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  • Byers Burlingame

    Interesting piece by Stu Chapman in the latest TW. I wonder whether the remark - "Some people go to their grave proud to be undertakers." Is fair to his memory - after all it was his job to follow instructions to close the automobile division, and as Richard Quinn said in his piece, it was his responsibility to the shareholders to maximize the value of their stockholdings which went from $23 to $60 over the space of 18 Months.

    I feel sure that he and the board would have been pleased had that deal to remove the division and all associated liability been concluded, however they did what they had to do, and as Stu Chapman admits we wouldn't be able to buy Studebaker's now in any case as the company was too small to cope with the costs that were imposed on the Auto industry.

    We are left with the joy of our lovely vehicles and that is enough for me.

    We ended with Different by Design not bland as a bar of soap like today's cars, for which we can be thankful.

    John Clements
    Avantilover, your South Australian Studebaker lover!!!
    Secretary Studebaker Car Club of SA (as of 3/19/08)
    Lockleys South Australia
    John Clements
    Christchurch, New Zealand

  • #2
    Point well taken John, but perhaps due to his insight, Mr. Chapman can make that statement. Remember he knew Mr. Burlingame. There is a difference in dutifully performing an unpleasant task, and in relishing the task.

    55 Commander
    58 Transtar
    62 GT Hawk
    66 Cruiser

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    • #3
      John, Mr. Chapman's statement whether we agree or not is correct. Burlingame was intent for a very longtime in closing down the auto division long before he was handed that task by the BoD after they fired Sherwood Egbert.
      sigpicSee you in the future as I write about our past

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      • #4
        quote:Originally posted by HookedonStudies
        There is a difference in dutifully performing an unpleasant task, and in relishing the task.
        That is correct. In Ed Reynolds Sr's excellent autobiography of working for Studebaker one of his final duties was to destroy all the photographs from the engineering department. He stated "It was one of the most disagreeable tasks I ever performed." It really is a shame all that priceless documentation couldn't have been saved.

        Craig

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        • #5
          Dick Quinn's follow-up remarks in the June 2008 Turning Wheels did a "fair & balanced" job presenting the situation in Mr. Burlingame's favor. It was similar to my ultimate thoughts on Mr. Burlingame posted in the original thread about Dick's March column, which were:

          "For the longest time, especially as a young man of 18 when Studebaker ceased South Bend production, I did not like Mr. Burlingame. I knew he had been Packard's undertaker, and felt certain he had been elected to succeed my hero, Sherwood Egbert, to preside over Studebaker's burial as well. As an unadulterated bean-counter (sorry, Bill Pressler!), I envisioned him needing a stiff drink every evening just to keep his blood circulating above the freezing point.

          However, given the wisdom that comes with age, I now know Mr. Burlingame was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing; protecting shareholder equity in Studebaker Corporation stock, producing a return on the investor's money, and, hopefully, increasing the value of that stock. Sadly, the proud tradition of Studebaker as a vehicle producer necessarily wound up in Mr. Burlingame's crosshairs, to the disappointment of thousands of loyal customers and enthusiasts...and what were certainly hundreds of dedicated dealers and their employees."


          In this current thread, HookedonStudies properly cites Stu Chapman, and Stu alone of all of us, having had the best vantage point to evaluate how gleefully or ruefully Mr. Burlingame approached the task of shutting down the Automotive Division. Mr. Burlingame's personal attitude toward doing so would indeed be critical to the opinion of someone who was there; i.e, Stu Chapman.

          We've all had unpleasant tasks to do in our lifetime. It's our attitude toward "doing what has to be done," however unpleasant, that determines our legacy. Stu's opinion of Byers Burlingame's attitude may be inferred from his [Stu's] remarks in the June 2008 Turning Wheels. Fortunately, Stu is still with us, reporting things in his own words, not leaving them subject to someone else's interpretation!

          Talk about walking a mile in someone else's shoes: How would any of us like to have had Stu Chapman's job in 1964-1966, trying to put the best possible construction on Studebaker's ultimate fate as a vehicle producer?[:0][V] BP
          We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

          G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

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          • #6
            Bob, well said s. I admire Mr. Chapman for seeing it through although it had to be the most unpleasant thing that he ever had to do. I sense his perspective on Mr. Burlingame may be well on as you said "He was there." Also the thoughts of the esteemed Mr. Quinn in his later years also prensent the "fair and balanced" perspective of his role in this also.

            See you in the future as I write about our past
            sigpicSee you in the future as I write about our past

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            • #7
              My grandparents spent the winter in Florida during this timeframe. I was just a boy, but my dad tells me that my grandpa had many friends in Florida that had retired from Studebaker and had lost their pensions. He said of course that they were very bitter about what happened, and rightfully so. My question is this, Was it right for Burlingame to get the stock to $60 from $23 and not honor their retirees pensions? Perhaps that is part of Mr Chapman's feelings.

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              • #8
                John as more tidbits to ponder regarding your topic, the "Burlingame's Game," and the "Mademoiselle" discussions in June 2008 Turning Wheels, I found this story http://www.excaliburclassics.com/story.html

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                • #9
                  Good points all, thanks for the clarifications. As for the pensions, I recall reading that Studebaker started creating the pension plan and paying into it in the 1950s, had auto production continued the funds would have been there to pay them.

                  The post automotive Studebaker was a different corporate entity and had no responsibility to pay the pensions, in effect Studebaker (vehicle company) died with the Worthington merger and a new business Studebaker-Worthington was created. Think it was the Kimes Packard book which had the information, they certainly confirmed Burlinghame was the undertaker.

                  John Clements
                  Avantilover, your South Australian Studebaker lover!!!
                  Secretary Studebaker Car Club of SA (as of 3/19/08)
                  Lockleys South Australia
                  John Clements
                  Christchurch, New Zealand

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    quote:Originally posted by avantilover

                    Good points all, thanks for the clarifications. As for the pensions, I recall reading that Studebaker started creating the pension plan and paying into it in the 1950s, had auto production continued the funds would have been there to pay them.

                    The post automotive Studebaker was a different corporate entity and had no responsibility to pay the pensions, in effect Studebaker (vehicle company) died with the Worthington merger and a new business Studebaker-Worthington was created. Think it was the Kimes Packard book which had the information, they certainly confirmed Burlinghame was the undertaker.

                    John Clements
                    Avantilover, your South Australian Studebaker lover!!!
                    Secretary Studebaker Car Club of SA (as of 3/19/08)
                    Lockleys South Australia
                    Agreed. Pension funds are composed of contributions from both employer and employee, and only remain solvent if new members add enough funds to replenish what is paid out to retiring workers. Studebaker's pension fund was still in the build-up phase, and had nowhere near enough money in it to provide pensions to its workers when the company went out of the car business. I don't blame the workers a bit for being bitter, but the company was under no obligation to pay them anything except to refund their own contributions. In effect, none of them were vested in the system. Some big companies (eg, Microsoft) can afford to be very generous (benefits-wise) with their employees, but Studebaker was in no such condition in 1964. Any effort to provide pensions to its laid-off workers would have bankrupted the company. As noted above, this is just what the board and Burlingame were trying to avoid.

                    As has been noted elsewhere, the plight of Studebaker's workers provoked a new US Federal law regarding pensions.

                    Skip Lackie
                    Washington DC
                    Skip Lackie

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                    • #11
                      Folks one of the things to consider concerning the Studebaker Corp failure to pay the pensions it owned is the fact that while this failure affected many people it led to the passing of Federal legislation known as the Pension Guaranty Act which has helped many people who would have lost their pensions after Studebaker's demise. This act requires mandatory funding levels by all corporations and also guarantees minimum benefits. Just ask those who have retired from Bethlehem Steel what this means to them. This is another Studebaker type story of a major firm gone array. BTW the former blast furnances were lit again on Monday for the filming of the opening scenes of "Transformers @" to be released next year.
                      sigpicSee you in the future as I write about our past

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                      • #12
                        Even undertakers take pride in their work!

                        Miscreant Studebaker nut in California's central valley.

                        1957 Transtar 1/2ton
                        1960 Larkvertible V8
                        1958 Provincial wagon
                        1953 Commander coupe
                        1957 President two door

                        No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.

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                        • #13
                          Only if they can provide a great funeral dirge[}]
                          sigpicSee you in the future as I write about our past

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                          • #14
                            [8] I agree the articles on the 66 closing in the June TW, were good. A few questions to fuel the fire:
                            Wasn't the head of the automtive division always the CEO, prior to Byers.
                            It seems that Grundy was not even a board member; I believe Egbert was.
                            In Byers defence he must have authorized the 66 minor changes.
                            To his detriment, I think he used the last Stude as a personal car for a few years prior to turning it over to the museum.
                            I'm sure many of us had to make choices we did not always agree with to keep our jobs. The man probaly owned a good size share of Studebaker stock, and was getting a good salary. Pictures of him I have seen shows him not to be a young man. Could the thought of losing his position,(and income) weighed on him. Remember that Guthrie was now chairman, and could have him dismissed on a whim.
                            Tony

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