Comparison with Iacocca and Bloomberg was nonsense

Dear Editor,

I don’t like writing letters when I am angry, but sometimes in the interest of timing we must not let the good become a causality of the better.

There is a letter riddled with misconceptions written by one Neville Harricharran in Sunday Stabroek of July 7, captioned ‘Raj Singh needs managerial talent not expertise in the various sugar operations.’  In it he criticises me and Mr Sasenarine Singh by propounding the ridiculous theory that Raj Singh is Guyana’s equivalent to Lee Iacocca and Michael Bloomberg, and that to be a CEO of a corporation you don’t have to have knowledge or personal working experience to function effectively. This is the profoundest nonsense I have ever heard! And I will use Mr Harricharran’s own examples to demonstrate this.

Lee Iacocca, the Wikipedia encyclopaedia tells us, was an American businessman known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars. He then left Ford and went over to the almost bankrupt Chrysler motor corporation and turned it around in the 1980s in such a dramatic manner that it earned him the reputation of being the greatest US CEO of all time.

As far as Mr Harricharran’s other equally bad example of men who were great CEOs is concerned, namely, Michael Bloomberg the $27 billion dollar 4th richest man in America, Wikipedia had this to say: “In 1973, Bloomberg became a general partner at Salomon Brothers, a bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank, where he headed equity trading and, later, systems development. In 1981, Salomon Brothers was bought and Bloomberg was laid off from the investment bank and given a $10 million severance package. Using this money, Bloomberg went on to set up a company named Innovative Market Systems. His business plan was based on the realization that Wall Street (and the financial community generally) was willing to pay for high quality business information, delivered as quickly as possible and in as many usable forms possible, via technology (eg, graphs of highly specific trends). Nowhere do I find that Bloomberg amassed a $27B personal fortune by hiring every fool he could find!

This means that Mr Harricharran’s fundamental reason for comparing Iacocca and Bloomberg to Raj Singh is nonsense. Iacocca was an auto industry executive par excellence; he did not work in the auto industry for a few years in some obscure position, as Mr Raj Singh did according to Mr Sasenarine Singh, leave it for 20 years and then return to it as a director on the board. Lee Iacocca was fundamentally an auto industry man; he joined it as an engineer in 1946 then asked to be transferred to sales and marketing. During his time at Ford he still managed, with his engineering background and knowing what the market needed in the auto industry, to participate in the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Escort and the revival of the Mercury brand in the late 1960s. Bloomberg was a Wall Street banker who had a degree from the highly respected John Hopkins University and amassed a fortune on Wall Street as an advisor to companies who wanted to invest. There is no evidence that he did anything else until he entered politics and became the Mayor of New York.

I stand by what I said in my letter and I also support Mr Sasenarine Singh’s position in this matter: Mr Raj Singh is not the man for this job of executive chairman. He is a political appointee and his knowledge of the industry is very superficial; he does not appreciate the fundamental problems of the corporation and what to do to address them, any more than the rest of the political board at GuySuCo today, and he will lead it to an even greater disaster than it is in now.

Editor, it is a fundamentally flawed concept that someone can solve the problems of a corporation when they do not fully understand its problems, much less what is causing the problems and therefore what to do to solve them. These are Dale Carnegie’s protocols to problem solving: Identify the problem, identify what is causing it and only then can you look for solutions. I maintain positively that Raj Singh is not our man.

It is why GuySuCo is in so much trouble today; there are too many political appointees on the board with not one person there who understands the sugar industry today, since they have never worked at any significant level in the industry. The last thing we need now is another semi-informed person as their leader.

Failure after failure on the part of the management of GuySuCo has demonstrated to me that they don’t understand the real problems of the industry and what is causing them, and are now lost at sea without a paddle, compass or a GPS. Just like Mr Harricharran who also does not understand the complexities of our sugar industry and how much trouble it is in, because like Mr Ramotar he just wants a PPP comrade selected for this crucial position at this time, the workers and the union should raise their voices in protest, since this is certainly not the man to ensure that they have a future and “cane in the fields.”

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

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