In the spring of 2005, David Stockman at last reaped the reward of the monopolist.
Stockman, who once served as Ronald Reagan's budget director, spent two decades on Wall Street preparing for this moment. After stints at Salomon Brothers and the Blackstone Group, Stockman in 1999 set up his own private investment fund, Heartland Industrial Partners. He then used Heartland to shape a set of companies -- mainly in the automotive sector -- each dedicated to dominating a particular group of production activities.
When Robert Mao describes the fantastic manufacturing opportunities his company sees in China, he speaks with mixed feelings. "For the first time in the modern era," he marvels, "we have an inexhaustible reservoir of good, trainable labor." But Mao, who as president and CEO of Nortel Networks China has worked in the region for 20 years, also worries about what that means for China's neighbors. For the foreseeable future, he says, almost all new investment by Nortel suppliers will go to China and not to other Asian countries. So, too, he expects, will most major investments by other global manufacturers. "What can Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines do?" he asks.
Paul Veryser's steel-parts company, Stampings Inc., is in big trouble. Tariffs on steel imports, imposed by President George W. Bush in March, have pushed the cost of steel up by more than half on the American spot market, and this has added a whopping 25 percent to the cost of the air-bag, seat-belt and steering-wheel assembly parts his company makes.