No. of Recommendations: 3
I was looking to add HAIN to my portfolio & have been dragging my feet a bit. I responded to a post on another board questioning cricisms of HAIN CEO Irwin on Glassdoor. Here's my response:

My personal values do affect the companies I buy. I might not choose to give my money to an organization that seeks profit above some perceived greater good (that only I measure). Individually, we find that middle ground/grey area of investing morality. For many it there is no time or place for values in business; money never sleeps, but I enjoy the challenge to find a company that is both a potential investment and aligns with who I choose to be.

Not only is company mission important, so is leadership (which we’ve well learned here at SA). I like to see & hear the key people holding my money – which is why I really enjoy listening to quarterly conference calls & watching the occasional interview.

I hadn’t done so before, so I looked up Irwin Simon & here’s my take (full disclaimer – I don’t know the guy at all & I relied on media & quotes & inference and Mr. Simon if you’re reading I’d say the same things to you directly).

He was born the son of a small town Canadian grocer & seemed to lack a bit of respect for the effort his father put into his business. Simon sought profit beyond his father’s ambition. This seems to have carried/motivated Irwin well along his career.

I would look at my father as a businessman, and I'd say, 'Why aren't you doing this, why aren't you expanding, why aren't you ...?' Even at 13, 14 years old.

Interviewed, he certainly isn’t the most dynamic orator, at times stumbling to express cogent thoughts or prone to the occasional malapropism. He wasn’t the brightest student by his own admission, I didn't have the marks to go to law school, so I was recruited … in sales. I spent the summer training, but when it came time to write the test, I failed.

Simon valued business opportunities and seized them without question. He had proudly shared stories his keen capitalism. In college he realized he could sell the free samples of beer he received to his friends. When needing to get to a meeting critical to his career, he purposefully misidentified himself to a limo driver, taking someone else’s ride. He took a job that offered strong severance. Rather than give notice to leave to open his own business, he worked hard to get fired. Simon, ” I was looking to get fired, which you had to do right, because it couldn't be for cause.”

Simon has sought opportunity for money and placed that value, at times, above relationships. I see this theme echoes throughout many interview quotes:

"Once I went public, I got rid of all these people, all this overhead, and in the first couple of months I turned it profitable. We needed to sell more, and tighten up. Meanwhile, I knew we had to get bigger”

"Because of our growth we go through people. But if people can learn new talents, you should help them instead of throwing them out. So you move these people around."

“I'm superstitious: that's my lucky desk," he says -- as well as a recently acquired corporate-style human-resources director who replaced one who Simon felt may have been too friendly with the staff. "I no longer fire anyone," Simon says. "She does."

Simon doesn’t come across to me as the most benevolent of leaders. I certainly don’t think I’d work for the guy from what I’ve read & heard. He does seem a shrewd operator, fiercely committed to tight cost controls & business growth above sentimental interpersonal issues.

This is echoed even in how HAIN has described itself. It is a company with a commitment to producing and selling high quality, healthy foods made from the finest all-natural ingredients. No warm fuzziness there, especially compared to WFM’s Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet.

I think there may be a dichotomy of Simon’s natural inclination toward profit vs. the public image that a natural food company must somehow serve a greater good. Simon has recognized this & hired media/marketing/p.r. help.

So that leaves me with the ethics of my investment. Do I give Simon my money? No way - if I only care about people. Absolutely - if I want profit & believe in the future of healthy foods. In these decisions, I might put a higher value in the good of the company over my perception of a single person who may not be publically portrayed accurately or may have changed. Heck, WFM CEO Mackey sounds a bit whacky and some days SYT’s Mike Mack sounds like an all-around good guy.

I don’t own HAIN yet, but I’m not quite ready to dismiss it out of hand because I think Irwin Simon must best his dad at any costs.


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