Daniel McGinn

Stories by Daniel McGinn

  • HOW TO ANTE UP

    Even as regulatory announcements go, this one was anticlimactic. For a decade, corporate bosses and legislators debated what to do about stock options, the compensation tool that launched so many Microsoft Millionaires and inspired so much envy during the '90s boom. But since Enron's collapse, calls for reform have grown too loud to ignore. So last month the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the industry's private rulemaking body, proposed that companies must deduct from earnings the value of options given to employees. Many companies have gotten ahead of those regs, shifting pay practices in ways that are coming to light as they file proxy statements. As more filings are revealed this spring, says consultant Dan Ryterband, there will be "a sea change in compensation."For both worker bees and top brass, the regulatory shift could have a big effect on how much the above-and-beyond-salary portion of pay packages is ultimately worth. Already, pros expect many companies to replace...
  • FASTER FOOD

    It's 4 p.m. on a Tuesday at the Cheesecake Factory in Boston, and the restaurant's atmosphere is calm. After all, just a third of the 352 seats are full. The kitchen staff moves languidly, like a basketball team shooting its first layups. "Look at all these empty tables," says manager John Gordon. "In about a half hour they won't be." Gordon's venue is one of 75 in the Cheesecake empire; last year this location alone grossed $12.8 million--more than three times the sales of the average Outback Steakhouse. And when the dinner rush hits, the folks in his kitchen will be ready to produce 500 dishes an hour from a 19-page menu that lists 201 items.The oversize menu, along with gargantuan portions, low prices and 30-odd flavors of its namesake dessert, have made the Cheesecake Factory one of the country's fastest-growing restaurant chains. Sales are rising 20 percent annually, and its stock has nearly doubled in three years. Lately, execs have talked of building 200 restaurants from...
  • BREAKING THE BROKERS

    When Larry and Jean Weed of Sparks, Nev., decided to sell their home, they invited some real-estate agents by for a visit. Most offered to sell the house the old-fashioned way, by listing it in the local brokers' database and charging a 6 percent commission (worth $16,800 on the Weeds' $280,000 home). Then the couple met an agent from Assist-2-Sell, a "flat-fee" brokerage that charges just $2,995 to sell a home. In their area, as in much of the country, "it's a sellers' market--houses are going like hot cakes," Jean says. So they decided to try the cheaper approach. Eight days after the for sale sign went up, they had a buyer. By using Assist-2-Sell, they walked out of their closing with an extra $13,795. As she packed boxes last week, Jean wondered if regular agents might become relics. "I don't foresee ever using one again," she says.It's been a generation since Charles Schwab bullied his way into the stock-brokerage business by cutting commissions. It's been nearly a decade since...
  • KERRY: A HELP TO THE HAIRLESS

    During his drive to clinch the Democratic nod, John Kerry has had his biography dissected. But one chapter remains largely unexamined. From 1979 to '82, Kerry was a Boston lawyer who developed a unique specialty: filing lawsuits against doctors who performed faulty hair implants on bald men. The cases involved a controversial procedure (later banned by the FDA) in which doctors implanted carpet fibers into men's scalps. "It looked pretty good for two or three months," says 65-year-old Charles DiPerri, a Massachusetts maitre d' who spent $2,800 on the procedure in 1978. But, soon afterward, the men's scalps rejected the implants and became massively infected. Kerry, then 38, took DiPerri's case before a jury in January 1982. "These doctors were ridiculously negligent, and Kerry just systematically proved that to us," says James Brooks, a juror on the week-long trial. After a few hours of deliberating, the jury awarded DiPerri $88,883.89. Doctors then settled more than a dozen other...
  • PRISON LIFE: HOME AWAY FROM...

    It's just 25 miles from Martha Stewart's country manse in Bedford, N.Y., to the minimum-security women's federal prison camp at Danbury, Conn. But for a woman used to unparalleled luxury, her likely future home will seem a world apart. Assuming the judge doesn't buy her pleas for leniency--or order her to a higher-security facility--Stewart is probably facing time in a prison camp. While there are other suitable facilities in West Virginia, most experts point to Danbury--which housed Leona Helmsley and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon--as her likely destination because it's close to her family.According to Danbury alumni, the women's camp has no fences or barred cells; instead of breakouts, guards have worried about nearby residents trespassing to enjoy the lake. "Campers"--most in for immigration or drug charges--sleep in small, bunk-bedded dorm rooms (some house eight women apiece) and spend their days in the kitchen or maintaining the grounds. For recreation, there are two TV lounges, a...
  • HELP NOT WANTED

    It's a set of questions that would make any cubicle dweller a bit nervous. "Exactly how do you do your job? Would you mind writing it down?" When Hank Williamson, a tech administrator at a Virginia bank, heard those questions recently, he took them as a sign his job may soon be going on an exotic trip. The likely destination: India, where a homegrown techie could use Williamson's instructions to do the work for dimes on the dollar. "My job security here is nonexistent," says Williamson, 49, who's still earning six figures but is polishing his resume. He's better off than Lisa Pineau, a mainframe programmer in Plano, Texas. She was forced to train her foreign-born replacement before being laid off in late 2002. Spotting few openings for tech workers, she's considered going into bookkeeping or medical transcription, but now she's worried those jobs are moving overseas, too. "Anything on a computer is getting 'offshored'," she says. So lately Pineau, 46, and her husband Patrick (also a...
  • TRACKING SAFETY

    In auto racing, the most spectacular crashes usually happen during weekend contests at tracks surrounded by fans. But since last spring, some of NASCAR's most important collisions have taken place at low speeds behind a suburban office building near Charlotte, N.C. There, at NASCAR's year-old R&D Center, engineers are conducting tests to try to assure that fewer of those weekend smashups end in tragedy. "We take good stuff and turn it into junk," says R&D chief Gary Nelson, picking at a pile of twisted scraps his team tested recently. Walking inside the garage, Nelson points to a car featuring a thin aluminum driver's seat with no shoulder support. "Can you imagine racing in that today?" he asks, as if looking at an antique. But the seat in question was state-of-the-art in 2001.That year marked a dark turning point in NASCAR history--one that will be commemorated this weekend at the season-opening Daytona 500, where Dale Earnhardt died on the final turn three years ago....
  • SOAPS: THE LIVES OF REILLY

    When James Reilly visited his grandfather's TV-free home in Ireland as a boy, every evening Granddad would ad-lib a two-hour story--always ending with a cliffhanger. "All the next day you'd be talking about it; you couldn't wait to sit in the chair and see how it ended," the grandson recalls. The tradition continues: today Reilly, 55, is America's hottest soap-opera writer. Last summer, after two decades on various shows, he rejoined NBC's "Days of Our Lives" as head writer. To reverse its falling ratings, Reilly created a serial killer who's set siege to the veteran cast. Already a half-dozen characters have been killed (the latest victim: Roman Brady), creating a mutiny among loyal viewers. "My love for soaps died when they killed off Jack--that was the final straw," says New York viewer Kira Lerner. Some fans have decried Reilly's bloodthirsty, gimmicky plotlines (one character died in a pinata accident); there are even cries of age discrimination, since most of the victims are...
  • Concierge To The Geek Set

    Preston Rowe can't get you Celtics tickets. He isn't buddies with the maitre d' at Boston's top restaurants. And most guests at the Colonnade Hotel, where Rowe works, are happy never to encounter him during their stay. But if a guest's laptop suffers a 3 a.m. meltdown just hours before a key sales pitch, Rowe becomes the most important person in their world. If his staff can't fix the problem, they'll page Rowe at home (he averages two calls a night from guests). If he can't fix the problem over the phone, he'll drive 30 miles to the hotel. He'll take the hard drive apart, call his contacts at Toshiba or Compaq or load the drive into his own laptop so the guest is ready to PowerPoint by dawn.For the wired road warrior, Rowe, 37, is a hotel amenity that's more valuable than Spectravision: a technology concierge. These pros--sometimes called e-butlers--are fast becoming a key attraction at upscale hotels. Ritz-Carlton claims to have invented the concept in 1998 at its Kuala Lumpur...
  • Ask Tip Sheet

    I signed up for a credit card at a ball game to get a free T shirt. Now I've heard that my credit rating will be hurt by having too many cards, by not activating my account or by having an application rejected. Is this true?-- Nick Imgrund, St. Louis, Mo.A lot of what you heard is true. The number of cards you have (whether they have a balance or not) can either help or hurt your score depending on a number of factors. Though credit agencies have no way of telling if you've ever been rejected, they do consider the length of your credit history and any outstanding debts. So it had better be a really cool T shirt if you're applying for a mortgage any time soon.
  • The Master Of Innovation

    Management theorists have spent little time pondering potato salad. But on the apparently mundane subject of how to transport that all-American picnic dish, there's a lesson in what's becoming the hottest business theory of the new century. Decades ago, Tupperware solved the problem of how to carry deli items to the neighbor's cookout, but the company's heavy-duty plastic containers created unspoken anxieties. Because the containers can cost $5 each and will last for years, moms carefully guard their Tupperware trove, refusing to let kids use the containers for school lunches (for fear they'll be lost) and awkwardly trying to retrieve them after the neighbors' picnics without appearing rude.Then a team of marketers devised a solution. Launched in 1999, GladWare is a line of lighter, less expensive plastic containers with a simple marketing proposition: Not as Good as Tupperware. GladWare won't withstand as many trips from freezer to microwave, and it's not meant to be bequeathed to...
  • Not Out Of The Woods

    Like a patient who's been transferred out of ICU, the U.S. economy appears to be on the mend. From GDP to employment, the vital signs are improving. But Robert Rubin told NEWSWEEK's Daniel McGinn there's still cause for concern--and that the economy could remain a key issue in the presidential election. Excerpts:MCGINN: Do you watch the Democratic debates and think "I could run circles around them"?Rubin: I've been around presidential campaigns since 1980, and I've developed a great respect for how difficult it is to be a candidate. It's an art form unto itself. I think there are enormously important issues to be debated in this election, and whoever the candidate is will have a lot of material to work with.With the economy improving, will it be a big election issue?It depends on what economic conditions are like next year. We had remarkable economic conditions in the '90s, and it's inevitable when you have extended good times, you develop imbalances that lead to a period of...
  • A Tough Cleanup Job

    There are no locusts descending on Bentonville, Ark., no outbreaks of boils or killer hailstorms. But the folks at Wal-Mart's headquarters can be excused if they feel like they're living through plagues of Biblical proportions. Long denounced as a killer of downtown businesses, this year the world's largest retailer has been accused of sexual discrimination by female employees, sued for allegedly stiffing workers on overtime pay and even blasted by First Amendment advocates for refusing to sell Maxim, a laddie magazine. Last week came a new threat when federal investigators arrested more than 300 undocumented workers at stores in 21 states--and later carted off boxes of potential evidence from Wal-Mart's Bentonville headquarters.Most of those arrested weren't Wal-Mart employees. Instead, the alleged illegal aliens worked for outside firms hired by local Wal-Mart managers to clean the aisles while shoppers sleep. While a typical Wal-Mart employee earns $7 to $9 an hour, a...
  • Mr. Coffee--Not

    Seb Agapite doesn't fancy himself a barista, nor is he looking to hire one. But inside Dunkin' Donuts' product-development center in Braintree, Mass., Agapite stands before a high-tech machine that will let his stores sell high-margin espressos and cappuccinos. Behold the Shaerer Ambiente, an $11,800 "super-automated" espresso machine that Dunkin' Donuts has begun installing in every one of its stores. To demonstrate its magic, Agapite pushes some buttons and 45 seconds later hands NEWSWEEK a latte. "I waited in line eight minutes at Starbucks for a similar product," Agapite boasts.For managers in all kinds of businesses, it's among the hardest decisions: what's the right mix of labor and technology? Whether it's an automobile plant deciding on the mix of million-dollar robots and unionized labor, or a bank deciding whether to replace more tellers with ATMs, finding the balance requires a clear understanding of the costs, quality and customer- satisfaction trade-offs of man versus...
  • Sheds: Housing Works

    Backyard sheds traditionally house lawn mowers and garbage cans. But in the insane California real-estate market, where many families can't afford to buy bigger homes, gussied-up sheds are housing something else: people. At The Shed Shop, in Fremont, sales of "room-addition alternatives" have tripled in the last five years. Instead of spending big bucks and living with months of sawdust for a traditional addition, homeowners hire the firm, or rivals like Tuff Shed, to build customized wooden, shingled backyard structures. Sizes range from 4 feet by 8 feet to 12 feet by 16 feet for an average price of $3,100; construction takes just a day or two. Customers then hire contractors (or do it themselves) to add insulation, drywall, carpeting and electricity. Some buyers opt for air conditioning, vaulted ceilings and skylights--but most building codes restrict plumbing. Linda Rugg, of Albany, spent $13,000 on her husband's shed-office. "It feels very much like a little cottage," she says...
  • Oh, Sweet Revenge

    It's just after 4 on an early summer morning, and two uniformed men work the counter at Dunkin' Donuts in Framingham, Mass. As they serve takeout coffee to early risers, the workers seem blithely ignorant of the enemy that's gathering nearby. There are no lanterns visible from the Old North Church to shine a warning. But a half hour to the east, just across the Charles River in Medford, dozens of workers push trays of doughnuts around a new Krispy Kreme store as more than 100 customers line up outside. When the doors swing open at 5:30, they mark Krispy Kreme's entry into Dunkin' Donuts' home market--and the opening volley in the Boston-area Doughnut War. Krispy Kreme has a great first day, selling $73,813 worth of gooey treats. But back in Framingham, business holds steady: customers stream through the door all day long.These should be dark days for Dunkin' Donuts, the fast-food breakfast chain that seems as if it's being overtaken by hotter, fresher competitors. When it comes to...
  • Housebound

    Henry and Rachel Ross aren't looking for a mansion. Their needs are simple: a home with enough space for their children (their third is due in November), good schools and a neighborhood that's safe enough for Rachel to jog in. As the couple--he's a carpenter, she's a part-time mortgage broker--have outgrown their rental in El Cerrito, Calif., they've put offers on 20 properties. Each time they've been outbid by another Bay Area couple. So the Rosses believe they've got little choice but to stretch for the biggest mortgage they can to get the bid up to $350,000 for a home. "That's as far as we can comfortably go," says Rachel, who admits that maybe "comfortable" isn't the right word to describe their looming indebtedness. "It's gotten to the point now, when we make an offer on a house, I'm relieved when we don't get it," she says. "It'd be such a tight mortgage."Stretching to buy a first home has long been a rite of passage, one only partly assuaged by talk of homeownership as the...
  • Preying On The Predator

    During his 36 years as a Roman Catholic priest, serial pedophile John Geoghan preyed upon the most vulnerable members of his flock: poor boys from broken homes. But during the last moments of his life in a maximum-security Massachusetts prison, Geoghan received a harsh lesson in what it's like to be the weakest guy on the block. According to new details of the killing that emerged last week, Geoghan's alleged assailant, convicted murderer Joseph Druce, had been plotting the attack for a month. He sneaked into Geoghan's cell after lunch on Aug. 23 and jammed the door shut with a paperback book. Druce bound and gagged the former priest with a T shirt, then used a pre-stretched sock and a shoe to crank a garrote around Geoghan's neck, strangling him. For good measure, Druce repeatedly jumped off the bed to stomp on the dying man. As a 15-man response team struggled to open the cell, one inmate recalled to a lawyer, Druce taunted them: "Don't bother to hurry--he's already dead." Indeed,...
  • Murdered Behind Bars

    Prison is always a tough place, but it's especially dangerous for notorious convicts. Last Saturday pedophile ex-priest John Geoghan was strangled by another inmate inside a maximum-security Massachusetts prison. Geoghan was being held in a protective-custody unit, but even that couldn't keep him from joining Jeffrey Dahmer and the Boston Strangler among felons killed in prison. Geoghan, who faced accusations of molesting more than 150 parishioners over three decades, began serving a nine-year sentence in January for fondling a boy in a public swimming pool in 1991. He was scheduled to stand trial again on child-rape charges. "Sex offenders are hated by other prisoners, and they'll be abused in every way you can imagine," says Jim Hogshire, an expert on prison sociology.Among Geoghan victims, there was no celebrating his death. "I feel bad for the guy--no one deserves to die under those circumstances," says Ralph DelVecchio, 46. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who's represented 147...
  • Grooming: Uno, Due, Tre... Quattro?

    Few men hop out of bed each morning and say: "Oh, goody, I get to shave today!" But this month brings a rare bit of excitement to male grooming: the new Schick Quattro, the first-ever four-blade razor. The Quattro will seek to carve into sales of the Mach 3 Turbo, the flagship blade of industry leader Gillette. To fight off its new rival, Gillette has filed a patent-infringement suit against Schick. Gillette is also testing new ads that don't talk about technology. In one print ad being tested in Philadelphia, a man slumps at his desk over the headline ISN'T MONDAY ROUGH ENOUGH? The ad, called a "frequency campaign," tries to educate men about the benefits of changing razor blades more often, using the tag line "Change Your Blades. Make Your Week." "It's just one of the concepts we're testing," says a Gillette spokeswoman. But could it boost sales? Dartmouth marketing professor Kevin Keller says it depends on "whether men believe that after seven days the blade has lost its pop."To...
  • Is That My Toothpaste?

    Luxury Dorms Aren't Everything. Cramped Living Quarters Can Make You Get Out And Make New Friends.
  • Fixer Upper

    In the last year, ambitious Americans have spent nearly $120 billion remodeling their homes, according to Harvard researchers. (And, yes, they study such things.) But when it comes to renovation inspiration, episodes of "This Old House" can only take you so far. That's where Taunton Press comes in. Last fall it launched a fascinating series of books called "Updating Classic America," and so far they've covered bungalows, capes and colonial houses. An edition on ranches is due out this fall.Written by architects and filled with lavish photography, the series gives readers a primer on the trademark design elements of each genre, before-and-after looks at dozens of renovation projects and handy definitions (to help you distinguish between, say, a "shed dormer" and a "Nantucket dormer"). The resources page even lists contact info for the architects whose work is featured in each volume. The books cost $29.95 apiece, but beware: just page through one, and within days there'll be a very...
  • Advice For Martha

    If Martha Stewart sees jail time (a trial date was set last week), she'll likely be sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Conn., one of the minimum-security "prison camps," nicknamed "Club Fed." In 1988 former Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans spent seven months there for insider trading. Now a writer and lecturer, he shared his institutional knowledge with NEWSWEEK's Daniel McGinn:How many stars do you give it?It isn't a club. It's like a military barracks--bunk beds, 70 or 80 to a room. It's just unbelievably boring. Most people there have nothing to do with white-collar crime. There was one guy there for pissing in a mailbox, which is a federal crime.Is it worse than, say, a Motel 6?There's only one TV. Making a phone call is a hassle: you have to wait in line, you only get 15 minutes and every call is recorded. But if you have money, you can hire another inmate to make your bed or do your laundry. You pay them in quarters or cigarettes.Should...
  • Let's Make A (Tough) Deal

    If you're in the market for a cordless phone, it's hard to beat Northwestern Bell's 900MHz model--especially during a recent promotion at OfficeMax. Earlier this month the $29.99 phone was being sold with a $19.99 instant rebate and a $10 mail-in rebate, resulting in a net price of zero. On its Web site last week, OfficeMax touted Hi-Val modems and 50-packs of CD-ROM jewel cases, both "Free after Rebates!" At Best Buy, past the Hewlett-Packard and Compaq laptops (each featuring $200 mail-in rebates), TDK 50-pack CD-R discs are selling for $2.99 (after $17 in rebates).All this free and nearly free stuff is a silver lining to the cloudy economy. Rebates have been an effective sales tactic for decades, but executives at "fulfillment houses"--the firms that process rebate checks--say the practice is booming. Manufacturers and retailers love rebates because they drive store traffic--and because many customers don't bother to send away for the rebates, lowering the cost of the promotion....
  • A Big House For Martha?

    It played like a scene right out of NBC's cheesy recent movie, "Martha, Inc." But unfortunately for the domestic diva, this was real life. Martha Stewart, in a crisp gray pantsuit, with a cream raincoat and coordinated umbrella, stepped past cameramen into a courthouse in Manhattan last week to face arraignment on criminal charges, including securities fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. The indictment was the culmination of the investigation into Stewart's sale of 3,928 shares of ImClone, a once hot biotech firm, the day before its price plummeted on news of a setback for a promising cancer drug. Standing before the judge, Stewart pleaded not guilty; her attorneys insist she'll be exonerated. If not, America's Tastemaker could face 10 years in a federal prison.No matter how the trial goes, Stewart has already paid a steep price. Shares in her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, have fallen 50 percent since her legal troubles began. While the stock trade that landed...
  • Testing, Testing

    Four guys sit in a library conference room, passing a bag of Krispy Kremes and taking turns at the chalkboard. "Name the three basic numbering systems used by modern computers," one man orders another. Another fellow fills the board with lines of programming. They look like computer-science majors cramming for an exam--except these men graduated from college decades ago. Instead, they're unemployed tech workers who meet weekly in suburban Boston to bone up for job interviews. "I used to know this," says Stephen Anthony, a lanky software engineer, scrunching his face as he tries to answer a question about "multitasking mechanisms." If he's going to flub a question, better to do it here than in front of a hiring manager.Remember the good old days of the long boom, when job applicants held the upper hand? Back then it seemed like any qualified applicant who gave semi-coherent answers to standard interview questions ("Where do you want to be in five years?") might have a job offer by...
  • Brits Do It Better

    When NBC unveils its new sitcom "Coupling" next fall, it'll look familiar to some viewers--the smart ones who watch BBC America. "Coupling" is just the most recent British hit to be adapted for U.S. airwaves (think "Trading Spaces," "What Not to Wear"). And BBC America brings the often-superior original versions to 35 million U.S. homes via satellite or digital cable. Watching the source material gives a glimpse at how producers cater to our culture (like reading Plutarch to understand Shakespeare). Never seen "Coupling"? It stars six attractive singles with intertwined romances, so the comparisons to "Friends" are inevitable. But it's actually a wickedly funny, sex-fueled romp. Let's just hope it doesn't get diluted during its trip across the pond.
  • The Ceo's Challenge

    Early one morning around Christmastime, Rick Wagoner was running on the treadmill in his suburban Detroit home, flipping TV channels. Way up the cable dial he came across an old movie he'd never seen: "Roger & Me." In the 1989 documentary, the angry populist filmmaker Michael Moore pursues General Motors' chairman, Roger Smith, attempting to lambaste him for laying off workers. Wagoner, GM's current CEO, was working overseas when the film came out; he'd never seen it. So he jogged along, watching as Moore torments one of his predecessors. Wagoner stopped running before the ending, but he'd seen enough to give his own blurb-worthy review: "Glad it wasn't me."Michael Moore's wrath is now focused on the Oval Office--which is a rare break these days--for a new generation of corporate chieftains. Like Wagoner, 50, they've ascended to top jobs during the worst economic environment in decades. These men and women--many still in their 40s--have spent their careers managing through...
  • No Pc Required

    Art Larson is no Luddite. He keeps an IBM laptop in his home office and a late-model Dell desktop in a nook upstairs. Larson, a tax preparer in Stow, Mass., e-mails his clients, surfs the Web and uses CD-ROMs to find answers to technical tax questions. But when it's time to prepare his clients' 1040s each spring, Larson turns to a different technology: a Pentel 0.5 Twist-Erase graphite pencil and an old-school Texas Instruments calculator. In the age of TurboTax, he powers through 200 or so tax returns each year by hand. Larson, 59, has looked at tax software, but he's not convinced they'd make him more efficient. By doing returns the old-fashioned way, he believes he's paying closer attention. "I feel I'm giving clients more of their money's worth," Larson says.Every small business has to decide how much to rely on technology to streamline operations. Many tax preparers began computerizing their number-crunching and form-printing operations two decades ago. But the holdouts'...
  • The Military: Now Families Face The Cost Of War

    After the shocking news, the tears and the funerals, the families of GIs killed in Iraq face a more prosaic concern: how will they pay the bills? In today's older, career-oriented military, a far greater percentage of fallen servicemen will leave behind a spouse and children than in previous wars. It's a small solace that those dependents have already begun receiving survivors' benefits that could be payable for decades. The benefits start flowing within hours of a serviceman's death, when his family receives a "death gratuity" of $6,000. Then comes a life-insurance payout: today most military personnel take out a policy worth $250,000, and some buy supplemental coverage. Under a Veterans Affairs program called Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, the spouse of a fallen serviceman receives $948 per month (plus $237 per child) until death or remarriage; the payouts are adjusted for inflation each year. The families also get three years of free medical care and generous college...
  • The CEO’s Challenge

    Early one morning around Christmastime, Rick Wagoner was running on the treadmill in his suburban Detroit home, flipping TV channels. Way up the cable dial he came across an old movie he’d never seen: “Roger & Me.” In the 1989 documentary, the angry populist filmmaker Michael Moore pursues General Motors’ chairman, Roger Smith, attempting to lambaste him for laying off workers. Wagoner, GM’s current CEO, was working overseas when the film came out; he’d never seen it.SO HE JOGGED ALONG, watching as Moore torments one of his predecessors. Wagoner stopped running before the ending, but he’d seen enough to give his own blurb-worthy review: “Glad it wasn’t me.”Michael Moore’s wrath is now focused on the Oval Office—which is a rare break these days—for a new generation of corporate chieftains. Like Wagoner, 50, they’ve ascended to top jobs during the worst economic environment in decades. These men and women—many still in their 40s—have spent their careers managing through prosperous...
  • Clubs: First, The Safety Spiel

    Before a band takes the stage at Jaxx, a rock club in Springfield, Va., owner Jay Nedry takes the microphone for some announcements. And since last month's Rhode Island club fire, he's been starting off with a speech that sounds familiar to anyone who's been on an airplane. "Here are the exits, we have four," he says, pointing, flight-attendant style, to the front and back of the club. He tells the crowd about the backup generator that will keep lights burning in an emergency, and the glow-in-the-dark arrows on the floor. "You don't want to put a downer on things, but you also need to ratchet up the attention level here," says Nedry, whose club routinely hosted the band Great White. (In fact, the band had been scheduled to play at Jaxx the night after the Rhode Island fire.) As they do on airplanes, some people ignore the safety talk, but many pay attention. "A lot of people come up and say, 'This is really cool, we appreciate it'," says Nedry, who's considering holding fire drills...