'Undercover Boss' TaylorMade CEO Reveals Identity To Smitten Worker

Matt King CEO TaylorMadeNo industry has been exempt from the effects of the recession. Even golf. Mark King, the CEO of the world's largest manufacturer of high-performance golf equipment, TaylorMade, made that point bluntly during his appearance Friday on "Undercover Boss." "It's a challenge to get shrinking numbers to spend more money on a toy they don't need," he said.

His candor was refreshing and a stark contrast to the popular image of the chief executive who always spins. At one point, King was even moved to out himself, feeling the "Undercover Boss" shtick was too dishonest when one of his employees, a woman named Teresa, began pouring her heart out. Working out of the company's distribution-return center in Piedmont, S.C., Teresa told "Al Bauer," who was King pretending to be a second-chances reality show contestant, about what was on her bucket list. (She dreams of traveling to Australia, but thinks it's really just a fantasy.)

Her earnestness, coupled with the revelation that Teresa is also 53 years old and single like King, moved him. (He also has two daughters.) "I didn't want to play this thing any longer," he said on the episode. In an interview with AOL Jobs, he said that the plan to come forward was made in concert with CBS producers.

The moment was a rare emotional high point for the show. Bosses have come forward prematurely before: Hotelier Stephen Cloobeck angrily revealed himself to a worker in his call center during this season's premiere. But King's motivation seemed to be guilt -- he seemed to genuinely connect with Teresa.

With his cover gone -- he'd claimed that he had to rake leaves to make ends meet -- he also was free to take off his earring. "You look good either way," Teresa approvingly said. She had already spoken to the camera about her crush on him, saying she was excited to find out that this guy was the same age.


'Undercover Bosses': TaylorMade CEO on CBS
CEO Tells The Truth -- About Everything

King was frank with every employee, in all his site visits, including one at the quality control center in Westminster, S.C. "Kill me now," he said when assessing the amount of golf balls and other items that had to be checked. Indeed, he couldn't keep up with a female employee, Caley, who checked three balls at a time to maintain the the rate of 5,000 a day. When speaking about the relationship between the corporate suite and the factory floor, he seemed honest. "This job is more demanding than a job sitting behind a desk." Of course, this reality is underscored in every episode of the CBS series, now in its third season. King is just the rare boss who acknowledged it.

So it wasn't surprising, then, that King didn't put up a fight when he was recognized on the floor of the company's Carlsbad, Calif., club-manufacturing plant, which -- with $8 million a year in sales -- is the company's bread and butter. Here King was working with Christian, 19, and no one in the division was over 25. And so the prospect of this middle-aged man wanting a job making clubs seemed a bit unlikely. When crew members asked, "Are you Mark King?," he immediately polled the room to find out how many on the floor thought so. When it turned out that everyone did, he didn't even try to deny it.


A Little Too Good To Be True?

But producers probably didn't expect his identity to remain secret. King maintains a considerable public profile, having already appeared on "The Apprentice." This appearance for King, which CBS shrewdly aired on the weekend it broadcasts the Masters Tournament from Georgia, culminated in a reveal that stretched the limits of belief.

When Christian at the Carlsbad club-manufacturing plant told King that he'd given up a college scholarship so that his cancer-stricken mother could stay on his health insurance plan, King said that he was deeply moved. So during the reveal, King offered Christian a $10,000 check to cover medical expenses and a promise to cover his college tuition. Christian will also get another $15,000 to make up for the time that he will miss at work as he dives into his new life.

Come again? Yes, King was urging Christian to work as a part-timer even as King maintains his full-time pay scale. There was a hardly a moment when King came off as anything but genuine, and doubtless this decision came from the same place. But surely this can't be his strategy for surviving a time when his industry is shrinking?

In speaking to AOL Jobs, he explained why he's able to keep cool. "Historically, since recessions come and go, golf is last to go, and the first to recover," he said. "Because it's a pastime; it's not as expensive as buying a car or a vacation. People still find a way to play golf."

He would know. He's been with the company for 30 years, having started as a salesman when TaylorMade was a three-person startup. Now it counts 2,000 employees and does $1.2 billion a year in business. So his pledge at the show's end to restore the personal touch to the business is believable. Indeed, he also announced that he plans to add more supervisors to nightshifts, as well as a reimbursement policy for employees who incur expenses traveling for the company. The company will also stop throwing out damaged shoes, and will donate them as part of an initiative to bring golf to the inner city.







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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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John Terry

People are so gullible in believing these "reality" shows are real, and not fake, staged, and scripted. Gave up a college scholarship so his cancer stricken mother could stay on his health insurance? WHY OF COURSE! They never seem to follow around average workers with average lives, do they? They all have some unbelievable, heart breaking story that touches you...... FAKE. This CEO says he blew his cover after "collaborating with producers." Do you think? And I guarantee it was the producers' idea, not his. These producers run the show.

May 02 2012 at 10:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kathryn

I wonder why it was necessary to "pretend" his was single. Saying he was married with kids surely wouldn't have blown his cover. Just wondering.....

April 20 2012 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kathryn's comment
Nonnie

Do you know that he's married? From what I read it just says the female employee 'is single, like him'

April 29 2013 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
salt1950chev

This show is more about free advertiment for the company then helping employes. And don't forget a lot of companys are making their products in China. They sell the products here at a high price and make million of dollars. They are very disloyal to the country.

April 10 2012 at 6:09 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Bud Maxwell

As an employee, you really have to be careful of what you say and to whom at all times on the job. With surveillance cameras and video recorders, plus spotter spies looking for problems, to unload any amount of confidence in what may appear to be another employee is very foolish, and could easily incur termination. Undercover Boss is a lousy show, but it does put people on the alert to be cautious of stranger's questions. When in doubt, even if it galls you, always have nice things to say about your job and employer. You might even get promoted.

April 10 2012 at 2:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
peterphx12

That's a good start. However I see it at a different angle. That CEOs should do what this man has done if they're honest about the growth of their companies. Blend in with the workers once awhile, incognito of course, and watch what's going at the working places, so theyll see first-hand the good, the bad and the ugliness that face people who're working under them everyday.

April 10 2012 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
beachboxcafe

I want to the next generation of U.B. C Call it 'Hiddened Camera Boss" Then you'll see the real truth!

April 09 2012 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tyecedt

those two really had chemistry. i hope they can put aside status and class and make a real love connection. that kind of chemistry does NOT come along often. boy I WISH........go for it guys.....

April 09 2012 at 11:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
glid13

I expected more from a company that manufactures their equipment in China and assembles here.Why are you charging 399.00 for a driver made in China?

April 09 2012 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fciiohio

Nice story! This one makes me cry!

April 09 2012 at 10:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
shadowwolve63

Now that was a cool moment. Right on.

April 09 2012 at 10:00 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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