detonator …
GOOD FENCES, GOOD NEIGHBORS AWARD: To former Moll Industries Inc. Chairman George Votis, who found himself in a public battle with Revlon head Ron Perelman this summer after Votis planned to add a small concert hall and office space to his Manhattan townhouse. The hall would brick over views at Perelman's townhouse, according to New York press reports. Votis, whose immaculate property was featured in Architectural Digest in July, left Moll this year after the debt-heavy injection molder was forced into bankruptcy.
DAD, CAN YOU HELP ME OUT? AWARD: To William Channell Jr., president and chief operating officer of injection molder Channel Commercial Corp., for getting his company to guarantee $600,000 of what the firm said was “personal debt.” Channell's father owns 36 percent of the company.
WE'RE NOT 8 YEARS OLD AWARD: To Disney manager Rob Machado, who was asked to talk about specific financial projections for a potential plastics-themed exhibit at Disney World's Epcot center: “We try not to talk about the business terms. Walt Disney World is about fantasy.”
JUMPING THE GUN AWARD: To various Georgia economic development officials. First, on Oct. 17, Gov. Roy Barnes announced that DaimlerChrysler AG would build a $750 million assembly plant in Georgia. Hours later, DaimlerChrysler called the news “premature,” and has had nothing more to say about it. Three weeks later, local Chamber of Commerce folks in Lavonia, Ga., announced a groundbreaking for the expansion of a Textron Inc. Kautex blow molding plant there. Problem is, there was no groundbreaking, and no official move to actually expand, executives said, noting they were to decide sometime in January. Gov. Barnes, by the way, lost his re-election bid.
I'M IN THE WRONG BUSINESS AWARD: To Cerberus Institutional Buyers LP, which paid $41.5 million for Pilot Industries Inc. on Jan. 31, then turned around and sold it for $85.4 million before Dec. 31.
WRETCHED EXCESS AWARD: To Tyco International Ltd.'s L. Dennis Kozlowski, whose corporate amenities — before he was accused of taking $600 million from the firm — included a $15,000 antique umbrella stand and a $17,100 Venetian traveling toilette box.
BAD-RISK MANAGEMENT AWARD: To Enron Corp., whose plastics resin risk-management executives were as much in the dark about their fate as the rest of the investing world when they touted the firm's ability to help others reduce the risk of resin pricing contracts.
AXIS OF EVIL AWARD: To NAFTA and GATT, which some U.S. mold makers blame for myriad plagues on the industry.
BEST SPIN ON BAD NEWS AWARD: To battery maker Exide Technologies Inc. for describing its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in April as “addressing our balance-sheet issues.”
SIGN THAT THE '90s ARE REALLY OVER AWARD: To Graham Packaging Co. and Crown Cork & Seal Co. Inc., for attempting initial public offerings in 2002 even while the market continued in freefall. Graham pulled back, for the second time in two years, while Crown Cork spun off its Constar PET bottle unit after twice lowering the starting share price.
CORPORATE INTEGRITY AWARD: To Courtesy Corp., which in March denied rumors that it had filed for bankruptcy, even though its parent, LLS Corp., actually had filed for Chapter 11 protection Jan. 16. That wasn't the kind of behavior that earned the firm our 1998 Processor of the Year award.
QUICK KICK AWARD: To Rochester, N.Y., where Empire Precision Plastics Inc. wanted to expand until the city targeted the land for a 15,000-seat stadium for the Rochester Rhinos pro soccer team. Rochester's economic development commissioner later explained: “There's been a misconception that the city favors a stadium over small businesses.” Don't know where anyone would get that idea.
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE $803,000? AWARD: To Patrick Healy, former owner of Richland Molded Products. InnoPlas Corp. of Kenton, Ohio, bought Richland's assets in March for $97,000 at a sheriff's sale. That amount leaves Healy just a bit shy of repaying the $900,000 debt he owes to Charter One Bank after defaulting on a loan in 2001.
MYSTERY DATE AWARD: To film producer Applied Extrusion Technologies Inc., which said in late June that it received “unsolicited expressions of interest” to buy the company. No buyer came forward, while one object of attention, Dor Chemicals Ltd., denied a report that it was one of the shadowy suitors. AET executives said in October that interest was not adequate to sell the firm, thus keeping the mystery unsolved.
BEST NEWS OF THE YEAR AWARD: To German beer drinkers, who were able to purchase their favorite beverage for about 5 cents a can in late December, when retailers raced to clear the old stock in order to comply with a new container-deposit system.