…everything he touches turns to shit.
There is a pattern that can be observed occasionally and, as long as you’re not exposed to the consequences, can be quite amusing once you’ve seen it.
Firstly, a British example:
Many years ago, a chap by the name of Derek Wanless was the Chief Executive of Natwest Bank for 7 years during the 1990s. At the commencement of his stewardship, Natwest was one of the four largest “high street” (i.e. retail) banks and was a solid performer, taking customer deposits and issuing mortgages.
Wanless’ entire experience, from leaving school, was in the retail sector, having come up through the ranks of the branches. So, he put this expertise gained in just one sub-sector of banking to another, opening up an investment arm and taking the bank into the USA (a market already awash with investment banking services, one presumes).
Guess what happened next?
Huge losses for Natwest which resulted in his defenestration by the board…with just a 7 figure payout to comfort him. Not long after, the bank was bought in a hostile and hugely embarrassing takeover by a far smaller rival, the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Hot on the heels of this success, he was asked by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. the UK’s Treasurer), Gordon Brown, to review the National Health Service. Ponder that for a moment; his previous experience was, to put it as kindly as possible, to destroy a profitable bank and drive it into the arms of a smaller rival so, obviously, he would have been the perfect candidate to look at the profligate and failing health service. To be fair to Wanless, this wasn’t Gordon Brown’s first or indeed last major failure of judgement, have a look at his record on the UK’s gold reserves to understand what a disaster his tenure was.
Finally, Wanless made a return to banking as an executive director to Northern Rock, overseeing the first UK retail bank to experience a bank run since the Great Depression.
Wanless died 5 years later, fortunately without having accepted any further positions in public life.
What’s the point I’m trying to make here? That Wanless was in “The Club”.
It’s a club you and I aren’t allowed to join. The rules of The Club are varied and changeable, but one rule remains constant; once you’re in The Club, there are very few occasions when consequences will ever catch up with you.
There are many examples of the Australian chapter of the The Club but today’s goes by the name of Peter Beattie.
I first learned of Peter during the 2013 Federal Election when he was parachuted into a seat by another member of The Club, Kevin Rudd. Some basic research unearths a disaster zone of a curriculum vitae, not unlike that of Derek Wanless. From a child protection scandal to a health service crisis, through to tying his colours to the mast of a desperate narcissist’s attempt to remain politically-relevant in the federal election, Peter has an enviable track record of mediocrity.
He also seems to either edit his own Wikipedia entry or have a sycophant do it on his behalf. We really must chuckle at the unintentional irony of a statement such as, “As was his style, Beattie faced the crisis head on”, which is then followed by a list of all the ministers who fell on their swords while he survived. As befitting a full member of The Club, the buck stopped just short of Beattie.
The latest chapter in the Peter Beattie show is a forthcoming defenestration from his role as Chairman of Australia’s Rugby League sporting code. The details of his golden parachute have yet to be disclosed but nobody would be surprised to learn of another 7 figure payout as a reward for mediocrity. After all, he’s in The Club.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I don’t really believe The Club exists.
It is far more likely that, once you’re in the circle of people who appoint and are appointed to senior positions on company boards and in government, as long as you can glad-hand the right people and you don’t wipe your snot on your shirt sleeves, you’re in The Club.
Why? You might be completely incompetent and a total narcissist but you’re a known, albeit a bit useless, quantity. Nobody is going to take a risk on someone they don’t know, are they?