Bush Brown Mills & Boon

July 29, 2007

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Tony Blair was said to have had an unhealthily close relationship with President Bush. The new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, meets George Bush this weekend. But are we at risk of making sense of their first encounter in terms better suited to romantic fiction?

The widespread view over here is that Tony Blair became too much in thrall to George Bush. The ‘poodle’ metaphor might have become clichéd, but it has outlasted other more nuanced terms. Maybe there will be a historical revision, but for the moment the story has been established, and the ending settled in the public’s recollections of both leaders and their relationship.

Gordon Brown became Prime Minister after a long and bitter succession battle. Maybe, again, the official line will soften the accepted version of the story. The official line is that the two men had a long-standing friendship which carried them through the long period of Blair’s dominance as Prime Minister, and Brown’s not inconsiderable political influence as a highly effective Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this version, any discussions between them did not amount to a deal that Brown would not complete with Blair for the top job after the sudden death of Labour’s leader John Smith. Blair would smooth the way for Gordon’s succession, but not with a time-scale attached to the arrangement, which as I have just said, was not in any way a deal.

In the version presented through the media, there was a deal, and in time Brown became increasingly convinced that he had been conned, and would not be given Blair’s support in a future leadership contest. The Blair/Brown relationship was to become as dark as the Blair/Bush one was to burgeon into an idyllic friendship of sweetness and light.

That was then

Gordon eventually takes over and ‘sends out signals that changes are on the way. It’s tricky because he can’t change too much of the things he was assumed to be partly res;onsible for. He might be accused of being Blair’s poodle! would be then accused of heavily involvement in under Tony. But it is thought that he will meet those two Kiplingesque impostors of threat and opportunity . over Iraq, and thus inevitably the Anglo-American relationship

Now Gordon journeys to Camp David to meet Blair’s old buddie. The meeting has attracted a little attention in the UK political circles, less so in America. The White House press machine seems to have reached an embattled compromise with the media in its standardized delivery of standardized news stories. The travelling members of the Washington Press Corp dutifully attends at Camp David and reports on the information provided. The item will slot into the back end of news reports in its rightful place after the breaking news of personalised tragedies, and the doings of celebrities from the overlapping celebrity worlds of sport, entertainment, and violent crime. No big deal. Gordon gets his allotted coverage, roughly that allocated to the meetings of the last and next international visitors with the President.

Does it the meeting matter?
Interested journalists seem to think it does.

Maybe this is so, although I am inclined to think the idea is too close to that romantic tale of a first encounter, and of the critical importance of first impressions. A misunderstanding leads to many a twist and turn before the two principal characters find their true relationship. Its too close to Mills & Boon, as we like to say.

First impressions are important, not least in the world of business. Rickards and Clark cited several examples of the importance attributed by business leaders to first impressions. It’s up there with other assumptions, such as the idea that trust, once lost, is never regained. That’s a more deterministic version of the ‘first impression’ assumption.

Here we have a chance to evaluate these notions in a well-documented (if well-packaged) form, as well as the suggestion that a new leader can expect a honeymoon period. In Gordon’s case, this is measured by the so-called Brown Bounce in opinion polls.


Skunk control and the Clinton puff

July 27, 2007

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Governments want to solve the problems of drug abuse. But programs of drug education are sadly ineffective. This suggests that politicians need to change if they are to escape the suspicion that they are untrustworthy spinners of tales in the interests of personal agendas

The overall thrust of this post is how the public is influenced by thought leaders, particularly in the context of issues of public health such as the dangers of vaccination and of drug-taking. The post opens up several issues which will have to be developed in subsequent posts.

A specific incident triggered this note.

My story begins with an exchange of views between a BBC broadcaster and someone calling in to a morning chat show. The phone-in was on BBC Radio Five live. The format is very much customized by long-established practice, and tends to invite text, emails or calls from listeners. Issues are picked up mostly from the popular issues of the day, with a steer from the early morning news media. The approach has never been accused as a dodgy means of cash from callers. The interviewer generally plies his trade in a bright and intelligent fashion.

The selected issue on the morning of Wednesday 25th July 2007 was that of drugs, drug dependency, and the impact of government initiatives. The interviewer permitted himself to be hooked into a pub-level exchange of views about the validity of the scientific evidence over the dangers of cannabis.

‘There’s no evidence’ asserted the caller.
‘There’s lots of scientific studies’, replied the BBC moderator.
‘Not proper, thorough ones’.
‘Yes, I’ve got the information front of me … [reads from his video feed]. …The evidence is endorsed by the British Medical Association…’.
‘That’s not proof, that’s propaganda’.

Interviewer now intent on winning this one, calls up yet more evidence on to his screen.

‘Alright. There’s another example from New Zealand. A longitudinal study with a thousand subjects shows that cannabis use led to more mental illnesses and hospitalization’.
‘A thousand people! That’s nothing. What sort of sample is that? I’d be laughed down by those medical experts if I said Cannabis was safe on evidence from just a thousand people’.

At which point, the interviewer ended the discussion, politely thanking the caller for sharing this point of view.

Monty Python and what the Romans ever did for us

The debate reminded me of a famous scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, about what the Romans had ever done for the ancient Britains. In the film, each counter-example of what the Romans did (aqueducts, roads, central heating, and so on) was grudgingly granted as one little example insufficient to win the argument.

Today, the claims of the New Zealand study were similarly brushed aside.

Does this matter a Clinton’s non-inhaled puff?

I rather think it does. There is a need to improve public awareness of medical findings. A current debate is emerging around the dangers of cannabis use. A recent example with adverse consequences to public health was tragically demonstrated during the MMR vaccine case, where public opinion was violently polarized. For a while, there were two views, each supported by influence figures or thought leaders. Eventually, the evidence overwhelmingly lined up behind the view endorsed by the British Medical Council. The vaccine was safe. Its use did not have the side effects that were concerning parents, and leading them to hold back on vaccinating their children.

But a proportion of parents remained in denial about the trustworthiness of the conclusions reached by the medical authorities. The popular view had been shaped by thought leaders who had aired plausible arguments which fed through into public assertions on web sites and in workplaces. When the topic was aired on chat shows, politicians seemed unable to counter views rejecting the credibility of the authority of the conclusions of the British Medical Council.

My depressing conclusion is that the political figures had an inadequate grasp of how medical research works. Also, I’m not sure the BBC mediators could elevate the level of discussion, even if they abandon their commitment to promoting ‘unbiased’ debate.

In other words, a few thought leaders with dubious arguments retain credibility, because of a lack of general education of others who might have been figures of influence.

Ttis may be a bit much to ask of primarily commercial broadcasters. But the BBC holds to its mission to entertain, but also to educate and inform.

What might help in such discussions?

A greater awareness of medical methodology is needed among politicians. Researchers worry a great deal about the appropriate design of an investigation. They know otherwise they will not be able to draw conclusions with any confidence. They also know that every research proposal will be scrutinized carefully. If the work goes ahead, the results will be even more carefully examined by other researchers (peer-review).

Sample size does matter. But the general public could be quickly introduced to a few principles or guidelines. How studies often only show association of a few factors, not causal links. Why some kinds of study require a few hundred individuals while others need far fewer.

A thousand people included in the New Zealand trial makes it quite a major one. Its longitudinal nature made it possible to consider causation, not just connection or association.

My point is that these ideas are not difficult to introduce into more widespread currency. That we all become less vulnerable to uninformed opinions taking hold. We accept the thought leaders after a more informed reflection of their arguments.

What’s this got to do with the Clinton line on drugs?

Bill Clinton serves as an excellent example of how some thought leaders operate. Audiences believed him, and went on believing him, even as evidence began to pile up to the contrary. In England, Tony Blair was having pretty much the same effect on his audiences. Their charisma worked its influence through a rare combination of charm and eloquence. Their most powerful weapons for attaining political leadership were their thoughts, their speech acts.

Clinton could find ways of explaining how he didn’t really smoke cannabis or how he didn’t have really have sex with that woman. And so on. Tony Blair convinced voters that old labour had been replaced by new labour which could be trusted by all sectors of the community. David Cameron is engaged in a similar exercise in thought leadership at present as h struggles to change the conservative party.

There is still much work to be done on the fascinating topic of thought leadership. I suppose I’m arguing for the benefits of efforts that educate people to become more are capable of assessing ideas on grounds that go beyond the skills of gurus, and charismatic thought leaders.

A note on thought leaders

I have indicated some doubts about the current state of knowledge of thought leadership. This has not prevented the enthusiastic espousal of the term by various management consulting organizations. But even Wikipedia is a bit sniffy, describing thought leadership as:

a buzzword or article of jargon used to describe a futurist or person who is recognized among peer mentors for innovative ideas and who demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights

The authors of Dilemmas of Leadership are also suspicious, although they suggest that the term may be theorized by connecting it to social identity theory, which would help understand the features attributed to thought leaders.

Where is this taking us?

Arguably there are several stories jostling to emerge here. One suggestion is how public education into issues such as medication and drug abuse will require a different kind of thought leadership. Another is the dependency which is associated with exposure to that other kind of dangerous drug, the words peddled to us by charismatic thought leaders.


Leadership in military and civilian life

July 24, 2007

In a question and answer session at Manchester Business School, with an audience of military officers and business leaders, Admiral Lord Boyce explored his leadership experiences. He described leadership as the art of persuading people to do more than they think they can. He identified decision-making and communicating as general competences essential to effective leadership

Q: There are a multitude of ways in which leadership has been described and defined. How do you see it?

MB: I can tell you what it seems to be from my experiences. I like to say that leadership is the art of persuading people to do more than they think they can.

Q: What key differences have you experienced working in military and non-military environments?

MB: There are obvious differences. In military life you are trained to lead, and also on how to be led, until the principles become ingrained. I mean training, not education. You train for leadership, as you would train for a Marathon. Also, the military conditions are different. You need to be able to depend on colleagues for your mutual survival. Decision-making has more life and death consequences than in most other professions. But there may be need to show initiative when you may be in a position to consult more widely in civilian life.

Q But there are similarities [between military and civilian leadership]?

MB: I would say there are general core components of leadership. Two of them concern decision-making and communications. Good decision-making requires skills at assimilating information and applying analytic ability. These skills often have to be combined with decisiveness. Effective communicators have to demonstrate clearly and convincingly the logic of their approach. I must also mention strength of character, the ability to delegate and show initiative.

Comment from audience: We used to teach delegation to business leaders. Now there’s less emphasis, more on ’empowerment’. Perhaps we should revisit the importance of delegation skills …

Q Why are Women held back in leadership in the military? I left for that reason.

MB Times are changing. There is a very senior officer I can immediately think of in the navy for example, but she has succeeded on merit, not because of equal opportunities.

Q One of the most popular current television programmes is “The Apprentice”. From watching the programme there is a perception that successful leadership is developed through bullying. Do you believe you have to be aggressive to be a good leader?

Not aggressive. Historically you can point to contrary examples. One of my favourites is Shackleton. No, Not at all aggressive. I don’t watch much television, but what I’ve seen, you wouldn’t advance far in the Military today with that sort of bullying style. You would not get past Major, Lieutenant Colonel, maybe.

Q: How does leadership work in The House of Lords?

MB: The Conservative and labour Peers have a kind of ‘whip’ system [enforcement officers]. But managing cross-benchers … that’s like herding cats! [MB is a cross-bench or independent Peer]. Collectively though, it’s an excellent system. It wouldn’t work so well if there were elections when a constituency would vote for everyone. That would be different.

Q What do you look for when on an interviewing panel to select for a leadership position? Do the characteristics differ across different environments?

MB: Again there seem to be some general points you are looking out for. The successful candidate for any leadership job will be able to communicate clearly, show imagination and vision. The answers to interview questions give a pretty good indication of how honest he or she is being. Of course you have to do your homework. The references you get are a great help too.

Q: Finally, what advice would you give an officer taking up work in civilian life?

MB: Something that surprised me. Perhaps it should not have. You will meet far more individuals who seem to have no concern beyond their own self-interests.

Also you realize you have your own [military] jargon, you will have to learn another dialect to be accepted. And there is a lot of stereotyping about the military mentality.

There’s another difference worth mentioning: [Corporate]directors are increasingly becoming legally responsible for the conduct of their company. This is becoming more widespread, applying to charities and trusts as well as PLCs.

Blognotes

I am indebted to course director Jed Drugan of Manchester Business School for inviting me to participate in this event. My Q and A notes are reconstructed as faithfully as possible, but capture only part of the wide-ranging conversation. For those interested in following up the points raised in the discussion, I have added a few comments.

1 Leadership has been notorious for its multitude of definitions. There are even theories of why there are so many definitions. Lord Boyce has offered his personal perspective, and one close to the classical one from Stodgill with its characteristics of leadership as an act or process influencing others to achive some goal. It is also close to Yukl’s operational definition of leadership as influencing to understand and agree what is to be done and facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared goals. I assume that the Admiral’s characterization of leadership has been tested in many experiences in his distinguished naval career, and then in a range of political and corporate roles.

2 Cat herding. This cropped up in a recent taxonomy of leader/follower relationships by the British theorist Keith Grint. He suggests one of several versions of situational leadership, which result from different levels of commitment to community goals from leader and group (followers, subordinates, team members etc). The cat herding (cross bench independent mavericks) according to Grint will specialize in independence of spirit but arguably unproductive conflict.

2 Shackleton. An interesting leader in the ‘great explorer’ mode. His biographers (such as John Adair) suggest his leadership was consistent with MB’s perspective of leadership as inspiring others to achieve what they might otherwise have believed impossible.


Vodafone boardroom battles

July 24, 2007

Vodafone approaches its AGM as a very modern company. And not only for its high-technology product base. The resolutions under discussion on Tuesday 24th July 2007 reveal the new kinds of pressure from activist shareholders who are making additional demands on corporate leadership.

You have to look below the surface of corporate announcements to detect the dramas of business. Take the notice of Vodafone’s AGM, for example. In the ritualized language of corporate meetings, twenty five resolutions have been presented as recommendations from the board. These will almost certainly be passed (unless there are even darker schemes afoot to destabilize the company’s leadership) rebels. There follows other recommendations which give a glimpse of the pressures being exerted by this new breed of corporate activist. These are the particularly interesting proposals. They give a clear indication of the pressure brought to bear on any company which has attracted the attentions of this new kind of activist. The issue is very much a matter of control.

A nice example is the resolution on Verizon Wireless. The company holds a 45% share in Verizon. The activists would like more dynamic involvement of Vodafone in Verizon, and suggest various initiatives.

The company rejects the proposals robustly, indicating that such moves would be complex, risky and undesirable.

Verizon Wireless (Resolution 26)
Resolution 26, if approved, would require your Company to put proposals to shareholders to alter the capital structure of the Company by the issue of a special class of shares of the Company the return on which would be dependent on the performance of Verizon Wireless (“tracking shares”) or shares in a new holding company
Maximizing the value of this shareholding is a key element of the Company’s current strategy and one that is kept under constant review. As part of these reviews, the Company has considered a number of alternative structures, including tracking shares and spin off options [leading to the conclusion that] the structures proposed would not deliver to shareholders effectively the current value of the Verizon Wireless shareholding and could potentially significantly undermine the directors’ ability to maximize the value of the shareholding in the future

Power without responsibility

It is tempting to recall the old saying about power without responsibility. This is too simplistic. The activists would argue that they are looking after their financial interests. Their actions are leading to far greater alertness on the part of corporate leaders to the interests of their shareholders. The moves are, to go back to a chess metaphor, to some extent a threat which influences the course of the game, even if it is not directly successful.

The fate of Vodafone

The outcome of today’s AGM will not settle the fate of Vodafone. It will, however, indicate the developments in a company that has seen its fair share of boardroom strife as it transformed itself into a global telecommunications operation under Sir Christopher Gent and Lord McLaurin. Its takeover of Mannesmann was eventually seen as too generous, calling for revision of its corporate worth. Now Vodafone’s dynamic and controversial CEO Arun Sarin takes on the challenges of running the company. There have already been criticisms of directors’ remuneration packages. He is not facing an easy ride.


Alliance Boots and an an offer Richard Baker couldn’t refuse

July 21, 2007

boots-directors-group.jpgRichard Baker quits as CEO of Alliance Boots after discussions with all-powerful Stefano Pessina. Although offered a new job with a generous remuneration package, he judges the role to be too toothless,and leaves the company.

I managed to extract the above happy families portrait of the Alliance Boots board before the airbrushing began. In our story today we learn why the photograph will shortly change. This version shows, left to right, Steve Duncan, Stephano Pessina, George Fairweather, Richard Baker, Scott Whewhy and Ornella Barra. Now read on …

The story so far

Cherished British Drug company Boots merges with European partner, whose wealthy owner, Stefano Pessina, becomes deputy chairman in the new company, Alliance Boots.

The amicable arrangement suggested that in any leadership transition, Mr Pessina would be a cuckoo in the nest. In short order, chairman Sir Nigel Rudd resigned. further friendly discussions were followed by a takeover by private equity firm KKR. The move was presented openly as a vehicle which would install Pessina as its main driver

KKR and Stefano Pessina had made it known that they wanted to keep the top team intact. But for all the continuing expressins of good will, the inevitable was to happen.

Thursday July 12th 2007, Richard Baker decised to accept a severance deal that would be worth some £10 million. It seems as if they made an offer for him to stay, or decline with honor. In an interview with the he says

“Stephano is a gentleman. He has been as good as his word with me every step of the way..I am confident about the future of the company ..I have looked everyone in the eye at Nottingham [corporate HQ] and told them that”

.

Another top retail executive, Scott Wheway, is also leaving, again in an amicable fashion.

Not too difficult to predict

The story has been followed in earlier posts. It struck me that in the original merger between Boots an Alliance, the new board had a majority of former Boots executives. But the Alliance side was the more profitable, and Stephano brought with him a sizable shareholding and considerable personal wealth.

It was not difficult to predict what would happen. I noted earlier this year that

If takeover is successful, I am not expecting many of actual board members to retain their positions.

And so it has come to pass. Not brutally. But Pessina has enough power to be magnanimous. Mr Baker may not have had much temptation to stay on when the alternative was a £10 million incentive to leave, with more chances of securing a new leadership role elsewhere.

Leadership lessons

I’m not sure of the leadership lessons here. Perhaps it is that self-made billionaires are not all ego-crazed narcissists. Maybe absolute power is not always accompanied by absolute ruthlessness.


VW leadership troubles continue

July 20, 2007

Some stories attract international interest, while others remain almost unnoticed. Serious Volkswagen watchers will be aware of one leadership story that has not gained much international attention.

I picked up the scent of something of interest, because of a little surge of numbers of visitors to this site searching for news about the VW company. That’s when I came across a Reuters report

Volkswagen supervisory board member Guenter Lenz has resigned his seat, becoming the latest casualty of a scandal involving the use of corporate funds to bribe the carmaker’s senior labour leaders. According to a statement from the Hanover works council, Lenz told employees on Tuesday at a plant staff meeting that he would now resign his board seat and his post as the site’s works council boss after previously ceasing to actively execute his duties. The public prosecutor’s office in Brunswick accuses him of aiding and abetting fraud and partaking in parties with prostitutes paid for out of a VW slush fund. Lenz, who has also resigned from the Lower Saxony state parliament, would accept a court sentence for his wrongdoing, the Hanover works council said.

The scandal has already cost the jobs of VW management board member Peter Hartz, group works council chief Klaus Volkert, as well as a member of the German federal parliament.

The Financial Times also commented on the story. As did

Eurotribune a self-declared ‘left-leaning’ publication with communitarian goals. It writes about what it sees as unhealthy industrial arrangements in Germany’s internationals, and is particularly suspicious of the relationships between State, workers councils, and boards of organizations. It sees more trouble ahead for Volkswagen over its leadership and governance.

VW is plagued by a series of corruption scandals involving top union and work council members. Those already netted include the author and name-giver of the infamous Hartz-IV law, VW human resource manager Peter Hartz, as well as an SPD member of parliament. Now the scandal forced the resignation of Günter Lenz, who was at the same time the work council head for VW’s utility vehicle branch, a member of VW’s oversight board, and a member of the regional parliament for SPD. He is under investigation for visits to brothels on company money… Lenz denies the accusation. However, prostitutes have confirmed his story in the case of the top work council man, Klaus Volkert — who now sits in prison. The payments for the prostitutes were approved by Hartz himself.

Leadership lessons

It seems strange that this story was not been followed more closely by the international financial press. Maybe Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarcozy have found time, in their new-found friendship, to muse over the matter as they explore the equally taxing issues of EADS governance.


Tevez Transfer Stalemate: A Lesson in Sporting Leadership?

July 19, 2007

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Attempts by Manchester United Football Club to sign Argentina’s Carlos Tevez have been described as in a stalemate. Did complicated legal issues make this inevitable? Or in hindsight, might more creative leadership actions have avoided this impasse? And if so, by whom?

This has not been the happiest week in the footballing life of Carlos Tevez. A week ago he was a leading member of the Argentinian team favored to win the prestigious Copa America competition. In addition, Manchester United Football Club had announced that a transfer deal of the star from West Ham United was all but complete.

Over the weekend, Brazil recaptured enough of their brilliant skills in the final to sweep aside bitter rivals Argentina. Tevez headed for Europe, final destination Manchester, for a pre-transfer medical check-up with the club of his dreams. Personal terms had been agreed with his agent.

No so fast, Senor

Even as he was completing the last leg of the flight, the story took on a new turn. There had been delays in sorting out the contract, and now last-minute talks between West Ham and MUFC had broken down. Tevez arrived in Manchester, but he had not been granted permission by West Ham to put himself forward for a medical examination.

What’s going on?

English football fans were familiar to the background of a rather complicated story. I will try to capture the various inter-related threads, from the various press reports.

Where does a story start? We have to go back at least as far as the time that West Ham became involved in a very unusual transfer deal involving two Argentine footballers, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano.

The deal in Auguest 2006 was unusual because unlike other contracts agreed through the FA and The Premier league, the players were still, in some unrevealed way, not fully contracted as West Ham players at the outset of the deal. The arrangement was not with their former club (Corinthians) but with an agant, Kai Joorabchian on behalf of a shadowy background organization Media Sports Investments (MSI).

According to BBC reports

MSI were headed until June by Kia Joorabchian, who resigned but retained an investment in the two Argentines. MSI were linked with a takeover of West Ham last season but eventually pulled out.

While the contract was unusual, there have been other abnormal contractual arrangements permitting players to move on loan to and between Premier League clubs, with small-print not made public. The Premier League and The Football Association accepted reassurances from West Ham that satisfied them enough to sanction the arrangement. This was later to become one of the contested areas in the matter.

At the time of the contract, West Ham appeared to be struggling to survive in The Premiership. Financial limitations prevented them investing in top-flight players. Within considerable turmoil on and off the pitch, performances remained bad.

Enter The Egg

It was with some sense of relief that the club passed to new ownership with deeper pockets. The new owner quickly caught the public imagination. Eggert Magnusson (The Egg) is a wealthy Icelandic businessman who had already been involved in football as President of the Football Association of Iceland
His somewhat quirky appearance and enthusiasm and commitment to West Ham seemed to silence even the more extreme xenophobic reactions from the Alf Garnet faction still active among the club’s supporters.

West Ham’s problems persist

The club’s fortunes continued to decline until demotion was almost inevitable. Tevez had failed to live up to the reputation mainly earned through his World Cup performances. Magnússon sacked manager Alan Pardew in December 2006 replacing him with Alan Curbishley. The question of Tevez’ contractual position was again raised. A lengthy enquiry began.

The great escape

Then a great escape occurred. Tevez began to score match-winning goals. West Ham began a remarkable winning streak. Survival was still a possibility. Eggert had a contagious belief in his new players.

But other clubs facing relegation began to speak out against the arrangements that had brought Tevez to West Ham. Legal action was threatened. Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock, anticipating a close finish, was particularly vociferous, arguing that West Ham should be punished by losing points. This would help Sheffield United but effectively condemn West Ham to demotion.

An independent enquiry found that the club had initially been technically wrong in their contractual arrangement. The punishment was a fine, but no point deductions. During this period, one concern regarding the outcome of a future transfer of Tevez. The club claimed to have ‘ripped up’ an agreement [presumed to be Joorabchian and partners]. This was seen as protecting West Ham from the charge that future transfers might also be unconventional and taken as possible evidence of the club’s further illegal arrangements with Tevez’ agents.

In a gripping climax to the season, other struggling clubs (including Sheffield United) stumbled. West Ham avoided relegation when they won the last game of the season against Manchester United who had already won the League. Desperation triumphed over classy complacency. Tevez impressed enormously and scored a fine goal.

The legal challenges to West Ham petered out.

Manchester United bid for Tevez

The close season in the English Premier league is also a transfer window (the other window is in January). After their League triumph, MUFC revealed their recruitment plans for the new season. Unlike West Ham, they were able to compete for the best players.

Apparently, Tevez is a player whom Manager Sir Alex Ferguson had admired for some while. His admiration must have been reinforced by the performance of Tevez in the last game of the season.

In a recent press conference, AF announced that a deal to secure Tevez was nearly complete, subject to some details to be agreed with the League. He sounded confident, revealing that the final details would be sorted out by Club lawyer and former director Maurice Watkins. He added that Club Chairman David Gill had been working on the matter for a while, but he and Gill were shortly leaving with the squad on a pre-season tour in Asia.

Confidence at Old Trafford in clinching the deal began to drain away, after an emphatic statement from West Ham to the effect that they still held the rights to the player, and that he was not up for transfer.

From Japan, David Dill announces that FIFA has been called in to ‘expedite a resolution’ of a dispute between player and West Ham, and that he expects the resolution to find ‘in favor of the player’. He still expects Carlos Tevez to be playing for MUFC at the start of the new season.

Leadership lessons

The stalemate metaphor is only of limited application. Stalemate in chess occurs when the player to move has no legal move available. This is invariably the player who would otherwise lose. The stalemate is the result of a previous careless move from the player who was in the stronger position. In this case, it seems as if MUFC had the stronger position, but West Ham had been able to avoid accepting defeat. MUFC has to set up arrangements for another more conclusive battle.

In fact, you can see how chess metaphor as a source of strategy insights can be taken a bit further. The MU leadership may have taken for granted that their position was so strong as to require no deep risk analysis. This is suggested by the way that David Gill had delegated the case to solicitor Maurice Watkins, while Magnus Magnusson remained very much on the case at West Ham.

One of the special features of the business is the potential for blame to be attached to various parties, including the Premier league. The blame may have serious financial and legal consequences.

These were the ‘events’ that turned the matter of completing a football transfer into a complex problem.

Don’t hold your breath on this one…

Update

There were a few more twists and turns. Eventually a contract was signed and Tevez joined MUFC on loan for two years. On loan from whom? Not West Ham, although the club received a payment from the Joorabchian camp in a deal which confirmed it was not West Ham.