15 October 2010

Bob Haldeman Interview (30)

The railroad bridge at the ghost town of Sewell, Chile

"When the prices go down, you people curtail production,
fire 30 or 40 percent of your people, and at the end of the year
hire them back again. How can we Chileans plan a budget for our
country when you make the decisions without advising us?" It's
true, and they had no other sources of income of exports.
Nitrate was a sad business; it was just barely alive. He said,
"You've got to incorporate yourself more in the Chilean scene of
business here. Why don't you think of becoming a Chilean
company. You don't have to lose your control of the company,
but offer shares in the local market. Get some shareholders,
get Chileans involved with you so that they can defend your
position. When your dividends go down or the government wants
to tax you, I don't protest. But if I had a block of shares in
the company, I'd certainly make a fuss. And have your board
here, a local board, where decisions are made, and you have
Chilean representatives on the board who have shares on the
board. They don't have to have control. They're going to get
the message over to the government that this is a business, and
you just can't treat it any other way. It has to hurt our
pockets a little bit before you get some help and defense."

Deserted barracks at the ghost town of Sewell, Chile
I thought it over, and he made an awful lot of sense. I
went back to my office with my two lawyers and sat down and told
them what I thought. They didn't disagree. They were aware of
it, but nobody wanted to really bring it out.

Swent: Were these Chilean lawyers?

Haldeman: Yes. But to think, at that time, of a Chilean lawyer to tell a
100-percent owned American company that they should incorporate
and sell shares on the market never-never land; they wouldn't
dream of that.

Swent: It doesn't sound strange now, does it?

Haldeman: Well, the world has changed.

I said to the lawyers, "Let's get to work. I want you to
educate me on all the legislation in regards to corporations,"
which I never had to bother about because we were a wholly-owned
subsidiary in the U.S. We worked three, four, five months I
guess it was. I put together a whole presentation, a whole
package of what I proposed to do--to have a Chilean board, et

I made enough dress rehearsals that I was absolutely sure I
could present this myself, and I became very convinced of the
thing. We would get this nationalistic feeling off our backs.
And if you want to share the profits, share them. Sometimes
it's better to be a pig, not a hog. A pig just eats a little
bit, but the hog eats it all.

I talked to Michaelson, and I told him what I had in mind.
He said it sounded good, but what I had to do was convince
Mr. Milliken (President of Kennecott at that time --RS)
on the thing. He said, "Look, if you want to come
up, I'll arrange for a meeting. You come up and sell your plan
to him."

Index to Haldeman Interview 

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