11 August 2019
We heard this week that HSBC’s chief executive John Flint has stepped down after the bank said a new approach was needed to meet future challenges. So far, so good, but the bank then issued a statement saying that Flint had resigned “by mutual agreement with the board”, which actually means they parted company after some mutual disagreement.
Also parted by mutual dis/agreement not so very long ago were the FCO and the then Foreign Secretary who had used racist phrases about johnny foreigner like “piccaninny”, “watermelon smiles”, “turds” and how they “look like “letterboxes”. He had also endeared himself to businesses worried about a no-deal Brexit by saying “fuck business” and, in an apparent row with his partner that worried the neighbours sufficiently to call the police, shouted “get off my fucking laptop”.
It’s been revealed that someone, possibly Dominic Cummins, once said the Tories don’t care about the NHS because they all go privately anyway so obviously he’s a natural ‘special adviser’ to the prime minister. And people thought Malcom Tucker* was bad.
More too from Ryanair this week, which announced a 24% fall in first-quarter profits, an encouraging example of pigeons coming home to roost. Michael O’Leary naturally blamed price wars and the grounding of the 135 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft they have ordered. Guess who started the price wars and hadn’t any contingency plans for a fairly obvious risk?
Airlines fear that future passengers may be reluctant to fly in a 737 MAX, not just because it has crammed in 8 more seats and done away with 75% of the galley space but because of a computer fault which forced Boeing to ground the entire fleet after the fault had caused two crashes and killed 346 people.
Luckily Ryanair passengers won’t have to worry about this because they’ll be flying in a 737 8200 instead. The fact that the only difference is they’ve painted out ‘MAX’ and replaced it with ‘8200’ will make all the difference.
And a Maxwell is back in the news! In 1971, the Department of Trade and Industry said of the original Maxwell (Robert, born Ján Ludvík Hyman Binyamin Hoch) “We regret having to conclude that, notwithstanding Mr Maxwell’s acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company” and he lost control of Pergamon Press. In 1974, he borrowed money and bought it back and created a new empire.
He was a huge man and, even on his best behaviour at a private lunch, was obviously egotistical, a bully and completely amoral – Harold Wilson referred to him as ‘the bouncing Czech’ – but he was indubitably clever and stole millions of pounds from his own companies’ pensioners to conceal his business failings. When exposure seemed inevitable, he fell, or was pushed, off his yacht while cruising near the Canary Islands.
His daughter Ghislaine (pronounced approximately Jee-len) maintains to this day he would never have jumped and that he was murdered. It’s even possible to imagine that a crew member who’d been bullied once too often saw him watching the waves and, on the spur of the moment, gave him a slight push.
His sons Kevin and Ian tried to hold the business together but they weren’t clever enough and they failed so the Maxwell companies filed for bankruptcy in 1992 when Kevin became the biggest bankrupt in UK history with debts of £406.5m. He later got involved with a company called Syncro, a Manchester-based construction company, which collapsed and led to his being disqualified in 2011 from being a company director for 8 years.
Meanwhile, Ghislaine has quite recently been accused of recruiting underage girls for convicted paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of Prince Andrew. She denies the claims and Epstein hanged himself in his cell on Friday.
What’s particularly interesting about the Maxwell brood is that his seven surviving children (two died before achieving adulthood) fell into two groups: those who supported their father and those who didn’t. Isabelle, for example, became a billionaire but has since been declared bankrupt (!) while Philip moved to Argentina to get “as far away from my father as possible”; Christine (Isabelle’s twin) married an astrophysicist and lives in France while Anne trained as a Montessori teacher and subsequently a hypnotherapist.
* Malcolm Tucker is of course an entirely fictitious character and any resemblance to real person living or dead is entirely … um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Ah yes, fortuitous.