Buffett tops the most admired list
Published 06/04/2010 | 05:00
EVERYBODY loves Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway -- the investment vehicle run by Mr Buffett, the so-called sage of Omaha -- topped a list of the best-regarded US companies, although the public has a dim view of corporate America overall after a brutal economic downturn
After a recession that prompted the US government to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on corporate bailouts, 81pc of Americans told Harris Interactive that business's reputation was "not good" or "terrible".
It marked a slight improvement from last year, when 88pc took that view and was the second-worst rating since Harris began asking the question in 2002. The best year was 2004, when 68pc of respondents said corporate America's reputation was "not good" or "terrible".
Effective management drove public perception, evidenced by the rise of Ford -- the one US automaker to avoid bankruptcy and bailout -- which rose to 37th among the 60 most visible US companies, up from 51st a year earlier.
Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire's spot atop the list reflected public perception of Mr Buffett as a chief executive who is both effective in running his company and not excessive in his pay or benefits.
"It's his humility and sense of accountability," said Robert Fronk, senior vice president at Harris. "You don't read about his excesses. Instead you read the opposite. He still has the same office. He's going to make his kids comfortable, but they're not going to be billionaires."
Johnson & Johnson, Google, 3M and privately held SC Johnson & Son rounded off the list of the five companies with the best reputations.
The five companies with the worst reputations were Freddie Mac, insurance giant American International Group, Fannie Mae, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs .
Freddie Mac, a government-controlled entity that is the number two US provider of home mortgages, had the worst reputation since Enron, which infamously collapsed amid an accounting scandal.
Harris, which has conducted the survey annually since 1999, polled 29,963 people online from December 29 to February 15, while the prior 2008 rankings were based on a poll conducted from September 2008 through February 2009.
Respondents evaluated the companies on six attributes: leadership, financial performance, workplace environment, social responsibility, emotional appeal and the quality of their products and services.
Harris said its findings showed people were more likely to invest in and do business with companies they admired.
Americans place a higher emphasis on the accountability and effectiveness of management than they had in the past, when people were more focussed on the quality and cost of a company's goods and services, Mr Fronk said. (Reuters)