Peter Georgescu arrived in this country as a penniless Romanian refugee and rose to become the CEO of Young & Rubicam. This is why he’s so heartsick that with flat wages, disappearing jobs, and a shrinking middle class, his kind of rags-to-riches story doesn’t seem possible now. But he has a message for his fellow CEOs: we’re the ones who must take the lead in fixing the economy.
Marshaling deeply sobering statistics, Georgescu depicts the stark reality of America today: a nation with greater wealth inequality and lower social mobility than just about any other country in the developed world. But the problem isn’t that free-market capitalism no longer works—it’s that it’s been hijacked by shareholder primacy. Where once our business leaders looked to the needs and interests of a variety of stakeholders—employees, community members, the business itself—now they’re myopically focused on maximizing their shareholders’ quarterly returns.
Peter’s American journey started with a gifted admission to Exeter Academy in the fall of 1954—which generously overlooked his inability to speak English and having had no formal schooling since second grade. He then went on to graduate from Princeton University, cum laude, and earned an MBA degree from Stanford Business School. In 1963 he entered Young & Rubicam as a trainee in their research department. Thirty-seven years later he retired as Chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam with Y&R at the pinnacle of the advertising and related communications industry.
Capitalists Arise! shows how the short-term thinking spawned by shareholder primacy lies at the root of our current economic malaise and social breakdown. But Georgescu offers concrete actions that capitalists themselves can take to create a better future. The irony is that if businesses do this, shareholders will do even better. In the long run, businesses can thrive only when society is healthy and strong. This book is a manifesto calling on capitalists to heal the nation that has given them so much.
Peter Andrew Georgescu, Chairman Emeritus of Young & Rubicam, was born on the eve of the Second World War in Bucharest, Romania. His Romanian parents were educated in England and France. Peter’s father was the Managing Director of Exxon’s operation in Romania. While on a business trip to New York in 1947, the Iron Curtain fell and Peter’s parents could not return to Romania. Overnight they became the enemy of the Communist regime (his father would have been killed if he’d returned to Romania).
Peter and his brother were left in Romania with his grandparents and would remain apart from his mother and father for eight years. His grandfather was seized and imprisoned as a political threat, and then murdered in captivity. Shortly after his grandfather was taken away, Peter, only nine years old, was arrested along with his brother and grandmother and sent to a work camp. In 1953 his father was approached by Romanian Communist diplomats in New York and asked to spy for them in exchange for keeping his children alive. Georgescu’s parents refused and went to the press, causing an international scandal. With the intervention of Congressman Frances Bolton and President Eisenhower, the boys were reunited with their parents in April of 1954.
Under Mr. Georgescu’s leadership, Young & Rubicam successfully transformed from a private to a publicly-held company. During his tenure, Young & Rubicam built the most extensive database on global branding and, from its findings, developed a proprietary model for diagnosing and managing brands. Within the marketing community, he is known as a leading proponent of creating unified communications programs, agency accountability for measuring the impact of communications programs, and structuring value-based agency compensation.