Nouveau Riche Chinese Pharma Company Must Learn to be More Discreet

September 13, 2011
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I got a chuckle out of a Wall St. Journal article (State-Run Drug Maker Answers Outrage Over Opulent Palace) and accompanying photos of the over-the-top interior of Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Sixth Pharm Factory in China featuring extravagant rooms lined with gold and marble, featuring crystal chandeliers and fancy furniture. It’s something one might expect in a Saddam Hussein palace, not a Communist owned factory with a fuddy duddy 1950s style name.

I got a chuckle out of a Wall St. Journal article (State-Run Drug Maker Answers Outrage Over Opulent Palace) and accompanying photos of the over-the-top interior of Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Sixth Pharm Factory in China featuring extravagant rooms lined with gold and marble, featuring crystal chandeliers and fancy furniture. It’s something one might expect in a Saddam Hussein palace, not a Communist owned factory with a fuddy duddy 1950s style name. To make things worse, these photos weren’t leaked by a whistle-blowing employee or ferreted out by a  muckraking journalist. Instead, they were featured on the company website. Once the company started taking flak it yanked the photos and asserted that the pictures were really of a”wood-block-printing art museum” in their headquarters building, as though that were a plausible use of corporate funds.

Running a successful pharmaceutical company creates a big problem: where to stuff all the cash it can generate. Western firms solved this problem a long time ago, but since they apparently forgot to pass along the pointers to their nouveau riche rivals, allow me to relay some “best practices” I have observed in my travels:

  • State of the art air forces of jets and helicopters (without corporate logos for “security” reasons)
  • Collections of paintings, antique furniture, sculpture and tapestries in the executive suite, but nothing so bright, gaudy and attention getting as gold
  • Housing the chairman’s personal art collection in a company-owned stately home, which also relieves him of the burden of paying for round-the-clock security
  • Understated but luxurious headquarters in out-of-the-way locations

And of course this stuff is never, ever photographed and displayed on the Internet. How tacky would that be!