DOUG COLLIE on the endless winning streak of a casino capitalist
Our headline could have been lifted and plagiarised from the late 1990s files of the Southern Reporter or the Border Telegraph when hundreds of skilled electronics workers from flourishing Exacta Circuits plants in Galashiels and Selkirk were cast onto the economic scrapheap by ruthless US executives who have featured in our columns before.
The Borders factories were part of the burgeoning, debt-ridden Viasystems Corporation, of St Louis, Missouri when they were asset stripped and closed by the mysterious American Mills Brothers and a suit by the name of David Sindelar, chief financial officer and later head honcho at the global circuit board makers. He was also a board member of Exacta at one time.
After the devastating wave of horrific news which threatened to paralyse the economy of the central Borders, many of the local Viasystems employees had to lower their sights and take jobs with much poorer financial rewards to ensure their families survived. And the chance for future generations of Borderers to follow in the footsteps of their well trained parents and find skilled jobs was dashed at a stroke by Sindelar and his colleagues who used the local dedicated workforce as pawns in their international roulette game.
So Not Just Sheep & Rugby was particularly interested in Mr Sindelar's fate and his future employment prospects after Viasystems Group Inc. was bought by a rival US electronics giant called TTM Technologies, of California. Would he remain an important part of the newly formed giant's hierarchy or might he be forced to stack supermarket shelves in downtown St Louis just to earn a crust?
The answer to both parts of the question is firmly in the negative. For we now know that Mr Sindelar has been "tapped" by the board of St Anthony's Medical Center in the city to become its chief executive from this Tuesday (September 1). The fact that he is chairman of the board at the 767-bed hospital, which has over 3,700 employees, may or may not have been connected to the "tapping" exercise.
He may have no professional experience or background in hospital management, but that has obviously not proved to be a stumbling block. The US press coverage of the appointment has not included details of Sindelar's new salary, but a previous CEO appears to have been paid $1.7 million in 2012/13. It seems he'll be taking home slightly more than the minimum wage.
Apparently he'll have his work cut out as St Anthony's has suffered four years of declining revenue which Sindelar attributes to falling reimbursement rates. Last year the hospital posted revenue of $417 million, a $26 million drop from 2013.
His exit package from Viasystems would have been more than generous while in 2014 he "earned " $3,630,404 in total including a $920,000 salary.
But this was the man who, after succeeding James Mills as CEO, presided over the bankruptcy of the original Viasystems business in 2002 with debts of more than $1 billion dollars. This despite the company shifting the majority of its production from Europe and America where employees earned $18 dollars an hour to China where the wage rate was $1.66 per hour.
Somehow the failed corporation managed to re-schedule its debt, and with Mr Sindelar still at the helm, continued in business as Viasystems Group. When the takeover by TTM was finalised in May 2015 the deal included a cash payment of $248.8 million and TTM also assumed responsibility for Viasystems' debts of $669 million. Does all of that add up to an efficiently run and financially successful business?
Commenting on Mr Sindelar's new found employment opportunity, a former employee at one of the Borders electronics plants told us: "I am struck by the fact that this hospital
appear to be putting a vampire in charge of a blood bank! I hope the patients at St Ants
fare better than we did. To use a medical analogy he
inherited a fit and healthy patient in the Borders factories and left us for
dead. Is it the Hippocratic or
Hypocritical oath he will have to take?"