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News
'Chainsaw Al' fires back
July 8, 1998: 8:45 p.m. ET

Ousted Sunbeam CEO, seeking to clear 'good name,' is outraged at allegations
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - In his first interview since being ousted last month from his leadership post at Sunbeam Corp., corporate turnaround artist "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap told CNNfn Wednesday he is "outraged" at the allegations leveled against him and said his next step will be to "clear my good name."
     Dunlap, the controversial corporate executive who earned his nickname by firing thousands of workers, was fired from Sunbeam Corp. last month after directors of the household appliance company lost confidence in his leadership abilities.
     Sunbeam now is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has requested various documents related to the company's accounting policies and practices.
     Sources close to the federal agency say the SEC is looking into whether bookkeepers at Sunbeam resorted to accounting gimmicks to make the company's 1997 earnings appear stronger than they actually were.
     As the former head of Sunbeam, Dunlap has borne the brunt of the criticism from angry shareholders, some of whom have filed sizable lawsuits.
     "I am outraged that people say they can't believe the numbers," Dunlap said Wednesday on "The Moneyline News Hour with Lou Dobbs." (293K WAV or 293K AIF)
     "I absolutely believe those numbers," he added. "We had outside auditors and counsel and I relied on these people."
     Dunlap said he has not been contacted by the SEC nor by the auditing team at Sunbeam.
     He also denied accusations that the company's early barbecue-grill buy program was merely an attempt to inflate sales numbers. Instead, he said, it was a marketing program designed to create two selling seasons -- a plan that failed to meet its goals.
     "What happened is that the basic Sunbeam [company] ran into some marketing problems and some of our new products were delayed because of technology [troubles]," he said. "The acquisition of Coleman also turned out to be an enormous undertaking and Sunbeam ended up running into some problems."
     Moreover, shifting weather patterns also contributed to lower sales of grills and electric blankets, he said.
     Sunbeam shares (SOC) have nosedived on the New York Stock Exchange from their 52-week high of more than $53 per share in March to a $10 close Wednesday.
     Dunlap, who was forced out two years after claiming the corner office at Sunbeam, said he continues to believe in the company's ongoing strategy and its financial future.
     As evidence, he said, he never sold a Sunbeam share nor exercised an option.
     "My next step is first to clear my good name," he said. "For the past three or four weeks, I have been an absolute punching bag and I'm not going to stand for it anymore. I believed passionately in this company and I believe in those numbers."
     Two weeks ago, Sunbeam delayed filing statements on its debt until its auditors completed a review of the company's 1997 results.
     Dunlap, who was recruited to Sunbeam in July 1996, fired nearly half the company's 12,000 employees. Back to top

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