WaPo: David Perdue Became Wealthy Outsourcing Work to Asia

December 30, 2020

“David was a very key figure in…establishing relationships with the Chinese government…”

Perdue has made fearmongering about China central to his campaign

ATLANTA — Today, the Washington Post highlights former corporate CEO Senator David Perdue’s extensive “work with the Chinese government” and his “proud” years of work in Asia outsourcing American jobs overseas while enriching himself. The devastating report notes Perdue has made several poor attempts throughout his campaign to “shift the focus away” from his corporate experience in Asia as he desperately attempts to align himself with Trump, who has “blasted corporate executives” like Perdue who move American jobs overseas.

According to the report, Perdue was “a very key figure in terms of establishing relationships with the Chinese government,” a stunning clash with his repeated “fearmongering” about China which has become a “central theme” of his campaign. The story only adds to previous scrutiny of Perdue by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and others who have put Perdue “under the microscope for his own connections to China” for leading Dollar General’s “aggressive expansion into China.”

“Perdue’s toxic record of outsourcing American jobs is on full display and Georgians can see Perdue’s top priority for what it is –– to enrich himself,” said Braxton Brewington, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Unlike Perdue, Georgians are not proud of Perdue’s years sending American jobs overseas.”

Washington Post: Sen. David Perdue became wealthy outsourcing work to Asia

  • “When Republican David Perdue ran for the Senate six years ago, he spoke proudly of his years as a corporate executive in Asia. He made no apologies for having said that he “spent most of my career” relying on the outsourcing of jobs.”
  • “But as Perdue seeks reelection, in a contest that will determine which party controls the Senate, he has sought to shift the focus away from such work as he allies himself with President Trump, who has blasted corporate executives who move jobs overseas.”
  • “The disconnect between Trump’s rhetoric about returning manufacturing jobs from China and the experience of Perdue was evident at an October rally in Macon with Trump. Perdue did not mention specifics about his career, telling the crowd, “I’m just a dumb business guy from right over that hill.””
  • “That was followed by Trump promising to make the United States “the manufacturing superpower of the world. And we will end our reliance on China once and for all.” Trump made no reference to the fact that Perdue, whom he called a “very successful man,” made much of his fortune by heading Asian operations for a number of companies that relied on Chinese manufacturing of products sold in the United States.”
  • “In fact, Perdue was a top executive at some of the country’s best-known consumer brands, spending years in Hong Kong and Singapore, which he used as bases to travel across Asia to take advantage of the region’s lower-cost workforces. He was senior vice president of Asia operations for Sara Lee, a conglomerate that owned clothing lines and wanted to expand production in China, and global vice president and later president of Reebok, which made most of its footwear overseas, including in China.”
  • “Such efforts to lower costs by moving jobs out of the United States to Asia have been common for the past several decades, and Perdue in his first campaign strongly defended the practice. He included references to that work in a 2014 campaign commercial in which the narrator says, “For Sara Lee, David led their expansion into Asia, living in Hong Kong for two years.” The ad showed a picture at the Great Wall of China of him and his wife, Bonnie, who says, “It sure wasn’t Georgia.””
  • “But when the campaign launched a new version of the ad this year, starting with the same video montage presenting Perdue as an “outsider,” the references to his work in Asia and the Great Wall picture were deleted. That has prompted the campaign of Perdue’s opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, to say that Perdue is trying to erase references to his work in Asia and mislead voters.”
  • “Perdue, whose net worth is more than $15 million, according to his financial disclosure, declined an interview request.”
  • “Perdue, 71, born in Macon and raised in nearby Warner Robins, graduated from Georgia Tech and soon focused on global business. In 1972, he began a 12-year career at Kurt Salmon Associates, an international consulting firm, where he said in a deposition that he helped companies “import shoes from Asia, especially, Taiwan, Korea, China, Indonesia, Malaysia.””
  • “After leaving that company, he held a number of positions, including in Singapore from 1991 to 1992 as a managing director for Gitano, an international clothing company. Two top executives of the company pleaded guilty in 1993 to conspiracy involving Chinese imports, and the company went into bankruptcy, according to news reports from the time. Perdue does not mention Gitano on his campaign website biography.”
  • “Perdue then came to the attention of Sara Lee, which had expanded far from its bakery origins into international clothing lines. The company hired Perdue to its office in Hong Kong to build its sourcing operation “from the ground up,” as he put it in the deposition, reported by Politico during the 2014 campaign.”
  • “Keith Alm, who worked with Perdue in the Hong Kong office, said in an interview that Perdue was “a very shrewd business guy” who worked with companies across China that had ties to the communist government.”
  • ““David was a very key figure in terms of establishing relationships with the Chinese government as well as the manufacturers of different products,” said Alm, who was an executive senior vice president at Sara Lee at the time. “They’re all inextricably linked. Obviously, when you work in China, you work with the Chinese government. So he had exposure and management responsibilities for developing that relationship.””
  • “After a stint as senior vice president of operations for Haggar Clothing, Perdue in 1994 became global vice president of Reebok, the athletic shoe company. Perdue said in the deposition that the company relied almost entirely on foreign production. “Except for very few pair, 100 percent was sourced in Asia,” he said. He was so successful in his role that the company’s founder and former CEO, Paul Fireman, elevated him to president, and the brand thrived.”
  • “Fireman said in an interview with The Washington Post that he recalled about 90 percent of the company’s overall shoe and clothing products being made overseas during Perdue’s time, including about 30 percent from China. He said Perdue never raised the idea of making shoes in the United States, adding that it would never have been possible given the higher costs.”
  • “Perdue became CEO and chairman of Pillowtex just after it emerged from bankruptcy in June 2002, telling the Charlotte Observer at the time that he had “developed a knack for being involved in building things and turning things around.” As Perdue put it in the deposition, part of a case brought by Pillowtex’s unsecured creditors, one of the company’s main problems was that the cost of goods from its U.S. factories was “significantly higher than the costs or the prices coming in from importers at that time.” To turn around the company, it was expected Perdue would rely on outsourcing, which could have meant the loss of thousands of American jobs.”
  • ““One of the problems this company had was [it was] overburdened with domestic manufacturing capacity,” Perdue said in the deposition. “And those cost of goods out of those factories were significantly higher than the costs or the prices coming in from importers at that time.””
  • “Perdue was given $100,000 for expenses to move from Massachusetts to North Carolina, even though he never moved there. He also received $700,000 to offset tax on anticipated stock profits, although he said the stock proved worthless, and he didn’t get an expected additional $1.2 million, according to his 2005 deposition.”
  • “Perdue resigned his Pillowtex job in March 2003. His reign was so brief that Fireman said he didn’t realize Perdue, still living in Massachusetts, had worked there. Four months later, efforts to save Pillowtex collapsed, and the 4,800 workers in North Carolina and about 1,800 elsewhere lost their jobs.”
  • “Harris Raynor, the Unite union official who represented most of the workers, said in an interview that he met in New York City with Perdue, offering to work with him on a restructuring plan. “He said, ‘Thank you, I’m very grateful we’ve had this conversation. I’ll get back to you.’ I never heard from him again.””
  • “Raynor, who works for a successor union in Atlanta and has endorsed Ossoff, said he and others were shocked that Perdue left the firm so quickly. “He made no attempt to save that company,” Raynor said. “All he cared about was saving himself.””
  • “Perdue did not mention his experience at Pillowtex in either his 2014 or 2020 campaign ads, nor on his campaign website biography. Many executives have successes and failures in their careers, but they often cite the failures as learning experiences. Perdue leaves out Pillowtex from his campaign website biography and omits it from a list of “Brands I’ve Helped.””
  • “In his 2014 campaign, Perdue was pressed by a reporter how he would defend “outsourcing.” “Well, defend it? I’m proud of it,” Perdue responded. “I mean this is a part of American business, part of any business. I mean outsourcing is the procurement of products or services to help your business run.””

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