Monthly Archives: March 2011

Andrew Hill

It bears repeating: top managers rarely leave Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Read more

In Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the Victorian writer Charles Mackay describes a company formed during the South Sea Bubble in 1720 which declared in its prospectus that it was “for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is”. After investors hurried to buy shares, the founder “set off the same evening for the Continent” and was never heard of again.

It would be prudent to pause before taking advice from a man who was gaoled and his business empire broken up. Read more

Andrew Hill

Ricky Ponting has resigned as captain of the Australian national cricket team, but he intends to stay on as a player. If he were chief executive of a business, however talented, he would never try to pick up the threads of his earlier career as, say, a top salesman. Why not?

Ricky Ponting (Gareth Copley/PA Wire)

Ponting, 36, was the most successful international cricket captain ever, but he was widely perceived to have failed recently. His team just lost to India in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Yet as a batsman, Ponting still has plenty left to offer. Indeed, the World Cup quarter-final saw him return to form, scoring a typically brave century. As he told the press in relinquishing the leadership:


Now that I won’t have all the extra responsibility of the captaincy, I think I can turn myself into a better player than I’ve shown in the last six months.

 Read more

Predictions of rapid economic growth trigger in me the same breathless fear and excitement as news that tickets for a show or sporting event are going on sale and will sell out instantly. How much more stressful these forecasts must be for chief executives, whose destiny, and that of their companies, depends on being near the front of the queue when visions of the future come true.

John Gapper

The New York Times paywall (or pay fence) goes up today and there has been an enormous amount of speculation/analysis about it. For what it’s worth, I think it will succeed.

This is not because people “should” pay for the NYT’s journalism any more than they should buy any other product, but because the organisation does produce a lot of valuable and unique information. That means it can attract paying customers online as well as in print.

One of the main arguments deployed against the NYT asking at least some of its readers to pay (it is erecting a fairly porous barrier that allows people to click on 20 articles a month free, and an infinite number if they arrive at an article through a link) is that news is now a commodity. Read more

John Gapper

Gary Silverman has a fascinating column in the FT today about the Triangle Factory fire 100 years ago today in New York, in which 146 people died and which changed industrial safety laws. He compares the risks taken by the owners of the factory with Wall Street’s abiding appetite for financial risk. Read more

John Gapper

We all know that the world’s economic centre of gravity is moving east as India and China grow rapidly, but Danny Quah of the London School of Economics has managed to draw a map of it. Read more