Lafley drops in on P&G reunion to put his spin on future plans

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Procter & Gamble Co. President-CEO A.G. Lafley surprised a reunion of P&G alumni in Chicago, drawing two standing ovations during his June 15 visit and turning the schmooze-fest into a pep rally of sorts for a beleaguered company he took charge of less than two weeks earlier.

Mr. Lafley said he dropped in "to visit some old friends," but he came armed with a multimedia presentation spelling out some of his plans and poking fun at some of the P&G-era ads overseen by reunion organizers, such as Quaker Oats Co. Chairman-CEO Robert Morrison; Information Resources Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Joseph Durrett; and Intuit founder Scott Cook.


He put a different spin on the austerity-focused pitch delivered to Wall Street analysts two weeks ago, saying that while P&G is moving toward more targeted media, "TV is still important and is a good way to get the big ideas and big picture across."

He also said P&G will add 15 to 20 new brands during the next two years, which, while a slower pace than the two dozen Durk Jager last year pledged to move into test or distribution in 18 months, remains well ahead of P&G's brand-creation pace in recent decades.

Mr. Lafley also said P&G remains committed to its roster shops, adding that agency chiefs were among the first people he called after being named CEO June 8 "to tell them that they are our best supporters and that we needed them to build our brands."

"We're trying to extend our horizon and reach out beyond the boundaries of our company," Mr. Lafley said in explaining his attendance at the event as part of an entourage of 15 P&G executives.

Mr. Lafley had some kind words for Durk Jager, the man he succeeded, calling him "a man of vision with a hell of a lot of guts and courage." He said he talked with Mr. Jager by phone for 40 minutes the evening before succeeding him and would likely call him for advice in the future.

Mr. Jager got some pointed ribbing during a skit that showed a truculent ex-CEO with a Dutch accent pounding out a letter to a headhunter on a laptop.

Mr. Cook read results of a survey of the roughly 200 alumni in attendance, showing their overall average net worth was $5.5 million; the average for those "coached out" of the company came in higher at $6.2 million. "Coached out" is a P&G way of describing someone shown the door. "So, Durk," he said, "things are looking up."

Mr. Cook drew a lengthy standing ovation at the end of an introduction for Mr. Lafley when he said: "P&G was a transforming experience for most of us. . . . Like college, we never stopped rooting for the home team and, A.G., we're still rooting for the home team."

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