Campbell Furniture & Manufacturing Corporation’s bankruptcy announcement sent shock waves through the furniture industry. Employee paychecks and benefits ended abruptly. Investors lost assets, and suppliers and distributors lost millions of dollars in business. Competitors hinted that the furniture giant was guilty of financial data manipulation.
A spokesman from McKinsey & Co—preferred consultant for many Fortune 500 companies— attributed the bankruptcy to the company’s inability to navigate the obstacles inherent to a third-generation family-owned company. Critics of the corporation pointed to lack of drive and commitment by the board and CEO, outdated technology, and jealousy and infighting among family members.
In the early 1900’s, Martin and David Campbell founded a cottage industry that mushroomed into the leading producer of quality furniture in the United States. When Martin’s son Grady took over as CEO, the company was financially sound. Within months of the leadership change, Grady and the board voted against implementing cutting-edge computer systems. Predictable consequences ensued. Without updated technology, the company was unable to compete in a highly competitive and fast-growing industry. Production faltered and the work forces’ enthusiasm wavered.
Grady’s son James faced insurmountable odds when he became CEO. Long overdue technology was immediately implemented. Despite the corporation’s increased production and distribution capabilities, the financial hemorrhaging continued. Campbell’s iconic leadership in the furniture industry ended. After teetering precariously close to financial ruin for almost a year, the company filed bankruptcy. Over 10,000 employees lost jobs, and hundreds of retirees lost benefits.
Within weeks of the bankruptcy announcement, the names of fledgling companies sub-planted the Campbell name on the business pages of newspapers and magazines. On a personal level, the names of family members disappeared from the society gossip columns. Fissures in the family’s rock-solid foundation surfaced. Family members struggled to regain their footing and to reclaim their place in society.