Purdue News

January 6, 2005

Former Sears CEO to speak in Purdue ethics series

Arthur Martinez

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Arthur Martinez (MAR-ten-ez), former chairman and CEO of Sears, will speak on Jan. 18 as part of the Purdue Series on Corporate Citizenship and Ethics.

Martinez's talk, "The Hard Road to the Softer Side," will take place at 7 p.m. in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. The speech is free and open to the public.

Martinez took the top job at Sears, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., in 1992 when the company was in turmoil and retail business was in transition. By 1994 Martinez had put the 100-year-old Sears catalog to rest, cut jobs and closed more than 100 stores.

In an interview published in the Chicago Sun Times in 2001, Martinez commented on the company's decision to move on from the venerable Sears catalog.

"While the catalog was the mother business, it was an old business," he said. "And even if we worked hard to make it better, we would have a nicely restored 1978-model automobile, and that's not what I wanted to drive in the '90s. While we could fix and improve it, it would never be a growth vehicle for the company.

"If you're going to create shareholder value, economics has to be the driver. Good fundamental growth and earnings are the things that create shareholder value, and that's what we're paid to do. The economics said we should close it [the catalog]. The heart said we shouldn't close it – the spiritual soul of the company. And at the end of the day, economics ruled."

The radical surgery worked and Sears survived and made it back into the black.

Then, in 1997 Sears faced the coming of the Internet and legal and public-relations difficulties stemming from the company's dealings with bankrupt customers. Martinez again guided the company back into profitability and respectability. This ultimately set the stage for one of 2004's biggest business stories – the Sears-Kmart merger.

Before joining Sears, Martinez was vice chairman and a board member of Saks Fifth Avenue. He holds a bachelor's degree from Polytechnic University and an MBA from Harvard University. A board member of numerous corporations, Martinez is a trustee of Northwestern University, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The Purdue lecture series, which began in 2003, is a collaboration between the Krannert School of Management and the College of Education 's James F. Ackerman Center for Democratic Citizenship. Speakers chosen from a variety of disciplines discuss aspects of business ethics and the role citizens play in corporate ethics, providing an overview of the effects of corporate ethics upon business, the economy and society as a whole. Funding for the series for this academic year is provided by a gift from Purdue alumnus Ted Jacob and his wife, Carol, and a sponsorship from the Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union.

Writer: Mike Lillich, (765) 494-2077, mlillich@purdue.edu

Source: Tim Newton, (765) 496-7271, tnewton@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to journalists: Media interested in covering Martinez's talk should contact Tim Newton, Krannert School director of external relations and communications, at (765) 496-7271, tnewton@purdue.edu.


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