This just in from the You-Can’t-Make-This-Stuff-Up Dept:
When the Charlotte Center City Partners called former First Union CEO Ed Crutchfield about honoring him with this year’s Vision Award, it brought back a lot of memories.
Memories of working with other civic leaders to build the Charlotte we know today, Crutchfield says.
Helping build a charity hospital into Carolinas HealthCare System. Strengthening the school system. Landing professional sports teams, the NBA’s Hornets and then the Carolina Panthers. Seeing Charlotte Douglas International Airport turn into one of the busiest in the nation. Running United Way campaigns. [Emph. added.]
Oh, please. Ed Crutchfield’s “vision,” if one can call it that, consisted of diluting his shareholders again and again, via one deal after another, in order to build a banking empire that, at its height, was a monument to big-bank dysfunctionality. The old First Union couldn’t do anything particularly well. After 90 or so deals starting in 1985, Crutchfield’s megalomania culminated in 1998 with First Union’s acquisition of Philadelphia’s CoreStates. At the time, the CoreStates deal was biggest banking merger in U.S. history; it ended up embodying the Crutchfield m.o. writ large. The integration was rushed, back-office systems didn’t work, and customers left in droves. Planned cost savings failed to materialize. Billions in shareholder value went up in smoke. Oh, but Charlotte has a pro basketball team now. Thanks, Ed!
Ed Crutchfield’s leadership at First Union didn’t enrich anyone-certainly not his long-term shareholders-except Crutchfield himself and his cronies in the executive suite. Worse, his legacy of acquire-no-matter-what doomed the bank in 2006, when then-CEO Ken Thompson decided it would be a good idea for Wachovia (First Union’s successor) to buy Golden West Financial. You know what happened next.
For this Ed Crutchfield is being hailed by Charlotte’s city fathers as a visionary? They must be delusional! He built a corporate monument to himself on the backs of his shareholders, and left behind an institution whose culture virtually assured it would eventually self-destruct. That’s not a legacy anyone should want to leave behind. I’m surprised the people in Charlotte actually want to honor him for it.
What do you think? Let me know!