Business View: Too many chefs, but there's a Baker who uses his loaf

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The Independent Online

After many dollops of disappointment and a few hard-to-digest profit warnings, investors lost patience with chief executive Mike Bailey. His chairman, Sir Francis Mackay, has been pretty good at deflecting the flak away from his protégé, but with Sir Francis set to depart soon, the ground under Mr Bailey has turned into blancmange.

His departure is a messy affair. The former chef is staying on until a new chief executive can be found, which is not expected to be until way into next year. This seems sensible in one respect - avoiding a hiatus at the top - but raises the concern many have had about Compass: that it is stuck in an archaic culture, one created by Sir Francis, and is not ready to embrace change. Leaving Mr Bailey in situ for the next few months may have the same effect as leaving the post open - inertia - and could actually make it more difficult for a new person to take the reins.

In retrospect, Sir Francis should have left the group a long time ago. Moving someone from chief executive to chairman makes it difficult for the next chief to be his or her own person. At Compass, it was a case of too many cooks, or chefs, spoiling the broth.

At GCap, the departure of Dave Mansfield (a man who probably knows the Moody Blues' back catalogue by heart) showed the error of failing to decide between two leaders after a merger. Did the board not read any of the classic texts on the subject - which almost all conclude that there is no such thing as a merger, only a takeover? After months of agitating by leading investors, Mr Mansfield was finally ousted, though many argue it was the executive chairman, Ralph Bernard, who should have taken the long walk. But as a classical music lover, the only Moody Blues song Mr Bernard is likely to know is "Nights in White Satin".

Boots' chief executive, Richard Baker, is probably too young to remember the Moody Blues. His failure to turn the troubled chemist around is putting him under pressure. But just as it all seemed black for him, he is on the verge of pulling off an audacious £7bn merger with Alliance UniChem. From fearing for his future, he will now be top dog and sitting pretty for some time. To quote a Moody Blues' album title, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.

Roman and the blue notes

One blue who is not moody is Roman Abramovich. His English football club, Chelsea, is running away with the Premiership after winning it last year.

His Russian club - sorry, the club he sponsors - CSKA Moscow, recently won the Uefa Cup. And now he is pocketing £5.4bn as a result of selling his holding in oil giant Sibneft to Yukos. As Yukos is controlled by the Kremlin, this should mean that President Putin should not take after Roman the way he pursued Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Bloated with £5.4bn, Mr Abramovich will have more money than he needs to fund Chelsea. The interest alone would be over £200m a year and Chelsea's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, is constantly claiming that soon the club will not need any more of Mr Abramovich's money.

So what should he do with it? Well, he could take over a rugby union club and "do a Chelsea". But that would still leave £5,390m. He could bail out English county cricket. That would take his fortune down to about £5,380m.

But I think he should make the Premiership fun again by giving rival clubs money to compete with Chelsea. Around £100m a club should do it. Manchester United would be excluded because it has its own billionaire backer. And the payment should be phased, going to clubs on an alphabetical basis, one every couple of months.

Just a thought, Roman.

j.nisse@independent.co.uk

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