Wacky races, corporate governance and Mr Hayward’s boat.

Brand”,opined my former CEO, “is what we aspire to be, or at least to be seen as being”. I guess this is the actuarial equivalent of “corporate identity” which is the accounting version and refers to what companies actually are.

Fernando Alonso, who has clearly been modelling himself on Dick Dastardly is redefining the Ferrari brand. I suspect that the angry telephone call witnessed by BBC viewers between the Ferrari team manager and some Marinello mandarin suggests that it is not the brand that Ferrari would like to project. Therin lies keyman risk folks.

There is of course a deal between the “keyman Risk” , Fred the Shred, Cedric the Pig ,Tony Hayward which tends to disappear as the individual gets shunted off with the usual pension (nice one Tony) and a more fundamental or systemic corporate risk

The brand damage that has been inflicted on BP will last so long as people think of the blighted Florida shoreline rather than the bright and energetic logo we encounter as we enter the petrol station. It is up to a Regulator to find out whether the systems and controls at BP was an aberration or an accident waiting to happen.

The point of governance is ultimately to control brand values. When governance breaks down, brand risk soars. Regulators are the superbrand governors, our perception of Formula One depends on the FIA bringing Ferrari to heel. If no individual is bigger than the team then no team is bigger than the sport which is why the FIA will lose out big-time if they don’t punish Ferrari for flagrantly breaking the rules.

Wacky Races relied on a different type of governance. There appears to have been little direct regulation of Dastardly and his peers. The results depended on the resumption of a natural order which meted out “just deserts” to the fiendish villain and regularly promoted Penelope Pitstop and her ilk to the podium despite Dastardly’s bet efforts. This is how Comedy works (in a classical sense). Comedy is a vision of the world that tells us that things will work out right. Woody and co will not slide into the fiery furnace and will be saved by a Deus Ex Machina -but that’s another (toy) story (3) –  very good-by the way.

The other-tragic- vision of the world suggests that as Leon Durocher  put it- “nice guys finish last”. Corporate Governance is about reasserting the natural order by intervention in the affairs of a company to assure that brand aspirations are realised. When corporate governance breaks down, s*** happens.

I hear that Tony Hayward’s boat- to which he retreated when he decided to get his “life back,” is not solely his. It is co-owned with the Chairman of Centrica, Roger Carr. As Roger is currently being fingered as a successor for Tony, that craft takes on a special place in the iconography of British Corporate Governance.

Watch this space for outcomes- is it the ship of fools or the loveboat?

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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