[star]The American Mind[star]

April 19, 2006

A Tale of Two Headquarters

From the looks of the company headquarters you'd never guess Wal-Mart was the biggest name in retail. You'd never guess suppliers and potential suppliers come from all over the world to meet with company executives in a structure that looks like a high school. There are no flashing lights, no marble statues of Sam Walton spouting water into the air, and no post-modern architecture.

Compare this:


To this:

The second one is the new NY Times building to be finished later this year. It was designed in part by famed architect Renzo Piano. The facade will have ceramic tubes that catch the light allowing the skyscraper to change colors throughout the day. Striking, yes. I'm impressed even though it has a Pompidou (another Piano-designed building) feel to it.

Comparing the two headquarters is a brief tale of two companies. Wal-Mart strives for efficency and customer satisfaction. Their headquarters is there to achieve those goals with no focus on flash. It's aesthetically unpleasing, but it works; just like your typical Wal-Mart store.

The New York Times is a company in the midst of change. The newspaper business is slowly but surely losing to electronic and alternative media. It has turned from being the United States' "paper of record" to a source of derision, contempt, and ideological bias. Despite the threats to their long-term business they put energy into a new headquarters designed by a famed (and pricey) architect. They even had a reporter do a hit piece on how Wal-Mart was using webloggers to promote the company. That's an interesting way to grow the business. Maybe that thinking is why NY Times investors want changes in how the company's stock is structured. Here's the tale of the tape: New York Times stock vs. Wal-Mart stock. Where would you rather have your money?

Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Economics at 01:28 PM | Comments (4)