When David Cameron flew to Davos last week to tell companies that reduce their tax bills by dividing activities among countries to “wake up and smell the coffee”, his target was clear. Starbucks now faces a consumer boycott and has been publicly accused of acting unethically.
It’s 25 years, almost to the day, since I started at the Financial Times. “One tip,” confided a more experienced colleague, early on: “Don’t stay more than five years, or you’ll be here for ever.”
Only two individuals’ pictures feature in Cable & Wireless’s online corporate history. One is Sir John Pender, the Victorian subsea cable pioneer; the other is Sir Richard Lapthorne.
A British chief executive I met this week was fretting about the UK government’s attempts to kick-start the economy with infrastructure projects. He didn’t fault the plan, but he worried about the execution, likening ministers to Biblical prophets. The only problem, he said, is that “the word of God” is not enough to make roads, bridges, power stations and broadband networks miraculously materialise. Read more
Things got quite exciting in London at noon on Tuesday. First Kweku Adoboli, the rogue trader formerly employed by UBS, was sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud. Then Hewlett-Packard accused the former management of Autonomy, the UK software company, of wrongdoing. The moral appeared to be, as a New York journalist wryly tweeted: “Don’t trust the British.”
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.
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.
Next week, the Financial Services Authority is due to announce tighter listing rules to deter abuses by London-listed companies. There is cause for disquiet: this week’s implosion of Bumi , the Indonesian coal-mining group part-owned by Nathaniel Rothschild, the financier, follows governance wrangles at the Kazakh-focused Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation.
It is natural to regards any merger proposed by BAE Systems, the UK’s biggest defence company, with suspicion. Had it a better record of predicting its industry’s future and doing deals at the right price, it would be in less of a pickle.
Anyone who reads Sir Howard Davies’s acerbic regular diary column in Management Today magazine will know that the former head of the CBI and London School of Economics is extremely well-qualified to lead an independent inquiry into UK airport capacity. He seems to spend much of his time travelling by air between international destinations – dropping in the occasional barb about the airports he passes through.
In July, he pointed out that “you need a sense of humour to fly from Venice airport. Congested? It makes Heathrow Terminal 1 look like a county cricket ground on a wet afternoon”. Last December, he recounted a bad Paris-Munich TGV experience, but added he was “instinctively pro-train, except when it is owned by Richard Branson”. Read more
Anyone who has worked with a prima donna – and hasn’t everyone? – should study the latest career moves of Kevin Pietersen and Robin van Persie.
Cricketer Pietersen, one of England’s best ever batsmen, was dropped from the team last week, accused of sending what the South African-born player admitted were “provocative” texts to the opposing South African team, allegedly denigrating the England captain. Footballer van Persie, Arsenal’s captain, was sold to newly listed Manchester United, six weeks after stating on his website that he and the London club’s management “disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward”.
I wrote in July about the management lessons to be drawn from organising the Olympics and one point that particularly struck me was that the London 2012 organisers’ job continues well into 2013.
First there are the Paralympic Games to stage, then there are venues to be closed, knowledge to be transferred to Rio de Janeiro’s organisers, and accounts to be tallied.
The job strikes me as comparable to that of the administrators of companies that go into liquidation or the senior executives of life insurers that close to new business and go into “run-off”. Read more
The sense of shock in London about the allegations levelled against Standard Chartered goes well beyond the stock market where – as of mid-morning on Tuesday – the shares were down by nearly a quarter.
The group is virtually the only large UK bank not to have suffered serious reputational damage over the past five years. That’s partly because its operations are mostly outside the UK and other developed markets, partly, the bank would say, because of its strong culture.
As a result of that unique position – and the high reputation of its senior management — it was the safe harbour of choice for government ministers and their advisers in autumn 2008, when the rest of the UK banking sector was on the brink of collapse. The recapitalisation and rescue plan for the industry, later copied elsewhere, was cooked up in its boardroom, with the help of its top executives, generating a mass of laudatory coverage. Read more
This weekend, NBC kicked off its expensive coverage of the London Olympics by cutting out the part of the opening ceremony that commemorated the victims of the July 7, 2005 bombings, in favour of a soft soap interview with Michael Phelps, the record-breaking swimmer. Then, when Phelps swam (and lost) the next day, it waited eight hours to televise him in action.
Nearly four years after the Wall Street bailout, the beneficiaries of the US government’s support are battered and unpopular, but still in business. Meanwhile, the regulators that rescued them are in trouble.