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Case Rip Cord

Debt Policy at UST Inc: Smokeless tobacco is a great subject for a case. It’s also great to see that Professor Mark Mitchell got some help from Janet T. Mitchell writing the case, proving once again that chewing is a family affair.

“[Smokeless tobacco] producers face no potential `second hand’ smoke litigation.” Now I lived in Mississippi for two years, and I have to ask, have you ever kissed someone who’s chewing? I’d certainly sue, I tell you what.

Ford Motor Company’s Value Enhancement Plan: Thank goodness we get some more information on Edsel Ford, his namesake auto, and Edsel Ford II. When will we hear about Lisa Jobs and Apple Computer again? In this case, which focuses on the Ford family’s preoccupation with liquidity in the face of marital failures, we see the first problematic relationship between the Ford and Firestone families in Exhibit 5, as William Clay Ford marries Martha Firestone.

GM-UAW Negotiations, 1984: Apparently not all Negotiations sections saw this documentary about the labor dispute between the large American auto manufacturer and the Canadian arm of the world’s largest union. This film brought out the best in Potty Mouth from the Great White North. Great quotes include, “I would never, never stand-up and recommend that bag of shit,” and “Lord Jesus couldn’t get them back in there.” Recommend the documentary be renamed Fuck you, eh?

Microsoft 2000: Now just when you thought you couldn’t handle another high tech case, Research Associate Carl Johnston produces a most commendable work. Especially entertaining are the section headings “Symbian Liberation Army” and “Gone Fishing, and Everyone’s Carping.” And how about the gratuitous remarks that one VP quit to join the Professional Bowlers’ Association and the CTO left to pursue paleontological dreams? Classic. Finally, I’m glad that if Netscape is “effectively” dead, it’s the standard used by HBS MBA IT for its website construction.

Tax Cuts of 1964: Great to see the appearance of Senator Albert Gore, Sr. in a case. But then Chairman of Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers Walter Heller writes, “Our economy is basically healthy, but one doesn’t treat an elephant’s earache with an eyedropper. (This metaphor has not been certified by [Harvard Professor and Ambassador to India John Kenneth] Galbraith.)” Wonder if Galbraith ever gave the endorsement, or if Heller was forced to come up with something else?
The USSR 1988: Uncle Joe Stalin opens the case, “Either we do it or they crush us.” This quote really got the tune “Feelings” stuck in my head for the rest of the case. Then we get “More than 82% of [the USSR’s] population remained concentrated in the countryside.” Now how do you concentrate a population in an area that size? “Producing planes, guns, and tanks of good quality, the Soviets stopped the German advance.” That’s funny, I always thought the biggest deterrent to Blitzkrieg on the Eastern Front was Uncle Joe’s mandate for a special production run of…winter.

And from our reading notes, The Leader’s (Dis)Advantage: Professor Peter Coughlan uses the term “Incumbent Inertia” to describe the “reluctance of…market leaders to change strategic course.” While this term is quite assonant, I recommend we acknowledge the importance of Momentum in the equation and change the term to the time tested favorite of sportscasters “Uncle Mo.”

Please send your favorite quotes and commentaryto jkayloe@mba2002.hbs.edu. Quotes from all cases in all classes welcomed.

February 26, 2001
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