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November 17, 2008

I’ll Run Chrysler! At Least I’d Be Funny


Mr. J. Danforth Quayle


Cerberus Capital Management

And Why Does Your Name Sound Otherwise Familiar?

Never Mind


Dear Mr. Quayle,


So you’re the chairman of the bunch that owns Chrysler, eh? Fun times for you. Not only is your company just this side of bankruptcy, but your two bigger domestic competitors are in as bad a condition as you are. You can’t even get any face time! It’s not like 30 years ago, when that attention-mongering guy ran your company and Chrysler was all over the news for needing a government bailout to survive.


These days? Get in line. GM and Ford want bailouts. The City of Detroit has asked for a bailout. It’s the new heroin chic. My next door neighbor Dave is thinking of asking for a bailout too, just to be a wise guy. So you can’t even win for losing. You’re just one of the suckers these days.


Or you were, until it came out in the news that you’re paying 50 top executives a total of $30 million in “retention bonuses,” just as you’re getting ready to ask Uncle Sam to bail you out again.


This whole business about executive bonuses has gotten a little odd. Aren’t bonuses supposed to be rewards for performance? These days, if you simply don’t quit, you get a “retention bonus.” And even if you do quit, you get a “golden parachute.”


Does anyone do any work around there?

At any rate, I understand you inherited these contracts from Daimler when you bought Chrysler from them. (An aside, and I suppose we could spend all day on this: Doesn’t your group invest in companies you can sell for a profit? And you bought Chrysler thinking this would happen? Chrysler? Really, you thought this was a good idea, did you?) OK, so, you inherited the bonus obligations and thought you should honor them.


About that. It seems to me that if the executives’ continued presence compelled you to pay the bonuses, you could have, oh, I don’t know, maybe . . . fired them? See? Executives not retained. No need to pay bonuses. I remember when the Minnesota Vikings got rid of Randall Cunningham so they wouldn’t have to pay him a “roster bonus,” which is basically a retention bonus for football players. He was not good enough to be worth paying a bonus just for being on the roster. From what I’ve seen of your company’s recent performance, neither is your executive team.


Now I’m sure you’re wondering, “But who would run our company if our executives weren’t here?” That’s where I’m going to help you out.


Perhaps you’ve seen my column. I am a funny guy, if I do say so myself, who owns a business. Many people think my management style is in fact the joke, and it very well may be, but that would make me the perfect CEO for Chrysler.


If you hire me as CEO, you will only have to pay me for working. Not for staying. Not for quitting. I realize Chrysler is privately held, so I would have no hope of getting any stock options, but really, who would want your stock? I bet you wish you didn’t own any.


Too late for that, though. But what you can still do is put the man in charge who is the perfect fit for Chrysler. I am a joker, and Chrysler is a joke. We are a match made in Heaven. I will make fun of everything – your history, your prior CEOs (especially you-know-who, but also that guy who you got from the Dodgers) and of course, your products. I will cancel all union contracts, because I just prefer not to deal with unions, and when they try to haul me before the National Labor Relations Board, I’ll pretend to get lost on the way!


What I won’t do is turn your company’s performance around. Your cars stink. I wouldn’t buy one to save my life. I’d show up for work in a Nissan Altima. But I would be so hilarious, Congress just might give you the bailout money so they could continue to be entertained by me.


It’s not much of a plan, I’ll grant you, but at least it’s a novel approach, and I don’t see where you have much hope otherwise.


You know where to find me.


And if this Chrysler thing doesn’t work out, maybe you could try politics. You may think it’s not as noble a profession as business, but po-tay-toe/po-tah-toe, I say.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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