For four full decades—from the 1960’s through the 1990’s—Leggett & Platt achieved growth of 15% per year (on average) in earnings, dividends, and stock price, largely by pursuing a strategy that focused intently on revenue growth. Over those 40 years revenue ballooned from $7 million to $4.3 billion, earnings grew about 1000‐fold,and our stock split approximately every 5 years. But as we entered the new millennium, our strategy seemed to lose its effectiveness. For the five years ending December 2007, Leggett & Platt’s stock priced moved sideways while the S&P 500 index achieved an 80% return. The desire for topline growth had led us to make certain acquisitions for which it’s now clear we paid too much, given their failure to meet expected performance levels.
We needed to make a change in strategy.