Monthly Archives: June 2012

John Gapper

Microsoft’s launch of the Surface, its belated rival to Apple’s iPad, brought an interesting declaration from Steve Ballmer, its chief executive, as reported by the FT:

“We believe that any intersection between human and machine can be made better when all aspects of the experience – hardware and software – are working together,” said Mr Ballmer. Read more

Andrew Hill

I can’t help thinking that Jesse Boot and Charles R Walgreen Senior were destined to meet eventually. With Tuesday’s deal between the UK’s Alliance Boots and Walgreens of the US, the paths of the two pharmacy chains, each founded more than 100 years ago, finally cross. Boot – son of the original founder John – was said to have a “talent for business”; Walgreen, though he built his business more slowly initially, “instituted a level of service and personal attention unequalled by virtually any other pharmacy in Chicago”, according to the company history. Read more

If Ian Fleming had invented a villain modelled on “Sir” Allen Stanford, even James Bond fans would have criticised him for going too far. The Antigua-based Texan ploughed the proceeds of his fraudulent investment schemes into an unlikely passion for cricket, koi carp and tailored suits. Last week, he was sentenced to 110 years in prison. I only regret the judge didn’t add a year to the jail-term: superstitious cricketers believe a score of 111 attracts bad luck.

Andrew Hill

It was “values” day in many McKinsey offices on Friday – the annual occasion when staff take a break from client work to reflect on the principles underpinning the management consultancy. Rarely can they have had before them a case study as timely and as dramatic as that of their former head, Rajat Gupta, who was convicted that day of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud related to trading in Goldman Sachs’ stock by Raj Rajaratnam’s Galleon hedge fund.

At “the Firm”, the impact of Gupta’s decline and fall is still felt deeply. As I wrote last year in my analysis of how McKinsey was handling the scandal, “what shocks staff and alumni is that Rajat Gupta should stand accused of precisely [the] sins of self-enrichment and self-aggrandisement” that its legendary former chief Marvin Bower abhorred.

One former partner told me on Friday that “the most aggrieved groups are alumni and senior partners who knew Rajat Gupta and continue to be somewhat baffled by what led him to do this”. Another ex-McKinseyite, Roger Parry, now chairman of UK pollster YouGov, admitted to feeling “a little bit devalued and diminished” by the scandal.

But my sense is that while the trial brought punishment and humiliation for Gupta (who will appeal against the verdict), it did not add much to McKinsey’s embarrassment. The firm will not comment but no doubt it hopes the trial has drawn a line under the affair. Read more

John Gapper

The conviction of Rajat Gupta, the former managing director of McKinsey & Co, the management consultancy, on insider trading charges is an extraordinary event – not just because it was a hard case to prove but because of his status at the apex of the business establishment.

The man who ran McKinsey and went on to become a board member of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble, is very likely to receive a jail sentence in October. That makes him the most senior establishment figure to be convicted by a jury since the 2008 crisis.

He had already lost his reputation – silently disowned by McKinsey and discarded by Goldman. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s chairman and chief executive, testified at his trial that leaking information from Goldman’s board – as Gupta was caught on tape doing to Raj Rajaratnam, was wrong. Read more

John Gapper

I wrote in my FT column about Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, whose remuneration was rejected by 60 per cent of shareholders on Wednesday, and the fact that most CEOs demand to be paid at least as much as their rivals.

That leads to the steady ratcheting up of pay that has enraged UK investors in this year’s “shareholder spring”.

But one aspect of companies such as Barclays and WPP, home to the two highest-paid UK chief executives, is less noticed. It is that the bosses of investment banks and marketing groups tend to compare themselves not just to outsiders, but to the people within their organisations.

Investment banks such as Barclays Capital, employ traders and bankers who earn more than their CEOs, but are invisible because they are not on the board, and so their pay remains secret. Bob Diamond, Barclays’ chief executive and the former head of the investment bank, is the public target. Read more

The stinging rebuke from WPP ’s shareholders to Sir Martin Sorrell, its founder and chief executive, marks a turning point in how investors treat company bosses who demand spectacular amounts of money. Or, if not, it should.

Andrew Hill

Companies are woeful at strategy. How can they get better? And who should be helping them do so?

These are important questions, which Kim Warren, who has taught strategy at London Business School for 20 years, addresses in a pungent new e-book The Trouble with Strategy, published by his strategy training company. It contains a strong call to arms to the big management consultants which, he says, “have been strangely absent from the discussion of what needs to be done”. Why is that? Read more