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A.G. Lafley

chairman, president & ceo, the proctor & gamble company

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A.G. Lafley addresses the Boston College Chief Executives' Club of Boston in the Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

World of difference
Lafley wins hearts in Hub visit

This was what Boston wanted to hear.

Procter & Gamble boss A.G. Lafley flew into town yesterday, slapped the right backs, and reaffirmed his company's commitment to the Hub following last year's takeover of Gillette.

He also revealed new plans to invest in the local biotech and health-care industries, and made some well-targeted charitable donations.

One thing he didn't mention: Gillette CEO Jim Kilts' wild tirade against the town last fall.

He didn't have to.

The contrast couldn't have been starker.

Lafley gave a warm and dignified speech to the packed lunchtime meeting, which was arranged by Boston College's Chief Executives' Club.

"We are proud to be a new part of the Boston community," said the New Hampshire native, who spent summers as a kid in Boston and says he still roots for the Sox. "We look forward to growing here."

Left to Right: Jack Connors (Chairman, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc.), Kerry Healey (Lt. Governor, Commonwealth of MA), David Barrett (CEO, Lahey Clinic), M.D., Ellen Zane (President & CEO, Tufts-New England Medical Center), Patrick Purcell (President, Herald Media, Inc.), Father William Leahy (President, Boston College), Peter Lynch (Vice Chairman & Trustee, Fidelity Management & Research), Cathy Minehan (President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston), Robert Popeo (Chairman & President, Mintz Levin), and Margaret Marshall (Chief Justice, Supreme Judicial Court) enjoy Mr. Lafley's remarks.

In remarks afterward, Lafley went further in distancing himself from Kilts. He disagreed with the New Yorker's angry jibes against Boston, calling the Hub "positive" and "business-friendly." With a silence that spoke volumes he pointedly refused to defend Kilts' earlier speech - and then made clear that the New York-based executive had no "external, ambassadorial role" for the company.

Jim who?

It's a promising start to Boston's new relationship with Cincinnati-based P &G, though, as ever, the proof will have to emerge in due course.

But at least Lafley was making an effort.

Although there have been layoffs following the Gillette takeover, he promised again to keep the blades and razors businesses headquartered here and its technology lab in Needham.

At Procter & Gamble, he said, "our practice has been to keep acquired companies operating where they are when the business is healthy and growing."

That's an important caveat. Over the long term, razor blade manufacturing in Southie is going to depend more on global economics than good intentions.

Members of the press crowd around Mr. Lafley.

Fresh news came in P&G's growing investment in the Hub's vital biotech industry.

Lafley sees biotech, and especially sub-microscopic "nanotechnology," as critical to his company's growth in health-care and consumer products.

He credited Gov. Mitt Romney and economic development chief Ranch Kimball for helping foster the connections.

Lafley also cited new links with local industrial firms and suppliers and with health-care giant Partners, and promised more details soon.

"I hope you can sense even now (that) P&G's presence in Boston and New England has potential to be an important growth catalyst for P&G and for local entrepreneurs, businesses and institutions," he told his audience.

Among those listening: Fidelity guru Peter Lynch, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, State Treasurer Tim Cahill, advertising titan Jack Connors, property magnate Don Chiofaro, legal eagle Bob Popeo and Sovereign Bank's Joe Campanelli.

 The response was positive. "I was impressed," said Cahill. "I liked the commitment, not only to growth in South Boston, but also the further commitment to research and development."

Article by Brett Arends
Boston Herald
Wednesday, January 25, 2006