Clean Harbors CEO mingles with the troops on ‘Undercover Boss’

Alan McKim
Alan McKimChris Morris for The Boston Globe

As the leader of a company with some 15,000 employees, Clean Harbors Inc. chief executive Alan McKim doesn’t get the opportunity to get out into the field much anymore.

But what about as Bill Anderson?

McKim donned a fake beard and wig and hit the road last June to visit several Clean Harbors facilities, adopting a fictional persona courtesy of the CBS show “Undercover Boss.” The end result of that 14-day journey was scheduled to air at 9 p.m. on Monday night. It turned out that none of his employees recognized him, not even one man who had been with the company since 1985.


Among his tour stops: a chemical warehouse in North Andover, a refinery in Indiana, a hurricane cleanup in Texas.

The show’s producers had tried to get McKim on the show before, but he was too busy. They tried again last year; this time, McKim made himself available. They cooked up the character of Bill Anderson, an out-of-work car mechanic looking to enter a new field. Employees were told they were being filmed as part of a documentary on people who were displaced by technology. They didn’t know anything was up until the final day of filming, when some of the crew went to a Clean Harbors facility in Texas for what turned out to be the “big reveal.”

“Many of them were really shocked,” McKim said. “From my standpoint, it was a great opportunity to get a chance to go out into the field, to see some of the people and work with them without them knowing who I was.”

Clean Harbors has come a long way since McKim started it in Brockton four decades ago to clean tanks with three friends. Two of those colleagues — Harry Davidson and Steve Ritucci — remain with the company today. (The fourth, Fred Sorrentino, worked at Clean Harbors until his death last year.) The publicly traded company now generates about $3.5 billion in annual revenue and has a market value of nearly $5 billion.


As a result of his experience with the show, McKim said he wants to see people who work at the Norwell headquarters travel with field workers. Conversely, he wants to get more field workers to visit the headquarters.

“It certainly brought back a lot of great memories, . . . the adrenaline of running out the door, solving a problem,” McKim said. “It takes a certain kind of person who wants to go out in the middle of the night when a ship is aground or there’s a tanker flipped over. I actually miss that work.”

Tough ride for new fee?

Governor Charlie Baker courted controversy by tucking a big fee increase on Uber and Lyft rides into his state budget last week. It’s an idea that has already divided the business community.

A majority of business groups polled last year by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce supported raising fees on transportation network companies — namely, Uber and Lyft. Supporters at the time included the chamber itself.

The chamber’s position essentially hasn’t changed: It just put out a statement hailing Baker’s proposal and suggesting most or all of the fees should stay in the region where the rides originate. (Baker’s $1-per-ride proposal would split the proceeds between a state transportation fund and municipalities.) The current fee of 20 cents per ride, the chamber said, is the lowest in the country.


But several prominent business groups did not support the fee hike last year. They included Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts High Technology Council, and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership.

So what do they think of Baker’s plan?

Jay Ash, MACP’s chief executive and a former top Baker aide, said his group is currently analyzing the governor’s proposal. It’s possible, Ash said, that MACP could end up supporting the fee hike.

But AIM and Mass. High Tech remain firmly opposed. AIM executive vice president Chris Geehern said many people use ride hailing services as a cost effective way to get to work and to medical appointments. And Mark Gallagher, a vice president at Mass. High Tech, said focusing too much on one component of overall traffic congestion could distract policymakers from broader solutions.

Admirals’ new successor

The old Admirals Bank has hoisted up a new flag: ETHIC, a Wealth Bank.

Chief executive Marc White joined the struggling Admirals nearly two years ago from J.P. Morgan with a goal of turning Admirals around. He has done more than that. He said he has refashioned it into an entirely new bank, called ETHIC.

He helped raise nearly $30 million from investors, after a deal to sell the bank fell apart. He moved the headquarters from the Back Bay to the Financial District last August. Most of the 50-plus workers are new to the bank. And he said the bank, which is focused on high net-worth customers, has a new board of directors.


The bank has one branch, in the Back Bay, and another office in Warwick, R.I. It has $165 million in deposits and $220 million in assets.

Left over from the Admirals days: a federal consent order requiring improvements to corporate governance and capital. ETHIC officials say they’re well on their way to meeting those requirements.

“What we’re really doing is creating an institution that’s completely focused on the client [and] doing the right thing by our clients,” White said. “We came back to the word ‘ethic,’ which is just that: to do the right thing.”

A Dropkick to addiction

Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The Dimock Center. The Dropkick Murphys.

It might seem like one of these doesn’t belong: a giant biotech company, a community health center, and a rock band. But they all share at least one noble goal: ending the opioid crisis in Massachusetts.

The Rize Massachusetts foundation just named future Vertex chief executive Reshma Kewalramani, Dimock chief behavioral health officer Michael Tang, and Dropkicks cofounder Ken Casey to its board of directors. The new names bring the board of the anti-addiction nonprofit up to 11 members.

Casey, as Rize puts it, is “in long-term recovery and has a unique perspective on substance abuse disorder.” The band’s charity, the Claddagh Fund, contributes to a number of charities aimed at curbing drug and alcohol addiction.

The band might be best known for its arena-ready anthems such as “Tessie” and “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” But Casey and his crew often tackle serious subjects. The band’s most recent album — “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory,” released in 2017 — put the addiction crisis in the spotlight.


Aiming higher at AIM

John Regan began his first full year as chief executive of Associated Industries of Massachusetts with a call to action. Speaking at the Westin hotel in Waltham on Friday to about 340 AIM members, Regan said employers need to be a force for change, to create a “better, more prosperous world.”

Echoing a widely publicized statement by the Business Roundtable last August about how companies shouldn’t focus solely on shareholder interests, Regan said he agreed with that group’s stance that employers also need to consider their customers, employees, and communities.

Regan cited three steps AIM members can take: promote diversity in their workforces, improve worker training and retraining in the state, and help ensure Massachusetts can remain “fertile ground” for starting and growing businesses.

He concluded: “As we step into this new decade, there has never been a more pressing need for businesses to work together, advocating for values we believe are essential to our common success.”

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at jon.chesto@globe.com.