The Bitter End of "Chainsaw Al"

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MIAMI: The business world knew "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap well: Cost cutter. Payroll slasher. Master of the corporate turnaround. But Dunlap, the CEO-for-hire who got his own pink slip Monday from Sunbeam Corp., will go out in disgrace, having spectacularly failed to right the Sunbeam ship. And his fatal error was not to know himself.

Dunlap had a very predictable and very successful pattern, says FORTUNE senior writer Patricia Sellers: "He comes in, he hacks at costs Rambo-like, and then he sells out in a year at tremendous profit." That method made Dunlap very rich -- and highly sought after. But the 60-year-old Dunlap had declared the Sunbeam job his "last great turnaround," says Sellers, "and he was determined not to go to the grave with 'Chainsaw' on his tombstone." Instead of selling Sunbeam, Dunlap started expanding it.

Bad move. "He thought he was a growth guy, and he's not a growth guy," says Sellers. "It didn't work. Now he's lost his legitimacy, and his reputation is soiled. This is probably the end of 'Chainsaw Al.'" The moral: To thine own tools be true.