Business

One notable statistic about Russia is that the mean wealth of its 110m adults last year was $10,980 while the median was $870. In other words, if the country’s assets were equally divided, the man in the middle would possess more than $10,000 but, in practice, his net worth is less than a 10th of that sum. This is the result of 110 billionaires controlling 35 per cent of the wealth.

Andrew Hill

Straight-talking Karl-Thomas Neumann, chief executive of Opel, has given the world of reputation management a useful new metaphor for brand-blight: the “red elephant”.

At the Geneva motor show, he told the FT that the General Motors-owned German marque had suffered from a perception problem:

There was a red elephant standing beside the car that nobody talked about which says: ‘You can’t buy me because I’m an Opel’ … and we are addressing this now.

Not welcome in the showroom (image: Dreamstime)

Whether or not Mr Neumann has mixed up “elephants in the room” and “red flags”, I find the image compelling enough to be worth spreading.

Plenty of companies persist in assuming that a brand’s historic reputation will sustain it, without tackling the scarlet pachyderm that may be frightening off customers. Antidotes include: 1) making such a noise about the brand that it drowns out the trumpeting of the creature standing alongside; 2) improving the quality of the product so that it is no longer dwarfed by the public (mis)perception about it. Read more

You would be quite happy to allow someone else to open the boot of your car and drop off your groceries while you are absent. You would trust random strangers to deliver your new shoes on their way past your home. You would gladly accept a prescription-drug order from an unidentified flying object hovering outside your door. All to avoid going the extra mile to pick up cheap goods ordered online in person.

At 78, Carl Icahn shows little sign of retiring, or of becoming more polite. After finally prodding Forest Labs into a $25bn takeover by Actavis, he renewed his attack on eBay this week, accusing John Donahoe, its chief executive, of being “completely asleep or, even worse, either naive or wilfully blind”.

Pisa stands for Programme for International Student Assessment. But judging from the reaction to the OECD rankings of educational attainment, it may as well mean Parental Index of Social Anxiety.

Andrew Hill

Pets.com's once-ubiquitous mascot (Bloomberg)

It is probably unfair to draw a parallel between Pets at Home, with its real stores, real turnover and real earnings, and Pets.com, the US pet products etailer that was one of the dotcom bust’s most notorious flameouts. But the ghost of Pets.com’s sock-puppet mascot haunts the latest plans for initial public offerings, of which Pets at Home’s flotation is the freshest. Here are the lessons: Read more

The possibility that a senior Amazon executive may find his name on a range of “non-medicated toilet preparations” has considerably brightened my week. Not that I have anything against Amazon. But Lush, the British handmade cosmetics company, does.

The Time Warner Cable office on 23rd St near Park Avenue in New York City has something of the atmosphere of a soviet post office. Clerks staff a row of desks, calling customers forward at a languorous pace. During my visit, the queue stretched out of the door.

No one was there because they wanted anything from the company. Like me, they were there to give something back. When I took out a cable plan some months earlier, the company had insisted that I use one of its modems. I had to pay an installation fee and wait at home for a technician to turn up late and attach a cable – a ceremony I could have performed perfectly well myself. Now the company had changed its tune. I could use my own modem if I wanted to. But if I kept the one it had thrust upon me, I would have to pay rental of $48 a year. (The one I already owned had cost $18 to buy outright.) Read more