So in the spirit of the best in summer reading, here are some short takes on recent topics.
I love a good business book, and one of the best I've ever read came out in 1989 — coincidentally, the same year Plastics News started publishing.
“Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco,” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar of The Wall Street Journal, took me inside a world of finance, celebrity and greed that I had not seen — at least close up — in my career as a business reporter.
Who knew at the time that I'd end up covering private equity investments in manufacturing on a weekly basis? Private equity ownership of plastics processors and machinery companies has been one of the most important trends in the U.S. plastics industry of the past two decades.
Too bad our stories don't all end up as exciting as the battle between F. Ross Johnson, Henry Kravis and Ted Forstmann.
I was thinking about private equity during the recent Plastics Financial Summit in Chicago. Phil Yates, senior adviser for Irving Place Capital, was the keynote speaker. Yates, the former chairman and CEO of Graham Packaging Co., gave a great overview into how the plastics packaging sector has changed, in part with the rise of private equity ownership.
Twenty years ago, Graham Packaging changed plastics packaging with its strategy of putting bottle plants right next door to customers' facilities. Yates talked about how Graham would insist on signing long-term contracts with customers, then it would invest in whatever technology was necessary — sometimes even promising to make products it had never made before.
“If you have a 15-year contract backing you up, you're going to do anything you can to be successful,” Yates said.
We've published two letters to the editor now from readers who disagree with our decision to cover the arrest of machinery company owner Georg Nemeskeri. I'm always very reluctant to reply in print to our Mailbags — I prefer to let readers have the last word. But in this case, I never really expressed how I felt about the issue. So I'll make a rare exception:
First, covering distasteful news isn't an easy decision, or something that I like doing. When we found out about the arrest, I discussed it at length with our correspondent, Catherine Schulz MacArthur. We decided it was important plastics industry news — Nemeskeri owns a prominent company, and he was president of the firm until a week after the arrest.
We didn't put the story on Page 1, or send it to readers in a news alert, or even put it in the lead spot in our Daily Email. We're not here to hype sensational news coverage. We kept to the facts and reported the news.
I'm not surprised that some readers were offended, or felt that this type of news has no place in a trade newspaper. We've been hearing complaints like that since we started publishing. While I disagree, I appreciate your point of view, and thank you for sharing it with all our readers.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.