Poland May Welcome American Entrepreneur Into Socialist Bastion
GDANSK, POLAND — GOODBYE Lenin Shipyards. Hello Barbara Piasecka Johnson Shipyards. Poland's rulers are preparing to sell off the shipyard to a Polish-born American heiress. Under a ``letter of intent,'' the inheritor of the ``Johnson and Johnson'' fortune agreed in principle to buy 55 percent of the firm and run it along Western rules.
``Communism, capitalism,'' Mrs. Johnson says, ``it's just a state of mind.''
Rebuilt after World War II, the shipyard was conceived of as a bastion of socialism. But in 1980, shipyard workers created the East bloc's first independent trade union, Solidarity. Last November, Warsaw declared the yard bankrupt, almost sinking talks to relegalize Solidarity. Since then, it has opted to sell off the yard.
Several Western firms have expressed interest, including the German pre-war owners, sources say. But, unlike the Johnson proposal, many of the plans would put the facilities to uses other than shipbuilding production, says John Peach, Johnson's business adviser. Tough negotiations remain before a deal is finalized, he adds.
``To be truthful, we didn't want the Germans back,'' says Alojzy Szablewski, a Solidarity leader. ``We much prefer an American, especially [one] of Polish origin.''
Warsaw says it is willing to sell off chunks of industry to Western capitalists - few of whom have dared put their money into strike-prone Poland. ``This is a first example of bringing investment into Poland, and I hope others could follow,'' Johnson says. ``Maybe Don Trump would come and build hotels....''