Friday May 26th, 2006

Stewart & Stevenson shareholders accept sale to Armor Holdings…Gasoline prices dip slightly for Memorial Day weekend…Former Enron employees’ reactions range from elation to satisfaction to indifference on convictions of Lay and Skilling… Shareholders of Stewart & Stevenson, the military truck manufacturers with a factory near Sealy, have approved the $1.11 billion sale of the company […]

Stewart & Stevenson shareholders accept sale to Armor Holdings…Gasoline prices dip slightly for Memorial Day weekend…Former Enron employees’ reactions range from elation to satisfaction to indifference on convictions of Lay and Skilling…

Shareholders of Stewart & Stevenson, the military truck manufacturers with a factory near Sealy, have approved the $1.11 billion sale of the company to Florida-based Armor Holdings, which provides armor used for vehicles used in Iraq by the U.S. armed forces. The sale ends Stewart & Stevenson’s more than 100-year history as a Houston-based company. Stewart & Stevenson makes a family of medium tactical vehicles, or FMTV vehicles. The company began in 1902 as a partnership between a blacksmith and a wagon maker. The company’s trucks can carry as much as five tons of cargo. The sale to Armor has received U.S. antitrust clearance.

Texas retail gasoline prices dipped this week–just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. The weekly AAA Texas gas price survey released today shows self-serve regular is averaging $2.79 per gallon–down six cents from last week. That’s at a time when the price is averaging $2.86 per gallon nationally. That, too, is down six cents. Auto club spokeswoman Rose Rougeau notes, however, that the average price remains nearly 80 cents per gallon higher than a year ago. The most expensive price average in Texas is in the Galveston-Texas City area, where it averages $2.91 per gallon. That’s down nearly four cents. The cheapest price average is in Corpus Christi at $2.56 per gallon. That’s down 15 cents from last week.

The nation’s boaters don’t plan to let a little thing like soaring gas prices spoil their summer fun. A study by the Recreational Marine Research Center shows 94 percent of boaters will be on the water this summer even if fuel prices raise another $1 a gallon. At the same time, though, rising gas prices will affect their vacation plans. Forty-five percent of those asked say they’re more likely to reduce dining out or entertainment than trim the time they spend on their boat, while another 52 percent plan to cut down on their driving. Just 25 percent they’re reducing their boating time. Still, boaters say they’ll look for ways to cut the amount of fuel they use while on the water. Seventy-five percent will slow down, 69 percent will tune their engines and 56 percent say they’ll take shorter trips.

Citgo Petroleum is relocating 350 jobs from its Tulsa, Oklahoma offices to Houston this summer. That brings the total number of Citgo-related jobs in this area to 1,050. The latest relocation will occur before the company’s lease runs out in Tulsa in March 2008. Forty-five Citgo employees will remain in Tulsa in a payment card operations center and lubricants laboratory.

Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling have been known as hands-on executives and corporate titans who directed Enron. Now they can add another title: convicted felons. Lay was convicted on all six counts against him in the trial with Skilling. Skilling was convicted on 19 of the 28 counts against him and acquitted on the remaining nine. Lay was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate, non-jury trial related to his personal banking. Sentencing’s set for September 11th in Houston. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake set a $5 million bond for Lay and ordered him to surrender his passport. He allowed Skilling to remain free on his present bond. Meanwhile, jurors in the retrial of two former executives from Enron’s defunct broadband unit wrapped up deliberations without reaching a verdict. The case involves fraud and conspiracy charges against the unit’s former finance chief Kevin Howard and in-house accountant Michael Krautz.

Former employees’ reactions ranged from elation to satisfaction to indifference after hearing about the convictions of Enron founder Ken Lay and former chief executive Jeff Skilling. Sherri Saunders got the call at her desk and squealed “yes!” The 59-year-old lost her job and $1 million in retirement savings when the energy trader went bankrupt. Brian Cruver turned on the television, saw news of the verdicts and kept on working. But he said he would have reacted strongly if the men had been acquitted. Saunders and Cruver were among some 4,000 employees who were told they no longer had jobs the day after Enron filed for bankruptcy. On that December 2001 day, they were given only 30 minutes to pack their belongings and leave the building in downtown Houston.

Ken Lay’s conviction may prompt the University of Missouri to rethink using more than $1 million worth of Enron stock donated before its collapse. Today, University of Missouri curator John Carnahan III said the system’s flagship campus should speak with Lay about alternative uses of the donation. Lay is a southern Missouri native who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia in the 1960s. The Kenneth L. Lay chair in economics created in 1998 has yet to be filled.

A new book called What You Don’t Know and Your Boss Won’t Tell You: Advice from Senior Female Executives on What You Need to Succeed covers the unwritten and often unspoken habits of senior management. Author Pamela Lenehan says women have learned a lot in the workplace.

“Well, I think a lot more men have working wives these days, which is a real positive. I always said I want to work for somebody who either had a working wife or a working daughter. So what you’re finding is that a lot more men out there are really gender-neutral. But it doesn’t change the fact that everyone expects you to behave in what a lot of people would call more of a male way.” Ed: “Tell us about how you compiled the information for this book.” “I interviewed 35 women across the country. I wanted people who were very senior, so these were women who were partners in either law, accounting, investment banking, consulting firms or presidents of companies or divisions of companies. So these are people who hire, fire, promote and compensate people, and I wanna know, what are they looking for in people?”

Lenehan says develop close relationships at work, but go slowly and be cautious with what you share.

“I think a lot of people know that when you’re on a sports team, everybody’s competing for positions on the team, but we kind of forget that in business. So you’ve gotta remember that the person sitting next to you could be your boss tomorrow or could be your subordinate tomorrow. You just may not want them to know all the personal details about you.” Ed: “How do you draw the line between working relationships and friendships?” “I think that some of these people will end up being very close friends of yours. I mean, some of my best friends have come out of the workplace, and I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people. But just let these things develop slowly over time. You know, you really know who your friends are when you move on to the next job–how many people do you really keep in contact with? For example, I think that a lot of times, for example, if you have a family, you may have a lot off issues in balancing work and family, and you just feel like you want to dump on people at the office. But the problem is if they think you’re out of control in your personal life, they’re gonna think you can’t handle your work. So, sometimes you think you’re sharing, when in fact you’re really putting your own job at risk because people think you can’t do it.” Ed: “In your research, do you find that some of the principles that you’ve come up with apply across the board, no matter what kind of work?” “I think one of the most important things is that you have to communicate your ideas well. Whether you’re an engineer or a sales person, you really need to influence people. So you need to be sure that your communications are concise and to the point.”

Lenehan says don’t assume someone else is managing your career for you.

“You have to remember that there’s no mother/father figure out there who’s guiding you career. So you need to figure out where you wanna go and what kind of experience you need to get there. Ed: “And what about difficult-to-deal-with superiors?” Well, it depends on how difficult. Sometimes you need to get people, adjust to people, but sometimes you’re just in the wrong place. So, if you’re with a company that puts up with abusive personalities, people who don’t treat their people very well, and you’re uncomfortable in that situation, no matter how good the job is or how well they pay you, you just may have the wrong cultural fit, and you may need to go someplace else.” Ed: “Now, in your personal career, did you have sort of a long-range plan or, you know, 20 or 30-year plan, something like that where, you know, ‘I wanna be at this point by this date’? How did you manage your career?” “I didn’t! (laughs) So, I was one of those people who lucked into my first job at Chase Manhattan Bank, and had a wonderful training program. But when I came out of that, I said, okay I look young, and I want to, how do I gain people’s respect? What I did was I went into technology. I went into lending money to technology companies cause I thought the more that I can impress people understanding their business, the more it would help me. And so that’s really been the sort of theme throughout my four different careers, is I had a theme of understanding people’s business.” Ed: “And also there’s a trick to balancing family or personal life with career, too.” “There is. It’s tough. I mean, anybody who’s had young children knows how hard it is to do everything you need to do in a 24-hour period, but unfortunately you need to make it look easy. So I would say you’ve gotta have child care for the real world, because the fact is you can’t always pick up the kids on time, you know sometimes you’ve late meetings, occasionally you have to travel. So you’ve gotta plan for sick kids, you’ve gotta plan for late meetings. You’ve gotta have back-up.”

Lenehan’s book What You Don’t Know and Your Boss Won’t Tell You is published by Syren Books.

Incomes and spending were both on the rise last month. And the Commerce Department says a gauge of inflation watched by the Federal Reserve posted the biggest increase in 13 months. Consumer spending jumped six-tenths of one percent, while incomes surged one-half of one percent, helped by rising wages and salaries. The measure of core inflation, which excludes food and energy, was up 2.1 percent in April. Financial markets have been on guard for signs of rising inflation, as the central bank debates how much more it needs to hike interest rates. The next policy-setting session is scheduled for late June.

Representatives of American Airlines flight attendants say the company is making misleading comments about the union’s role in finding cost-saving measures. The executive committee of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said today it voted to urge the company to immediately stop the “mischaracterization” of the union’s position during employee meetings around the country. The two sides agreed to meet next week to discuss the conflict. Since 2003, chief executive Gerard Arpey and other executives at American have touted their effort to work with unions to help return the carrier to profitability. The cooperative mood was strained this year, however, when workers learned that because of AMR’s rising stock price, managers would get bonuses ranging from several hundred dollars to more than $1 million each for three senior executives. In response, the flight attendants pulled out of a program called the performance leadership initiative, designed to find moneysaving ideas. The vice president of the flight attendants’ union says that company officials were giving misleading information at town hall meetings. A spokeswoman for the airline says company officials were talking about information gathered during the early stages of the performance review, which was completed before the flight attendants pulled out of the program.

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