Monthly Archives: January 2013

John Gapper

There is constant status anxiety at the World Economic Forum – am I at the best session, have I been invited to the best party, what colour badge am I wearing?

But what if the best Davos badge is not the white badge that admits you to all official events, but no badge at all? It is certainly cheaper than SFr20,000 for an official place at the forum. Read more

Andrew Hill

Adam Posen’s attack on the management and culture of the Bank of England may be the strongest yet, but it is by no means the first – and won’t be the last – criticism of a persistent and dismaying lack of robust governance at the UK central bank.

What is astonishing is that despite countless warnings – three independent reviews, several newspaper editorials and sundry MPs’ warnings – the central charge that the governor is over-mighty and under-governed still stands. Read more

No corporate activity is as dispiriting, as futile, or, unfortunately, as common as blame-shifting. The tawdry process is familiar to anyone who has worked in business. However, the temptation to lay blame first and ask questions later is greatest at big companies with their web of complex, global suppliers.

John Gapper

Sony sells its New York HQ. Getty Images

Sony’s sale of its New York headquarters, 550 Madison Avenue, is one of those moments that have deep symbolism, whatever the substance. It is a neat reversal of Mitsubishi Estate’s purchase of the Rockefeller Center in 1989, which led to an outbreak of concern that the US had lost its edge.

The second event that promoted the idea that the surging Japanese economy was enabling a US takeover was Sony’s purchase of Columbia Pictures in the same year, for $3.4bn. Sony still owns the Hollywood studio, although its problems with its electronics operations have weighed the whole down. Read more

Andrew Hill

Tom Albanese’s departure looks abrupt, but only in the sense that most outsiders had wearied of hearing calls for the Rio Tinto chief’s head. As Lex has pointed out, his resignation was long overdue.

Since the dire implications of Mr Albanese’s decision to push through the Alcan purchase at the top of the market in 2007 became clear, people had been saying his days were numbered. “I expect him to be out within 12 months,” was the rash prediction of one unnamed investor in 2009. Read more

John Gapper

The death of the internet activist Aaron Swartz at the age of 26 has rightly evoked tributes to his creativity and selflessness. Swartz, who faced jail for illegally downloading millions of academic papers from an electronic library, committed suicide last week.

Andrew Hill

I predicted that HMV would fail – two years ago. The survival of the venerable British brand, defying doomy analysts’ forecasts, the digital musical revolution and generalised High Street decline, was arguably more surprising than its eventual slide into administration overnight on Monday. It still hurts – even if there is sense in the cold argument that “zombie” companies need to be cleared out before recovery begins. Everyone has shopped at HMV. Its demise has left my son as an unsecured creditor, with £30 of unspent HMV gift vouchers that now have purely souvenir value.

The fact the company lasted this long was partly down to the misfortune of rivals like Virgin Megastore, Woolworths, Game and Zavvi, whose earlier collapse drove CD, DVD and computer game buyers to the few remaining physical outlets. Read more

If you’re still wondering what inflated the dotcom bubble, inflamed the financial crisis and ignited a series of recent corporate disasters, the answer is staring you in the face: it’s the stupidity, stupid.