really consistof a dialogue鈥攊n some cases it鈥檚 more of a duel鈥攂etween thechairman and the few professional stockholders. 鏉窞鐢峰＋鍏荤敓鎺ㄨ崘 Thecontributions of non-professionals run strongly to ill-informed ortame questions and windy encomiums of management, andthus the task of making cogent criticisms or askingembarrassing questions falls to the professionals. Though largelyself-appointed, they become, by default, 鏉窞瀹跺涵寮忎釜浜轰繚鍋?the sole representativesof a huge constituency that may badly need representing. Someof them are not very good representatives, and a few are sobad that their conduct raises a problem in American manners;these few repeatedly say things at annual meetings鈥攂oorish,silly, insulting, 鏉窞瓒虫荡搴楁壘浼戦棽濂?or abusive things鈥攖hat are apparently permissibleby corporate rules but are certainly impermissible bydrawing-room rules, and sometimes succeed in giving theannual meetings of mighty companies the general air ofbarnyard squabbles. Mrs. Soss, a former public-relations womanwho has been a tireless professional stockholder since 1947, isusually a good many cuts above this level. True, she is notbeyond playing to the gallery by wearing bizarre costumes tomeetings; she tries, with occasional success, to taunt recalcitrantchairmen into throwing her out; 鏉窞妗戞嬁璁哄潧 she is often scolding andoccasionally abusive; and nobody could accuse her of beingunduly concise. I confess that her customary tone and mannerset my teeth on edge, but I can鈥檛 help recognizing that,because she does her homework, she usually has a point. Mr.
Gilbert, who has been at 鏉窞姘寸枟spa it since 1933 and is the dean ofthem all, almost invariably has a point, and by comparison withhis colleagues he is the soul of brevity and punctilio as well asof dedication and diligence. Despised as professionalstockholders are by most company managements, Mrs. Sossand Mr. Gilbert are widely enough recognized to be listed inWho鈥檚 Who in America; furthermore, for what satisfaction itmay bring them, they are the nameless Agamemnons andAjaxes, invariably called
鈥渋ndividuals,鈥?in some of the prose epicsproduced by the business Establishment itself. (鈥淭he 鏉窞鐢峰＋spa浼氭墍 greaterportion of the discussion period was taken up by questions andstatements of a few individuals on matters that can scarcely bedeemed relevant.鈥?Two individuals interrupted the openingstatement of the chairman.鈥?The chairman advised theindividuals who had interrupted to choose 鏉窞涓汉涓濊涓婇棬 between ceasing theirinterruption or leaving the meeting.鈥︹€?So reads, in part, theofficial report of the 1965 A.T. & T. annual meeting.) Andalthough Mr. Saxon鈥檚 piece in the Harvard Business Reviewwas entirely about professional stockholders and how to dealwith them, the 鏉窞spa鍝噷鍙互鍙?author鈥檚 corporate dignity did not permit him tomention the name of even one of them. Avoiding this wasquite a trick, but Mr. Saxon pulled it off.
Both Mrs. Soss
and Mr. Gilbert were present at Cobo Hall.
Indeed, the meeting had barely got under way before Mr.
Gilbert was on his feet 鏉窞妗戞嬁娲楁荡 complaining that several resolutions hehad asked the company to include in the proxy statement andthe meeting agenda had been omitted from both. Mr. Kappel鈥攁ster