Saturday, March 31, 2007
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
The New York Times business section this morning has a story on a local treasure, the McIlhenny Company, makers of Tabasco sauce (notice the clever way I have categorized this post, below). According to the lead,
AVERY ISLAND, La. - In April, board members and shareholders of the Mcllhenny Company plan to gather here for their annual meeting. Unlike well-publicized events at big public companies this year, where activist shareholders often hope to create a stir, a private gathering is planned, and the agenda will probably not be debated.
So I was ready for a story of family corporate autocracy, hateful siblings, warring cousins, and Jarndyce-like litigation in the parish courts. Was I disappointed or what? They don't do anything wrong.
- All 145 shareholders are related, but they cede management control to two to four family members because they don't want the company to become "insular and resistant to change."
- The managers make sure decisions are transparent and issue financial statements every quarter to their shareholders.
- The factory on Avery Island was saved by inches during Hurricane Rita, and the company is now building a 17 foot levee. [Editor's caution: I am writing this early Saturday morning and Professor Houck is not here, so I cannot confirm whether the levee is actually a good thing or not.]
- The company maintains its core brand, but has diversified into mining rock salt, pumping oil, and operating a botanical garden.
- The company is a ferocious recycler and reuses "everything, from selling their used oak barrels [in the pepper mash is aged like whisky] to selling the seed mash to a company for use in candies."
Note to P. Caron: This has very little to do with the legal profession, but I wanted to add some local flavor.
Additional Louisiana note: It is now "crawfish season" in Louisiana. That means that everywhere you go there are crawfish boils. Last evening, the Tulane Law School Student Bar Association had its annual "Spring Fling" crawfish boil, and I admit, I came face to face with the crawfish and flinched. It's not the crawfish meat itself, which I have eaten in etouffee and jambalaya. Nor is it an objection to Cajun and Creole cuisine. I am now a red beans and rice addict. It's that the little creatures, which look like miniature lobsters, are boiled and literally shoveled onto your plate en masse, and you pull them apart. Somehow it all didn't sit right. But I'm willing to let Professor Childress step in with a responsible opposing view.