Monthly Archives: May 2013

The news that Dave Hartnett, the UK’s chief tax collector, has become a consultant to Deloitte, is hardly shocking because so many now pass through the revolving door. In France, when public servants cash in by taking private sector jobs, it is called pantouflage. In Japan, it is amakudari (“descent from heaven”); and, in the US, it is normal.

Emma Jacobs

Long hours have become the norm for employees, and the demands of social media and working for global organisations mean that for many there is never an end to the working day.

There is a case that a rested employee is more productive. But should a company encourage its workers to sleep? Read more

About a year ago I was in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, gazing down at the Golden Gate Bridge from one of Larry Ellison’s many spectacular homes. The Oracle chief executive wasn’t there – he had lent the house out for a reception. In any case, he would be the last person to apologise for enjoying the fruits of his success. But the view from technology executives’ balconies is getting stormier. After banks and bankers, could they be next to feel the sting of a populist backlash?

Andrew Hill

In saying AG Lafley is “uniquely qualified” to lead Procter & Gamble – again – Jim McNerney, the board’s presiding director, somewhat understates the case.

Not only was Mr Lafley one of P&G’s most successful ever leaders between 2000 and 2009, he has literally written the book on how he achieved the corporate turnround – Playing to Win, co-authored by Roger Martin and published this year. But the record of chief executives who return to the top job is mixed: while there are benefits to bringing back the former CEO, there are pitfalls too. Read more

After six years of scrutiny, and repeated legal action against those around him, Steve Cohen remains a free man. His $15bn hedge fund SAC Capital is still in business and he still firmly maintains his innocence, despite the evident disbelief of regulators and prosecutors. It is time to prosecute him.

Andrew Hill

SAP’s striking decision to hire people with autism to programme and test its products has already generated some sceptical commentary from FT readers. But it should be welcomed, and not only by sufferers of the condition. Read more

Tony Hayward’s appointment as interim chairman of Glencore Xstrata last week marked his rehabilitation, three years after he told reporters “I’d like my life back”, following the fatal Deepwater Horizon explosion.

John Gapper

As Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, launches a new music subscription service and the company’s share price continues to climb, it’s worth nothing what a success he has so far been in the role – despite the doubters, including myself. Read more

In the three decades since Michael Bloomberg launched his electronic terminal to supply financial information and analytics, his company has been called many things: ambitious, competitive, brilliant, fearsome, relentless and totalitarian. Until now, it wasn’t known as stupid.

Ravi Mattu

When US businessman Victor Kiam tried a Remington electric razor, he liked it so much he “bought the company”, and spent the rest of his life telling the rest of the world about it. But for some entrepreneurs a bad customer experience can be an equally powerful spur.
This was the case for Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann, co-founders of London-based money transfer start-up TransferWise, which announced this week that Valar Ventures, the fund launched by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, had made the company his first European investment.

 Read more

Andrew Hill

Seen from outside France, the country’s “cultural exception” – which protects its art, music and movie industries in trade negotiations – is like a long-running film franchise.

In the new sequel – Exception Culturelle 3D, if you will – Pierre Lescure, author of a government-commissioned report, has given the story a great new twist by suggesting a tax on smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and e-readers to fund French cultural output. Read more

In 2010, seven managers from PSA Peugeot Citroën and five from Chang’an Automobile met in Shenzhen, southern China, to lay the groundwork for a new car factory. Three years later, Capsa, a 50-50 joint venture between the French and Chinese companies, is in the final stages of preparing a 1m square metre plant for the September launch of Chinese-made premium cars under the DS brand. “Because we were beginning from a blank sheet, people wanted to make it as perfect as possible,” says Gilles Boussac, Capsa’s president, between meetings with his team of mostly Chinese managers. “So often in China, if you’re trying to rework or improve something, it takes years to achieve.”

John Gapper

My views on Jamie Dimon‘s dual roles as chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase have not changed since a year ago, when I called for him to give up the chairmanship, but the stakes are much higher.

Mr Dimon faces a shareholder vote at the bank’s annual meeting next week to enforce a split of the two roles in the company bylaws. According to the Wall Street Journal, he has hinted that he might give up both jobs and leave if that passes. Read more

In the browser wars that began in the 1990s, it took more than a decade for regulators to stop Microsoft exploiting its dominance with users of Windows software. In today’s mobile battles, customers have done so themselves in six months. Microsoft’s rapid retreat over Windows 8 – the latest, mobile-inspired, version of its operating software – shows wise flexibility rather than its traditional obstinacy. But it also demonstrates that Steve Ballmer, the company’s chief executive, has lost the power to “embrace and extend” the Windows hegemony into new fields.

It’s the 18th annual Ira Sohn Investment conference, the must-have ticket for Wall Street investors. Held in New York’s Lincoln Center, money managers crowd the cultural heart of the city as the Philharmonic gives up its stage to the virtuosos of the hedge fund world. They are here to pitch their best ideas in public, all in the cause of cancer research (the most expensive tickets top $100,000).

There have been big calls at the conference before, David Einhorn’s (left) big short against Lehman brothers for one, and even SAC’s Steven Cohen appeared in 1999. This year the cast of 18 includes: Elliott Management’s Paul Singer to start proceedings, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square and investing legend Stanley Druckenmiller either side of lunch. Jeffrey Gundlach and Mr Einhorn will finish off the day.

The FT’s Dan McCrum and Arash Massoudi will be there to capture all the tips and report back on repercussions out in the market.


Andrew Hill

Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager of Manchester United gives the management world another example of how to bow out when you are, frankly, getting a bit elderly.

On this topic, we now have four great templates – the Pope, the Queen of England, Warren Buffett and Sir Alex – each of which could be applied by organisations whose leaders are grappling with questions about the frailty and mortality of their leaders. Read more

Andrew Hill

No doubt, if Microsoft reverses course over Windows 8 – for instance, by restoring the familiar “Start” button to the opening screen – it will provide abundant fodder for the writers of business school case studies.

But is the comparison with Coca-Cola’s famous 1985 marketing U-turn, when it brought back “Coke Classic” following a consumer backlash against its “New Coke” recipe, correct? Read more

Bankers were “the Praetorian guard of capitalism”, Michael Noonan, Ireland’s finance minister, said last week. Given the scarring defeat suffered by the free market’s crack troops in the financial crisis, and the curbs now applied to their pay and rations, you might expect enthusiasm to replace them in the front line to be muted.

The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is like Woodstock for capitalists. It draws tens of thousands of shareholders, value investors, groupies and the curious to the midwestern city Omaha, Nebraska.

They make the pilgrimage each spring to sit at the feet of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, the two men who have spent half a century building a sprawling $260bn conglomerate.

The FT’s Dan McCrum is there to capture the weekend festivities and the wise words from the pair of octogenarian sages. He will be blogging from the cornfields and investor meetings on Friday and Saturday, so check back frequently. All times are BST.


John Gapper

Walt Disney’s decision to stop making apparel in Bangladesh, as a result of recent factory disasters, is the wrong approach for western companies.

Pulling out of Bangladesh for fear of being linked with a country with poor safety standards will not help. It is harder to stay and help to tackle the country’s deep problems, but it is a better course. Read more