By Maria Saporta
In my 29 years as a business journalist, I’ve never been turned away from a company’s annual meeting.
On Wednesday morning, NCR Corp. — one of Atlanta’s newest Fortune 500 companies — held its annual meeting in the auditorium of its Duluth headquarters at 9 a.m. The company moved its headquarters to Duluth from Dayton, Ohio in 2009, and I hoped to see one of our new Fortune 500 companies in action. I was a few minutes late because I had mistakenly gone to NCR’s other corporate campus up the road.
But it wouldn’t have made a difference. When I arrived, Cameron Smith, NCR’s public relations manager, told me I couldn’t go into the meeting, already in progress, because it was for shareholders and the company doesn’t let journalists attend unless they’ve made advance arrangements.
Over the years, I have gone to dozens if not hundreds of public company annual meetings — from Coca-Cola to Home Depot to Georgia Pacific to Southern Co. to UPS to SunTrust to Genuine Parts, and too many others to name. I’ve gotten to know many of Atlanta’s top CEOs.
Most annual meetings are benign, an opportunity for a company’s top executives and its board of directors present their results and prospects.
They’re also an opportunity for shareholders to ask questions of the executives about particular issues involving the company. I actually enjoy attending them because they are a concentrated opportunity where I can witness a company’s dynamics – how the executives relate to shareholders, what kind of board a company has, what is the mood of shareholders, how well does a CEO present himself or herself to the public at large.
It was for all those reasons that I wanted to attend NCR’s meeting. After all, NCR’s CEO William Nuti does not live in Atlanta and there aren’t many opportunities to connect with him while he’s in town.
So this morning, after letting NCR’s Smith know that I was genuinely flabbergasted by being barred from the meeting, I left.
As I said, an annual meeting is a wonderful opportunity to get to know more about a company, its executives and what they stand for.
And on Wednesday morning, by turning me away from its annual meeting, NCR told me a lot about what kind of company it is.
Maybe after NCR’s been in Atlanta a little while longer, it will learn what Southern hospitality is all about.