Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Would You Call That Generous?": International Coal Group owner Wilbur Ross was interviewed on ABC's PrimeTime Live last night, and let's just say he won't be keeping the recording on his TiVo to show proudly to his friends and family. From the transcript:

BRIAN ROSS (ABC NEWS): As the families in West Virginia prepare to bury their dead and figure out how to survive, they got word that the company was going to set up a fund for them. And how much has your company put in?
WILBUR ROSS: $2 million. We put the first...
BRIAN ROSS: $2 million?
WILBUR ROSS: And we’re also...
BRIAN ROSS: Now, let me ask you. You’re a billionaire by all accounts. How did you come up with a figure of $2 million? It seems, with all due respect, sir, sort of cheap.
WILBUR ROSS: Well, the board had a meeting. We decided that we would put the first $2 million into the fund and to try to raise more money to help the workers.
BRIAN ROSS: In West Virginia today, some called Mr. Ross’
offer of charity too little and too late.
LOCAL RESIDENT (FEMALE): $2 million between 13 men, that’s not a lot, no.
LOCAL RESIDENT (MALE): It’s easy to throw a couple million afterwards instead of spending a few million ahead of time to save the men’s lives in the first place.
BRIAN ROSS: Wilbur Ross, whose recent lavish wedding was the talk of New York society, says he hopes Americans will give generously to the miners, although he admitted to us he’s yet to give a dollar of his own money. Have you personally put any money in?
WILBUR ROSS: We own about a third of the company, and we will decide what to do about a personal contribution as we see what comes in from outside.
BRIAN ROSS: As the chairman, would you call that generous?
WILBUR ROSS: We think it’s a good start toward helping the people.
LOCAL RESIDENT (FEMALE): This is West Virginia. People, you know, here care. Money isn’t everything, you know. Money is nothing.
CHRIS CUOMO (ABC NEWS): Brian Ross, thank you. We should say the exact cause of the explosion and the mine’s collapse is still being investigated. Some of the miners’ relatives are already considering a lawsuit.

Ross didn't appear to be ready for the question about a personal donation, which was not exactly unpredictable, and his answer didn't seem to convince anyone.

But I'm more interested in the $2 million figure from the company, which works out at $166,000 per dead miner. How do companies decide what's appropriate in these situations? Is there an actuarial chart? Do they benchmark against what other companies have done in the past? Or do the board directors sit around and ask each other, "What's the least we can give without being called cheap?"

Anyway, I can't help thinking that one way or another the families of those who died are going to get a lot more out of Wilbur Ross's deep but extremely well-guarded pockets that $166,000 each.


  • At 7:11 AM, Blogger Scott Baradell said…

    Another excellent post; you've covered the PR crisis within the larger crisis here better than anyone.

    I would only add that ICG does deserve some credit for establishing the fund, and for issuing an apology for letting family members celebrate too long, within 24 hours of the tragedy. Many companies (a la a certain Commander in Chief) seem to be allergic to apologies under all circumstances.

    I had never subscribed to the Holmes Report, Paul, and I'm realizing now I've been missing out. Great commentary.


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