Monthly Archives: October 2012

For me, the most poignant photograph of the destruction left by hurricane Sandy was of the Fairway supermarket in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I used to shop there on weekends and, in the café at the back, next to two disused trams, would enjoy the vista of New York harbour and the Statue of Liberty.

Like a man with a broken umbrella trying to hail a cab in a downpour, the maker of the famous black London taxi is clinging to its last shreds of hope. Last week Manganese Bronze announced it was no longer a going concern and intended to appoint administrators.

John Gapper

There are many serious things to say about the merger of Random House and Penguin but the aspect that most strikes me is what a wasted opportunity it is to have an entertaining brand name.

As widely noted on Twitter, the decision to call the merged entity Penguin Random House is aesthetically far inferior to the alternative: Random Penguin. Jane Thynne, the journalist and author, summed it up nicely:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/janethynne/status/262846418203578368"] Read more

Andrew Hill

Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll would quite justifiably like to be assessed for her performance as a chief executive, not as a female chief executive. The same goes for two other prominent chief executives of UK companies who have announced their departure this month: Marjorie Scardino at Pearson (which owns the FT) and Kate Swann at WH Smith.

But the continued scarcity of female CEOs worldwide, the fact that two of this trio will be replaced by men (Ms Carroll’s successor has yet to be named), and the coincidence with a heated debate about gender quotas in European Union boardrooms make this a legitimate theme.

Specifically, it draws attention to the only element of the gender quota debate that pro-quota and anti-quota camps agree on (apart from the ultimate objective of achieving greater balance): that it is more important to fill the pipeline of female executives than it is to stock the board with female non-executives. Read more

The last two jobs held by George Entwistle before he became director-general and editor-in-chief of the BBC last month were as its director of vision and controller of knowledge commissioning. Only an organisation where George Orwell once worked could devise such marvellously sinister titles.

Andrew Hill

Apple's iPad Mini

Who wouldn’t have wanted to be a fly on the wall when Apple’s senior executives were discussing pricing of the new iPad Mini? At $329 (£269 in the UK), the relatively high price now appears to be making investors nervous.

What would Steve Jobs have done? Overpricing of the original Macintosh computer – conceived as a $1,000 machine, which increased to $1,995 because of Jobs’ tinkering with the design – was one of the first big disagreements between Jobs and John Sculley, then Apple’s chief executive.

As Walter Isaacson writes in his biography of the late Apple founder, Mr Sculley’s decision in 1983 to add a further $500 to the price and charge $2,495, to help pay for the huge launch and marketing push, made Jobs furious: “It will destroy everything we stand for,” he said. “I want to make this a revolution, not an effort to squeeze out profits.” Read more

Celebrity endorsement is the most irritating form of brand-boosting marketers have yet conceived – and that’s saying something. George Clooney flirting over a Nespresso coffee machine; Andy Murray fumbling for his Rado watch in what should have been his moment of US Open glory; Brad Pitt intoning “Chanel No 5: inevitable” in the new “groundbreaking” scent campaign: the product of such tie-ups is almost always cloying or annoying or both.

Andrew Hill

Permira’s agreement to buy Ancestry.com fills me with dread because I am a closet user of the genealogy site – largely through its compulsive iPad app, which my colleague Lucy Kellaway highlighted in an article in 2011.

Bought out: Prince William's family tree, as depicted by Ancestry.com

 Read more