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Processing The Dow-DuPont Merger

January 25, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 4

I read the story that DuPont was merging with, or perhaps submerging into, Dow Chemical and disbanding its Central Research & Development effort with shock and sadness (C&EN, Jan. 4, page 7).

In 2001, I retired at age 58 from DuPont already feeling somewhat depressed by the changes in strategic intent, vision, and structure that had begun to surface at the company. “Better Things for Better Living … through Chemistry,” the slogan that had captured my imagination as a 10-year-old in 1953, was long a fading image in the corporate rearview mirror. Replacing it was a “transformation” into something other than a chemicals, polymers, and materials company. Our much-heralded life sciences strategy, begun in 1980, was immediately sidelined with the Conoco acquisition, which distracted management for more than a decade and put a real crimp in the implementation of growth in life sciences and other areas.

Another critical point along the path to today was the decision to abandon a departmental structure. Departments integrated technology and resources across related businesses. Departments were replaced by a strategic business unit (SBU) structure. Even though it improved corporate control and accountability for the businesses, the SBU structure effectively discouraged the sharing of resources and significantly reduced the ability of the businesses to interface effectively with corporate R&D. The SBU structure resulted in a reduction of productivity and power for R&D within the corporation.

The third critical decision that, in my opinion, cost us dearly was the decision to sell our key polymers and fibers businesses, enormous cash generators (as the purchaser Koch Industries is now experiencing), before we had developed the cash generation strength elsewhere.

Perhaps, I am just an old man bemoaning a changing world, but there is no doubt that DuPont and its research organizations will no longer have the power and influence within the broader chemistry community that they once did. I believe this will significantly reduce opportunities for chemistry and chemical engineering professionals, reduce the science and technology capability of our nation, and diminish the world in general.

I had a wonderful career with DuPont and will be forever grateful for the experience of working with many wonderful chemists, engineers, and mentors. Despite my misgivings on the company’s current course, I, with all my heart, wish DowDuPont well and hope for the best for my many friends and associates as the merger proceeds.

Lou Glasgow
West Chester, Pa.

I am a retired industrial analytical chemist. I am old enough to know that “savings and synergies” are code words meaning baloney. Any savings in the Dow Chemical-DuPont merger (C&EN, Dec. 21, 2015, page 7) will come by reduction in older employees in the form of some type of retirement incentives. The executives, from both companies, who retire will get massive golden parachutes. The wise guys who came up with the whole scheme will get massive bonuses to pay for their yachts as they sail off into the sunset laughing all the way.

Frank C. DiLego,
via C&EN’s website

As a former Dow Chemical employee, I watched and experienced the lack of understanding of scientific management slowly erode the infrastructure that had built Dow into a wonderful and strong company. Penny-wise, pound-foolish, short-term strategies to bolster stock prices and company margins resulted in poorly equipped laboratories and depleted ranks of scientific staff that didn’t have the critical mass to achieve innovation.

The glorious, storied companies of Dow and DuPont have been plundered mercilessly and will now wither and die, resulting in a trio of companies no better fit to survive in the long run than the current shells. Shame on C&EN for celebrating one of the saddest events in industrial chemical history.

Jeffrey M. Marra,
via C&EN’s website

I am also highly disappointed in this “award.” I do not begrudge either Dow Chemical or DuPont for their incredible contributions over the years, but this business decision, like many others (from many companies), feathers the wrong beds. Moreover, in light of recent (or not so recent) reports of poor (this may be too soft a word) environmental stewardship, I do not believe we should be rewarding Dow or DuPont as Company of the Year.

Tom Robison,
via C&EN’s website

Another hedge fund-money manager massacre. As others have said, the only winners are the execs and the money-grubber financial types who cobbled this together.

However, note that C&EN’s article calling DowDuPont the 2015 Company of the Year doesn’t really endorse the merger; it’s just reporting the news, quite well. Not mentioned is how Dow Chemical got to be bigger than DuPont, namely via acquisitions including of Rohm and Haas and Union Carbide. Thanks to Dow putting business over research (aka eat your seed corn), research and research services were gutted and the remains transferred to Midland, Mich.

The American Chemical Society should quickly name DuPont’s Experimental Station a National Historic Chemical Landmark before it disappears.

Editor’s note: DuPont’s Experimental Station, where Wallace H. Carothers did the pioneering polymer chemistry that eventually led to the commercial introduction of nylon, was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 2000.

Robert Buntrock,
via C&EN’s website

DuPont’s chief science and technology officer, Doug Muzyka, uses meaningless jargon to cover the demise of R&D at his company (C&EN, Jan. 11, page 5). But we need to recognize that the days of corporate research laboratories are over.

When I was in graduate school, most large corporations had substantial R&D labs that did high-quality science, but shuttering DuPont Central Research & Development puts one more nail in the coffin of corporate R&D. Now even the Department of Energy’s national laboratories merely have the patina of science rather than real, in-depth science. What good is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education if there are no decent jobs at the end?

Jeffrey Hylden,
via C&EN’s website

Most of the corporate R&D within DuPont was done in the business units. Central Research & Development was engaged in longer-term, speculative R&D in technologies in which DuPont did not have operating expertise. Starting back with Chief Executive Officer Richard Heckert in the late 1980s, DuPont made a deliberate long-term shift toward biobased science (including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and biobased chemistry). That was a gamble, and the corporation lost. Unfortunately, a number of good folks also lost their careers.

Jim Zeigler,
via C&EN’s website


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