International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. today moved its annual meeting across the Atlantic Ocean and changed its name, all to dramatize its role as a multinational telecommunications firm.
The newly renamed ITT Corp. became the first major American company to hold its annual stockholders meeting outside North America, a move that cost $1 million, but captured the approval of the company's European and American shareholders who attended.
Using a sophisticated satellite arrangement costing $400,000, the multinational beamed the proceedings live to Chicago, where shareholders were allowed to submit written questions that were transmitted to London.
During the meeting, stockholders approved the name change and company officials reported that first quarter net income and revenues had declined.
Net income for the first quarter dropped to $134 million (90 cents a share) from $163 million ($1.10) for the same quarter last year, when there was an after-tax gain of $28 million (19 cents) on the sale of shares of Standard Telephone and Cables, an associate company in the United Kingdom. Sales were $4.9 billion, compared with $5.4 billion last year.
"Some 40 percent of our sales and revenues and 61 percent of our operating income are generated in Western Europe," said chairman Rand V. Araskog, explaining the decision to hold the meeting in London. "Many shareholders in the United States and abroad have urged us over the years to meet in Europe."
Araskog said 10.6 percent of the company's stockholders reside in Europe, and 140,000 of its 283,000 employes work there. The location of the next meeting will be up to the board of directors, Araskog said, but it probably won't be overseas again for at least five years. Overall, Araskog said, he was pleased with the arrangements.
A stockholder proposal to restrict further meetings to the continental United States was rejected, winning only 3 percent of the vote.
Many of the shareholders filling the main floor of the airy, wood-paneled Barbican Centre, often used for musical performances, were Americans who planned to combine the annual meeting with vacationing in Europe.
European stockholders, seated in the sprawling, year-old $260 million hall, praised the company's decision to come to London, although several complained that the company allowed professional gadflies to monopolize questioning and stretch the meeting, scheduled for 90 minutes, to 3 1/2 hours.
One gadfly proposed that Koo Stark, an actress linked romantically with Prince Andrew, be named to the ITT board of directors to help build the company's relations with the British royal family.
"We are ever so delighted" that ITT held its meeting in London, said a British woman who said her late husband worked 47 years for the company. She said she appreciated the "opportunity of coming here and mixing with you all. But I don't want the royal family brought into anything like this."
A West German man said the move to London could be a "positive example to other companies," and a statement transmitted from a Chicago stockholder asserted that confining meetings to the United States is "nationalism of the worst sort."
In his remarks, Araskog said ITT is "now in a favorable position as the worldwide economic recovery takes shape.
"We expect that our operating gains this year will be modest, but if a period of worldwide economic growth can be sustained, we look forward to sharp improvement in our operating results in the years to come."
He predicted that the U.S. economy "will continue its moderate improvement so that the total GNP growth will be approximately 3 percent this year and about 4 percent in 1984."
The 63-year-old company proposed changing its name because, it said, International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. no longer reflected its diversification into telecommunications, electronics, insurance, consumer and other products.
It will cost the company about $250,000 to change its stationery and other items, Araskog said.
One of the company's interests, ITT Continental Baking Co., which makes Hostess brand snacks and Wonder Bread, came under attack by two stockholders who said Wonder Bread didn't taste good, comments which may have passed over the heads of Europeans.
M. Cabell Woodward Jr., executive vice president and former president of Continental Baking, defended Wonder Bread, the largest selling bread in the United States. "You haven't really lived until you've had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder Bread," he said.