Raymond Harbert, chief executive officer of Birmingham, Alabama-based Harbert Corporation, had a radical proposal for his father. It was 1992, and the company that had made his dad, John M. Harbert III, a billionaire was eking out small profits and was $300 million in debt. Raymond proposed selling the core construction business, which dated back to the company’s 1946 founding. The elder Harbert threw his son out of his office, an associate recalls.
A sum equal to 1 percent of the European Union’s gross domestic product will devour 100 percent of the bloc’s political energy when leaders square off over subsidies for everything from bridges and windmills to olive trees and the dwindling honeybee population.