Simon English: Spin that went awry leaves a mark on Fox

Outlook When Simon Fox joined HMV six years ago, the shares were a healthy, robust-looking 160p. Now they are 3.4p, which may lead the casual onlooker to assume that he made a terrible hash of a previously good business. It may be fairer to ask whether anyone could have really made a success of a company that was living on borrowed time as soon as some boffin invented digital downloading and the CD market imploded.

Close watchers of the company say that Mr Fox is likeable, highly able and bound to get a good job elsewhere. So best of luck. But he leaves with at least a small amount of egg on his face.

For one thing, three years ago he had a chance to go and run ITV, a move he declined. That now looks like a bad error. We've all made them, but still…

Three months ago, a very good reporter from these parts heard from reliable City sources that Mr Fox was about to leave. This was an inconvenient story so Mr Fox and his spinners denied it.

The story was still carried in the face of the denials – somewhat to the surprise of the company – and when he quit yesterday, that spin was left looking foolish.

Even if there's a short-term gain to this sort of approach, if it buys a bit of space at an awkward time, the long-term price might he high.

When Mr Fox is being considered for that next big job, in the back of his future employer's mind there will always be a question about why he left so quickly after having seemingly denied he had any such plans. Clumsy.

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