Hence, the Oesterreicher announcement that the J. C. Penney Company was negotiating to buy the Eckerd Corporation. In asides to his upper-level compatriots, the chairman said the acquisition was going to be "my legacy," alluding to a dazzling show of business imagination and acumen . The deal would reveal a practical pot of gold just waiting to be exploited. It would be, in fact, the essence and glory of synergism!
In time, an agreement in principle was reached with Eckerd, and the due diligence process began at length, moving too slowly for the chairman. He was apparently afraid that his deal was losing momentum. Earlier, in a highly unorthodox move, he had anxiously called Frank Newman, head of Eckerd, late one evening. Oesterreicher urged him to do whatever was necessary to make the deal go through at his end. "We've got to get this done," he told Newman. Now, in his second unorthodox move, Oesterreicher greased the skids under Penney's due diligence. Originally and appropriately headed by Bill Alcorn, a CPA and company officer fresh from ably running Penney's credit operation, Oesterreicher eventually switched due diligence leadership to his longtime colleague, stores man Tom Hutchens.
One day Hutchens slumped into Gale Duff-Bloom's office and sat heavily on her couch . "How's Operation Synergy?" she asked cheerfully. She was not close to Hutchens but admired the executive for his talent and intelligence (if not for his golf passion). She also felt sorry for him. After a highly successful career, he had had a run of bad luck lately, culminating with an embarrassingly public sexual harassment trial caused by clumsiness with a former woman executive. Hutchens no longer had much to do in the Golden Crescent; Oesterreicher had given him a fancy title with limited responsibilities to ease him through to retirement. He would certainly have time to do whatever the boss wanted.
"Synergy?" Hutchens answered in a tired voice. "There is no ˜synergy."
" What? " Gale exclaimed. This was a bit of a shock .
"None. There's nothing there."
"Good grief , Tom. That was the whole point."
"I know," he said sadly.
She hesitated, thinking, then just asked, "What are you going to do?"
He shrugged. "Give the man what he wants."
So Duff-Bloom was one of the first to know that Jim Oesterreicher's pet project wasn't nearly what it was cracked up to be that the company might be paying heavily for a pig in a poke.