Sealy workers ask for help to keep North Portland factory open

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Workers at the Sealy's mattress plant in North Portland that is to close in March asked the Oregon Investment Council to pressure the factory's owner to keep it open.

Wearing stickers emblazoned with "KKR takes our money AND our jobs," a succession of workers and union leaders addressed the regular meeting of the Oregon Investment Council. They claim the plant closure spotlights the dark side of the private equity industry, with the buyout gurus extracting value for their shareholders at workers' expense.

Oregon's pension managers have long touted their special relationship with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, though they don't typically weigh in on operating issues in portfolio companies. The relationship dates to 1981, when Oregon's was the first pension fund to make a significant investment with the buyout firm, heralding a wave of pension-funded buyouts that has remade the landscape of corporate America.

Read more at OregonLive.com.

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

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