The Big Boys

“Big boys” is the name used by blue-and white-collar workers alike to refer to the executives who direct the giant corporations of America and the world. Curiosity about these men, whose business activities are generally so public but whose personal motivations and values are so private, spurred the authors of this study to examine the men at the top of companies operating in critical segments of the economy.

David Roderick, Roger Smith, and Paul Orrefice of U. S. Steel, General Motors, and Dow Chemical respectively represent the more typical organization men whose success is measured primarily by the amount of money they make for their companies. Thomas Jones and Whitney MacMillan of Northrop and Cargill also fall into this category. Felix Rohatyn, investment banker, and Charls Walker, tax lobbyist, are categorized as transactional leaders who advocate selected positions in highly controversial areas, often working to create change along well-defined lines. Finally, there are the founder-entrepreneurs: William McGowan of MCI and William Norris of Control Data, men more willing than many corporate executives to espouse openly positions of corporate social responsibility, to state clearly concerns about current directions in American business.

Meticulous research using published source material, government documents, transcripts of legal proceedings, and interviews with colleagues, analysts, and public officials lends authority to this impressive volume. Six of the nine subjects agreed to personal interviews, and it is with these men that the book truly comes alive, showing them to be intelligent, often insightful, but very human. Even as the authors measure their subjects against a yardstick of social and economic responsibility, they provide the reader with a book that is remarkably objective and truly informative.