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General Electric (GE) is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in New York. As of 2015, the company operates through the following segments: Appliances, Power and Water, Oil and Gas, Energy Management, Aviation, Healthcare, Transportation and Capital which cater to the needs of Home Appliances, Financial services, Medical device, Life Sciences, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, Software Development and Engineering industries.
In 2011, GE ranked among the Fortune 500 as the 26th-largest firm in the U.S. by gross revenue, and the 14th most profitable. As of 2012 the company was listed the fourth-largest in the world among the Forbes Global 2000, further metrics being taken into account. The Nobel Prize has twice been awarded to employees of General Electric: Irving Langmuir in 1932 and Ivar Giaever in 1973.
During 1889, Thomas Edison had business interests in many electricity-related companies: Edison Lamp Company, a lamp manufacturer in East Newark, New Jersey; Edison Machine Works, a manufacturer of dynamos and large electric motors in Schenectady, New York; Bergmann & Company, a manufacturer of electric lighting fixtures, sockets, and other electric lighting devices; and Edison Electric Light Company, the patent-holding company and the financial arm backed by J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilt family for Edison's lighting experiments. In 1889, Drexel, Morgan & Co., a company founded by J.P. Morgan and Anthony J. Drexel, financed Edison's research and helped merge those companies under one corporation to form Edison General Electric Company which was incorporated in New York on April 24, 1889. The new company also acquired Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company in the same year.
At about the same time, Charles Coffin, leading the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, acquired a number of competitors and gained access to their key patents. General Electric was formed through the 1892 merger of Edison General Electric Company of Schenectady, New York, and Thomson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, with the support of Drexel, Morgan & Co. Both plants continue to operate under the GE banner to this day. The company was incorporated in New York, with the Schenectady plant used as headquarters for many years thereafter. Around the same time, General Electric's Canadian counterpart, Canadian General Electric, was formed.
In 1896, General Electric was one of the original 12 companies listed on the newly formed Dow Jones Industrial Average. After 119 years, it is the only one of the original companies still listed on the Dow index, although it has not been on the index continuously.
In 1911, General Electric absorbed the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA) into its lighting business. GE established its lighting division headquarters at Nela Park in East Cleveland, Ohio. Nela Park is still the headquarters for GE's lighting business.
Owen D. Young, through GE, founded the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1919 to further international radio. GE used RCA as its retail arm for radio sales from 1919, when GE began production, until separation in 1930. RCA quickly grew into an industrial giant in its own right.
In 1927, Ernst Alexanderson of GE made the first demonstration of his television broadcasts at his General Electric Realty Plot home at 1132 Adams Rd, Schenectady, NY. On January 13, 1928, he made what was said to be the first broadcast to the public in the United States on GE's W2XAD: the pictures were picked up on 1.5 square inch (9.7 square centimeter) screens in the homes of four GE executives. The sound was broadcast on GE's WGY (AM).
GE's history of working with turbines in the power-generation field gave them the engineering know-how to move into the new field of aircraft turbosuperchargers. Led by Sanford Alexander Moss, GE introduced the first superchargers during World War I, and continued to develop them during the Interwar period. Superchargers became indispensable in the years immediately prior to World War II, and GE was the world leader in exhaust-driven supercharging when the war started. This experience, in turn, made GE a natural selection to develop the Whittle W.1 jet engine that was demonstrated in the United States in 1941. GE ranked ninth among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts. Although their early work with Whittle's designs was later handed to Allison Engine Company, GE Aviation emerged as one of the world's largest engine manufacturers, second only to the British company, Rolls-Royce plc.
In 2002, GE acquired the windpower assets of Enron during its bankruptcy proceedings.Enron Wind was the only surviving U.S. manufacturer of large wind turbines at the time, and GE increased engineering and supplies for the Wind Division and doubled the annual sales to $1.2 billion in 2003. It acquired ScanWind in 2009.
GE had a line of general purpose and special purpose computers. Among them were the GE 200, GE 400, and GE 600 series general purpose computers, the GE 4010, GE 4020, and GE 4060 real time process control computers, the DATANET-30 and Datanet 355 message switching computers (DATANET-30 and 355 were also used as front end processors for GE mainframe computers). A Datanet 500 computer was designed, but never sold.
In 1962, GE started developing its GECOS (later renamed GCOS) operating system, originally for batch processing, but later extended to timesharing and transaction processing. Versions of GCOS are in use today.
From 1964 to 1969, GE and Bell Laboratories (which soon dropped out) joined with MIT to develop the Multics operating system on the GE 645 mainframe computer. The project took longer than expected and was not a major commercial success, but it demonstrated concepts such as single level store, dynamic linking, hierarchical file system, and ring-oriented security. Active development of Multics continued until 1985.
It has been said that GE got into computer manufacturing because in the 1950s they were the largest user of computers outside the United States federal government, aside from being the first business in the world to own a computer. Its major appliance manufacturing plant "Appliance Park" was the first non-governmental site to host one. However, in 1970, GE sold its computer division to Honeywell, exiting the computer manufacturing industry, though it retained its timesharing operations for some years afterwards. GE was a major provider of computer timesharing services, through General Electric Information Services (GEIS, now GXS), offering online computing services that included GEnie.
On June 27, 2014, GE partnered with collaborative design company Quirky to announce its connected LED bulb called Link. The Link bulb is designed to communicate with smartphones and tablets using a mobile app called Wink.
Acquisitions and Divestments
In 1986, GE reacquired RCA, primarily for the NBC television network (also parent of Telemundo Communications Group). The remainder was sold to various companies, including Bertelsmann (Bertelsmann acquired RCA Records) and Thomson SA which traces its roots to Thomson-Houston, one of the original components of GE.
Also in 1986, Kidder, Peabody & Co., a U.S.-based securities firm, was sold to GE and following heavy losses was sold to PaineWebber in 1994.
In 2002, Francisco Partners and Norwest Venture Partners acquired a division of GE called GE Information Systems (GEIS). The new company, named GXS, is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. GXS is a provider of B2B e-Commerce solutions. GE maintains a minority stake in GXS.
In 2004, GE bought 80% of Universal Pictures from Vivendi. Vivendi bought 20% of NBC forming the company NBCUniversal. GE then owned 80% of NBC Universal and Vivendi owned 20%. By January 28, 2011 GE owned 49% and Comcast 51%. On March 19, 2013, Comcast bought GE's shares in NBCU for $16.7 billion.
Genpact formerly known as GE Capital International Services (GECIS) was established by GE in late 1997 as its captive India based BPO. GE sold 60% stake in Genpact to General Atlantic and Oak Hill Capital Partners in 2005 and hived off Genpact into an independent business. GE is still a major client to Genpact getting its services in customer service, finance, information technology and analytics.
In May 2007, GE acquired Smiths Aerospace for $4.8 billion.
In 2007, GE Oil & Gas acquired Vetco Gray for $1.9 billion, followed by the acquisition of Hydril Pressure & Control in 2008 for $1.12 billion.
GE Plastics was sold in 2008 to SABIC (Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation). In May 2008, GE announced it was exploring options for divesting the bulk of its consumer and industrial business.
General Electric's Schenectady, New York facilities (including GE's original headquarters) are assigned the ZIP code 12345. (All Schenectady ZIP codes begin with 123, but no others begin with 1234.)
On December 3, 2009, it was announced that NBCUniversal will become a joint venture between GE and cable television operator Comcast. The cable giant will hold a controlling interest in the company, while GE retains a 49% stake and will buy out shares owned by Vivendi.
Vivendi will sell its 20% stake in NBCUniversal to GE for US$5.8 billion. Vivendi will sell 7.66% of NBCUniversal to GE for US$2 billion if the GE/Comcast deal is not completed by September 2010 and then sell the remaining 12.34% stake of NBCUniversal to GE for US$3.8 billion when the deal is completed or to the public via an IPO if the deal is not completed.
On March 1, 2010, General Electric (GE) announced that the company is planning to sell its 20.85% stake in Turkey-based Garanti Bank.
In August 2010, GE Healthcare signed a strategic partnership to bring cardiovascular Computed Tomography (CT) technology from start-up Ltd. of Israel to the hospital market.
On October 14, 2010, GE announced the acquisition of data migration & SCADA simulation specialists Opal Software.
In December 2010, for the second time this year (after Dresser acquisition), General Electric Co. bought the oil sector company British Wellstream Holding Plc. an oil pipe maker for 800 million pounds ($1.3 billion).
In March 2011, GE announced it has completed the acquisition of privately held Lineage Power Holdings, Inc., from The Gores Group, LLC.
In April 2011, GE announced it had completed its purchase of John Wood Plc's Well Support Division for $2.8 billion. This acquisition expands the extensive drilling and surface manufacturing and services portfolio of GE Oil and Gas, a division of GE Energy.
GE Capital sold its $2 billion Mexican assets to Santander for $162 million and exit the business in Mexico. Santander will additionally assume the portfolio debts of GE Capital in the country. The transaction was finished in 2011. GE Capital will focus in the core business and will shed its non-core assets.
In October 2012, General Electric Company acquired $7 billion worth of bank deposits from Metlife Inc.
In April 2013, General Electric Co acquired oilfield pump maker Lufkin Industries for $2.98 billion.
In April 2014, it was announced that GE was in talks to acquire the global power division of French engineering group Alstom for a figure of around $13 billion. A rival joint bid was submitted in June 2014 by Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) with Siemens seeking to acquire Alstom's gas turbine business for €3.9 billion, and MHI proposing a joint venture in steam turbines, plus a €3.1 billion cash investment. In June 2014 a formal offer From GE worth $17 billion was agreed by the Alstom board. Part of the transaction involved the French government taking a 20% stake in Alstom to help secure France's energy and transport interests, and French jobs. A rival offer from Siemens-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was rejected. The acquisition was expected to be completed in 2015.
It was announced in April 2015 that General Electric would sell most of its finance unit and return around $90 billion to shareholders as the firm looked to trim down on its holdings and rid itself of its image of a "hybrid" company working in both banking and manufacturing.
In August 2015, GE's GE Capital agreed to sell its Healthcare Financial Services business to Capital One Financial for USD $9-billion. The transaction involves USD $8.5-billion of loans made to a wide array of sectors including senior housing, hospitals, medical offices, outpatient services, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Also in August, 2015, GE Capital agreed to sell GE Capital Bank's on-line deposit platform to Goldman Sachs Group. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the sale includes USD $8-billion of on-line deposits and another USD $8-billion of brokered certificates of deposit. The sale is part of GE's strategic plan to exit the U.S. banking sector and to free itself from tightening banking regulations. GE also aims to shed its status as a "systematically important financial institution."
In September 2015, GE Capital agreed to sell its transportation-finance unit to Canada's Bank of Montreal. The unit sold has USD $8.7-billion (CAD $11.5-billion) of assets, 600 employees and 15 offices in the U.S. and Canada. Exact terms of the sale were not disclosed, but the final price would be based on the value of the assets at closing, plus a premium according to the parties.
In October 2015, activist investor Nelson Peltz's fund Trian bought a $2.5 billion stake in the company.
General Electric went public in 1892 on the New York Stock Exchange. GE is a Dow Jones and S&P 500 component.
GE is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut. Its main offices are located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at Rockefeller Center in New York City, known now as the Comcast Building. It was formerly known as the GE Building for the prominent GE logo on the roof; NBC's headquarters and main studios are also located in the building. Through its RCA subsidiary, it has been associated with the center since its construction in the 1930s. GE moved its corporate headquarters from the GE Building on Lexington Avenue to Fairfield in 1974.
The company describes itself as composed of a number of primary business units or "businesses." Each unit is itself a vast enterprise, many of which would, even as a standalone company, rank in the Fortune 500. The list of GE businesses varies over time as the result of acquisitions, divestitures and reorganizations.
GE's tax return is the largest return filed in the United States; the 2005 return was approximately 24,000 pages when printed out, and 237 megabytes when submitted electronically. The company also "spends more on U.S. lobbying than any other company."
In 2005, GE launched its "Ecomagination" initiative in an attempt to position itself as a "green" company. GE is one of the biggest players in the wind power industry, and is developing environment-friendly products such as hybrid locomotives, desalination and water reuse solutions, and photovoltaic cells. The company "plans to build the largest solar-panel-making factory in the U.S.," and has set goals for its subsidiaries to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.
On May 21, 2007, GE announced it would sell its GE Plastics division to petrochemicals manufacturer SABIC for net proceeds of $11.6 billion. The transaction took place on August 31, 2007, and the company name changed to SABIC Innovative Plastics, with Brian Gladden as CEO.
Jeffrey Immelt is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of GE. He was selected by GE's Board of Directors in 2000 to replace Jack Welch following his retirement. Previously, Immelt had headed GE's Medical Systems division (now GE Healthcare) as its President and CEO.
His tenure as the Chairman and CEO started at a time of crisis: he took over the role on September 7, 2001 four days before the terrorist attacks on the United States, which killed two employees and cost GE's insurance business $600 million — and had a direct effect on the company's Aircraft Engines sector. Immelt has also been selected as one of President Obama's financial advisors concerning the economic rescue plan.
GE's primary business divisions include:
- GE Power and Water
- GE Oil and Gas
- GE Energy Management
- GE Aviation
- GE Healthcare
- GE Transportation
- GE Capital
- GE Digital
Through these businesses, GE participates in markets that include the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity (e.g. nuclear, gas and solar), lighting, industrial automation, medical imaging equipment, motors, railway locomotives, aircraft jet engines, and aviation services. Through GE Commercial Finance, GE Consumer Finance, GE Equipment Services, and GE Insurance it offers a range of financial services. It has a presence in over 100 countries.
GE produces General Imaging digital cameras.
Since over half of GE's revenue is derived from financial services, it is arguably a financial company with a manufacturing arm. It is also one of the largest lenders in countries other than the United States, such as Japan. Even though the first wave of conglomerates (such as ITT Corporation, Ling-Temco-Vought, Tenneco, etc.) fell by the wayside by the mid-1980s, in the late 1990s, another wave (consisting of Westinghouse, Tyco, and others) tried and failed to emulate GE's success.
On May 4, 2008 it was announced, that GE would auction off its appliances business for an expected sale of $5–8 billion. However, this plan fell through as a result of the recession.
As of August 2015 GE is planning to set up a silicon carbide chip packaging R&D center in coalition with SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, New York. The project will create 470 jobs with the potential to grow to 820 jobs within 10 years.
On September 14, 2015, GE announced the creation of a new unit: GE Digital, which will bring together its software and IT capabilities. The new business unit will be headed by Bill Ruh, who joined GE in 2011 from Cisco Systems and has since worked on GE's software efforts.
Corporate recognition and rankings
In 2011, Fortune ranked GE the 6th largest firm in the U.S., and the 14th most profitable. Other rankings for 2011/2012 include the following:.
- #18 company for leaders (Fortune)
- #6 best global brand (Interbrand)
- #82 green company (Newsweek)
- #91 most admired company (Fortune)
- #19 most innovative company (Fast Company).
For 2012, GE's brand was valued at $28.8 billion. CEO Jeffrey Immelt had a set of changes in the presentation of the brand commissioned in 2004, after he took the reins as chairman, to unify the diversified businesses of GE.
The changes included a new corporate color palette, small modifications to the GE logo, a new customized font () and a new slogan, "Imagination at work", composed by David Lucas, to replace the slogan "We Bring Good Things to Life" used since 1979. The standard requires many headlines to be lowercased and adds visual "white space" to documents and advertising. The changes were designed by Wolff Olins and are used on GE's marketing, literature and website. In 2014, a second typeface family was introduced: GE Sans and Serif by created under art direction by Wolff Olins.
Controversies and criticism
The six reactors in the 2011 Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe had been designed by General Electric. Their design had been criticised as far back as 1972.
In March 2011, The New York Times reported that, despite earning $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations, General Electric did not owe taxes in 2010. General Electric had a tax refund of $3.2 billion. This same article also pointed out that GE has reduced its American workforce by one fifth since 2002.
In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized General Electric for spending $84.35 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008–2010, instead getting $4.7 billion in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $10.4 billion, laying off 4,168 workers since 2008, and increasing executive pay by 27% to $75.9 million in 2010 for the top 5 executives.
Between March 1990 and February 2001, General Electric was fined or ordered to pay damages by a court 42 times, amounting to at least $934,027,215, according to a report from the Multinational Monitor.
GE has a history of some of its activities giving rise to large-scale air and water pollution. Based on year 2000 data, researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute listed the corporation as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year (2,000 tons) of toxic chemicals released into the air. GE has also been implicated in the creation of toxic waste. According to EPA documents, only the United States Government, Honeywell, and Chevron Corporation are responsible for producing more Superfund toxic waste sites.
In 1983, New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York to compel GE to pay for the cleanup of what was claimed to be more than 100,000 tons of chemicals dumped from their plant in Waterford, New York. In 1999, the company agreed to pay a $250 million settlement in connection with claims it polluted the Housatonic River (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) and other sites with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous substances.
In 2003, acting on concerns that the plan proposed by GE did not "provide for adequate protection of public health and the environment," the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a unilateral administrative order for the company to "address cleanup at the GE site" in Rome, Georgia, also contaminated with PCBs.
The nuclear reactors involved in the 2011 crisis at Fukushima I in Japan are GE designs, and the architectural designs were done by Ebasco, formerly owned by GE. Concerns over the design and safety of these reactors were raised as early as 1972, but tsunami danger was not discussed at that time. As of 2014, the same model nuclear power reactors designed by GE are operating in the US, such as the controversial Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station, in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Pollution of the Hudson River
General Electric heavily contaminated the Hudson River with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) between 1947-77. This pollution caused a range of harmful effects to wildlife and people who eat fish from the river or drink the water. In response to this contamination, activists protested in various ways. Musician Pete Seeger founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the Clearwater Festival to draw attention to the problem. The activism led to the site being designated by the EPA as one of the superfund sites requiring extensive cleanup. Other sources of pollution, including mercury contamination and sewage dumping, have also contributed to problems in the Hudson River watershed.
On June 6, 2011, GE announced that it has licensed solar thermal technology from California-based eSolar for use in power plants that use both solar and natural gas.
On May 26, 2011, GE unveiled its EV Solar Carport, a carport that incorporates solar panels on its roof, with electric vehicle charging stations under its cover.
In May 2005, GE announced the launch of a program called "Ecomagination," intended, in the words of CEO Jeff Immelt "to develop tomorrow's solutions such as solar energy, hybrid locomotives, fuel cells, lower-emission aircraft engines, lighter and stronger durable materials, efficient lighting, and water purification technology". The announcement prompted an op-ed piece in The New York Times to observe that, "while General Electric's increased emphasis on clean technology will probably result in improved products and benefit its bottom line, Mr. Immelt's credibility as a spokesman on national environmental policy is fatally flawed because of his company's intransigence in cleaning up its own toxic legacy."
GE has said that it will invest $1.4 billion in clean technology research and development in 2008 as part of its Ecomagination initiative. As of October 2008, the scheme had resulted in 70 green products being brought to market, ranging from halogen lamps to biogas engines. In 2007, GE raised the annual revenue target for its Ecomagination initiative from $20 billion in 2010 to $25 billion following positive market response to its new product lines. In 2010, GE continued to raise its investment by adding $10 billion into Ecomagination over the next five years.
GE (General Electric) Energy's renewable energy business has expanded greatly, to keep up with growing U.S. and global demand for clean energy. Since entering the renewable energy industry in 2002, GE has invested more than $850 million in renewable energy commercialization. In August 2008 it acquired Kelman Ltd, a Northern Ireland company specializing in advanced monitoring and diagnostics technologies for transformers used in renewable energy generation, and announced an expansion of its business in Northern Ireland in May 2010. In 2009, GE's renewable energy initiatives, which include solar power, wind power and GE Jenbacher gas engines using renewable and non-renewable methane-based gases, employ more than 4,900 people globally and have created more than 10,000 supporting jobs.
GE Energy and Orion New Zealand Limited (Orion) have announced implementation of the first phase of a GE network management system to help improve power reliability for customers. GE's ENMAC Distribution Management System is the foundation of Orion's initiative. The system of smart grid technologies will significantly improve the network company's ability to manage big network emergencies and help it to restore power faster when outages occur.
GE healthcare is collaborating with The Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina to offer an integrated radiology curriculum during their respective MD Programs led by investigators of the Advanced Diagnostic Ultrasound in micro-gravity study. GE has donated over one million dollars of Logiq E Ultrasound equipment to these two institutions.
Between September 2011 and April 2013, GE ran a content marketing campaign dedicated to telling the stories of "innovators—people who are reshaping the world through act or invention". The initiative included 30 3-minute films from leading documentary film directors (Albert Maysles, Jessica Yu, Leslie Iwerks, Steve James, Alex Gibney, Lixin Fan, Gary Hustwit and others), and a user-generated competition that received over 600 submissions, out of which 20 finalist were chosen.
Short Films, Big Ideas was launched at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival in partnership with cinelan. Stories included breakthroughs in Slingshot (water vapor distillation system), cancer research, energy production, pain management and food access. Each of the 30 films received world premiere screenings at a major international film festival, including the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. The winning amateur director film, The Cyborg Foundation, was awarded a US$100,000 prize at the 2013 at Sundance Film Festival. According to GE, the campaign garnered more than 1.5 billion total media impressions, 14 million online views, and was seen in 156 countries.
On August 4, 2009 the SEC fined GE $50 million for violating accounting rules in two separate cases, misleading investors into believing GE would meet or beat earnings expectations.
GE has faced criminal action regarding its defense related operations. GE was convicted in 1990 of defrauding the US Department of Defense, and again in 1992 on charges of corrupt practices in the sale of jet engines to Israel.
A GE-owned abandoned building resides on Seaview Avenue in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The abandoned property has been cited in crimes that include being used as a hideout for a 72-year-old thief in 2008.
In the 1950s GE sponsored Ronald Reagan's TV career and launched him on the lecture circuit as a crusader against big government. Although it can be argued that GE frequently supported conservative policies, GE's record with designing social programs, supporting civil rights organizations, and funding minority education programs, speaks to their effort to support philanthropic programs and progressive causes.
Notable appearances in media
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GE was the primary focus of a 1991 short subject Academy Award-winning documentary, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment, that juxtaposed GE's "We Bring Good Things To Life" commercials with the true stories of workers and neighbors whose lives have been affected by the company's activities involving nuclear weapons.
In the early 1950s Kurt Vonnegut was a writer for General Electric. A number of his novels and stories (notably Cat's Cradle) refer to the fictional city of Ilium, which appears to be loosely based on Schenectady, New York. The Ilium Works is the setting for the short story "Deer in the Works".
The NBC sitcom 30 Rock was set at the NBC Studios in the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Center (hence the title). All characters in the main cast are NBC (and therefore GE) employees, and one character, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is portrayed as having risen through the ranks of GE management to become Vice President of NBC's East Coast operations through the company's microwave oven division.
In 2013, GE received a National Jefferson Award for Outstanding Service by a Major Corporation.
In 1981, GE won a Clio award for its :30 Soft White Light Bulbs commercial, We Bring Good Things to Life. It was produced by Phil Dusenberry at the ad agency BBDO, with director Marty Schultz (aka Mathew Brady), and artist and actor Victor Kalin.