Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Uriah Heep is New Incisive CEO

In an extraordinary interview given to The Times, Incisive Media CEO Tim Weller claims he has found his recent debt for equity deal crisis a humbling experience. Humble! In the interview the copy brags about his Aston Martin, his ski chalet and his £11m in the bank.

His erstwhile owners (who still have stake in his business), Apax, are derided by Weller for bringing no operational understanding to his business. We are glad to be shot of private equity, he says.

He claims that the level of debt was never discussed at board meetings! Isn't the Chief Executive responsible for everything? Why didn't Weller put the debt issue on the agenda. If I were running a debt laden business, I doubt I would discuss much else.

Anyway, it's nothing to do with him. Not my fault guv. I paraphrase here, but he says, "Apax showed me one slide that debt was a good thing. It seemed ok to me so I thought no more about it."

Oh come on. Weller was desperate to get off the public market. He personally made a fortune as the business went private. Now the banks have lost their shirt, Apax have lost almost everything (in the Uk business at least), and the ceo says, depsite the fact that he blames PE for all his businesses woes, he'd do a private equity deal again because he got what he wanted out of it. You can almost hear the rush of private equity feet queing up to get some of that action.

I should think there are some lids blowing off the heads of APAX execs.

Meanwhile in another interview with Paid Content, Weller says all is well with the business and he doesn't need to make any more cost cuts oe sell off any assets. Yeah right. I wonder if the banks agree with that. They won't be interested in growth and aggressive expansion. They just want some of their money back.

There are moments when bumptiousness and larger than life straight talking can serve you well, but when you have laid off hundreds of staff, supervised the loss of your shareholders money, and the lenders have taken a big haircut, it's probably a good idea to go to work in the Mondeo rather than bragging about the Aston and the Ski chalet and to exude a bit of genuine humility.

And finally, one article reports that Helen Alexander is to be Chairman. That would be odd. The banks will want the chairman to be on their side, to hold the CEO to account. Helen A did a fantastic job at The Economist, but she is an old mate and admirer of TW's isn't she?

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