AMF is trying to imitate the step-up program of Alfred Sloan of General Motors. GM has your transportation needs in hand from Chevrolet to Cadillac, as you become increasingly affluent. Although existing antitrust laws prevent AMF from acquiring competing subsidiaries, it can vary the products within a company. "We added a less expensive line of clubs to the Ben Hogan Company," Gott says, "to get a larger market share and larger volume in keeping with the idea that less affluent sportsmen abound in America. This will also let the customer step up to the classier line when he can afford it.
"Our problem is that we bought the Cadillac of every product. You can't make a Chevrolet of a Hatteras yacht. All we can hope for there is to get into smaller cruisers, the 20-foot class, which we'll do soon."
For all its divisions, disparate and widespread, AMF provides task force teams of management personnel that are available, like the squads on Mission Impossible, to fly to outposts having production, operational or financial problems. Softballs won't curve? Call a materials team down to Voit-Hofran in Tampa, Fla. and it will have matters unstraightened out in no time at all.
Then, too, Rodney Gott has been known to jolt the dignity of the control room (a Naugahyde and Formica den of power next to his office in the White Plains headquarters) while complaining about the vibration of a new Harley-Davidson engine. Having summoned the motorcycle products group V.P., Gott will vroom around the room on an imaginary bike, demonstrating its shakiness. The only things in the room that are trembling other than Gott are the hands of the V.P. "I like to kid him, too," says an amused Gott. "I told him something was wrong because my Sportster couldn't go over 85 mph. My old one would break a ton [100 mph]. He became pale and said he'd look into it, but I shouldn't go that fast. It was against the law. I didn't have the heart to tell him my wife was on the back." Like other corporations, AMF has a rule that no more than two executives can fly on the same airplane, but who is to tell the president to stay off his hog?
One gets the feeling that a boardroom scenario at AMF might go something like this:
Board Member A: We've got money in the bank, how about a flour mill? I know of a good one. It's called Pillsbury.
Board Member B: Naw, I want a drop-forge company. I like to hear hammers fall.
Board Member C: Work, Work, Work! I want to go skiing this weekend! Let's buy the Head Company.
Rodney Gott is reserved about the irons currently in the AMF fire, other than Ben Hogan's, but he does dream. "I love to fish," he says. "We've got four boat companies. I can't even keep a Hatteras, though. I was in the Bahamas on a 53-foot Convertible Fisherman and it was sold out from under me. What we don't have is a tackle facility. I feel bad when I have to use a lure that AMF doesn't make." There is an acquisitive look in his eyes.
The energy crisis of last winter drove AMF to bat for both itself and the industry, and the following message gives an indication of corporate fears: