Message to Doug Parker.
Last week we imitated the famous line from the movie “E.T.,” to “phone home,” and asked new RadioShack CEO Joe Magnacca to “come home” with RadioShack.
There’s a feeling that Fort Worth is really no longer home for RadioShack. This week we simply want Parker to keep Fort Worth as home for the newly merged US Airways and American Airlines. American’s home base is Fort Worth. It’s not Dallas. In fact, we want Doug Parker to bring his wife and the little Parker children to live in Fort Worth. Second-best will be anywhere in Tarrant County. If he needs assistance, I’ll even send Parker the names and phone numbers of my two favorite Fort Worth realtors. Former American CEO Gerard Arpey lives here and he sent his children to school in Fort Worth. Not certain where current American CEO Tom Horton resides. Bob Crandall lived in Dallas but when I was publisher we had the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hand-delivered directly to his door just to show him that Fort Worth customer service was superior to the Dallas Morning News which was thrown somewhere on his lawn. A CEO needs to live in the town his or her company calls home. When I moved to Texas in 1986 to run the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a realtor, Hazel Vernon, told me I had many choices for homes here. I was thrilled, I said, to be able to look at the cool, new developments in places such as Colleyville. She turned up her nose. “As I said you have many, many choices – as long as they are in Fort Worth. I am not showing you houses outside the city limits. You run a Fort Worth business.” I got it. The current American board has Matt Rose, Burlington Northern’s CEO, as a member. Ever since the inception of American someone from Fort Worth has been on the board. Amon Carter Jr. was the first of those local board members. Since we are outlining business plans for local businesses such as RadioShack and now the new American, let us suggest that Parker add another Fort Worth businessperson to the board. Much of the strength of this community and the engine behind its growth has been the collaborative power of Fort Worth business executives. Over the years, that power has been watered down as locally-based national companies have hired CEO’s who did not engage in the local community. Fort Worth’s a unique big city because it acts like a small city. There has been a long-standing competition with Dallas which is healthy and today there is a small group of business people who meet, somewhat privately, to work at more cooperation between the cities. Clearly, that is a smart idea. Working more closely with Dallas makes sense for all of North Texas and better and more collaborative efforts for partnerships will help us manage the enormous growth that continues to this day. The Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys have smartly built their venues halfway between the cities, in Arlington. And, hopefully, we are long past the crazy days with Fort Worth and Dallas fighting about such things as Southwest Airlines and Love Field. And, you know, Dallas is a great city but it could exist anywhere in the world. It’s a big, glamorous, sophisticated metropolis. But it’s about as Texan as Miami. So, these new efforts of collaboration among cities is great, but we still need Fort Worth companies to retain their local flavor and commitment. The reason for that is simple. This is a truly unique city that takes growth seriously but has a good time making great things happen. It’s a city with a sense of humor and a twang. Forget all this stuff about culture and cowboys, the violin juxtaposed with the boots. This is Foat Wuth and we luv ya.’ Parker should fit right in, according to the descriptions of his management style and personality. He’s an approachable and high-spirited guy. He’s also just as obviously a dreamer and a risk-taker, a man who would not take American’s defiant “no” to merger ideas as a final answer. It seems you cannot help but wonder if things might have turned out better for American if, along the way, it had a leader like Southwest’s Herb Kelleher who chain-smoked, drank whiskey, and stamped his Southwest airline with his fun-loving spirit and sense of risk and innovation. The airline did not take itself seriously except when it came to profits. Not a bad idea. Parker, it would seem, has that opportunity here. He’s no stranger to either North Texas or Fort Worth because he once worked at American Airlines’ headquarters. And speaking of a the need for a sense of humor, its about the only antidote for those of us trying to comprehend how Horton, who understandably has had a tough job, will be paid $19 million plus stock in the new company when he leaves. His departure will be presumably after the first shareholder company meeting in mid-2014. He will be chairman of the new company until then. He’s spent the bulk of his career in finance for a company that lost over $12 billion in the last 10 years. How do you get a bonus for that kind of financial performance? Well, hopefully those ongoing American Airlines woes are behind us. The new company gets a fresh start, a new beginning, but in its old home – Fort Worth. Meet you at Billy Bob’s, Doug. We’ll down a Lone Star and watch the locals boot-scoot their way to cowboy happiness. Mr. Parker, make Fort Worth your new home. Contact Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org