Monthly Archives: September 2010

John Gapper

As a journalist, I  appreciate  people who are straight talkers – and agree with Lucy Kellaway’s praise of Steve Jobs’ pithiness – but Carol Bartz at Yahoo has been taking it too far.

Kara Swisher suggests that the Yahoo board has doubts about Ms Bartz, and may be manoevreing to find a successor. Among other things, it is apparently worried about internal instability and Ms Bartz’s well-known bluntness (including a penchant for swearing in public). Read more

Punk. Billionaire. Genius. That is the three-word description of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, in the film account of how he took a social networking site from a Harvard dormitory to a valuation of $30bn in seven years.

John Gapper

The FT has two fascinating stories today about up-and-coming Asian leadership contenders at vast, powerful and impenetrable institutions.

One concerns Kim Jong-eun, third son of Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea. The other is about Michael Evans, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs and head of its Asia operations. Read more

John Gapper

The Federal Trade Commission complaining about a company allegedly touting false scientific benefits for its health products would not normally be interesting but the case of POM Wonderful, a Californian company that makes pomegranate juice drinks, is an exception.

My interest is due to the fact that I have witnessed Lynda Rae Resnick, one of POM’s owners, giving her full salesperson’s pitch for the wonders of her products in reducing the risks of heart disease and prostate cancer. Read more

John Gapper

One way of viewing the explosive argument in the HSBC boardroom that has led to the departure of Michael Geoghegan as chief executive is purely as a personality clash between him and John Thornton, the former Goldman banker who might have been appointed as chairman.

The other is as the latest round in a very long tussle between Hong Kong and London over who should be in charge of HSBC. Confusingly, both sides of the argument are represented by white middle-aged men since Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank was a British colonial institution.

(A further way of looking at this, incidentally, is as the Scots versus the English, given that HSBC was at its heart Scottish Presbyterian).

It dates back to the HSBC acquisition of Midland Bank in 1992, when the Bank of England insisted not only on the combined bank being supervised from London, but on Sir Willie Purves, the entertainingly fierce former head of HSBC splitting the roles of chairman and chief executive. Read more

There are good banks, there are bad banks, and there is Westdeutsche Landesbank.

In a competition for the title of world’s most consistently accident-prone bank – measured by a talent for losing money on exotic activities it has failed to understand, not only once or twice but over decades – it is difficult to think of an institution that rivals WestLB.

“Strong banks want strong regulation.” That fact has been misunderstood in the wake of the financial crisis, according to Bob Diamond, Barclays chief executive.

“No one has suffered more than those strong banks that have been thrown in the same reputational basket as weak banks”, he said at a panel this morning at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. Read more

John Gapper

Lady Bracknell would have something to say about the current proclivity of the British high street banks for losing chief executives.

First it was John Varley at Barclays, then it was Eric Daniels at Lloyds and next it may be Michael Geoghegan of HSBC, who has threatened to quit if he is not appointed chairman. Are you sitting comfortably, Stephen Hester of Royal Bank of Scotland? Read more