It’s been a newsy few weeks for CEO turnover. Let’s assess the prospects of three newly minted chiefs and one who’s maybe-minted:
–Jack Dorsey is the maybe CEO of Twitter, which he cofounded. He returned as interim CEO a few months ago when Dick Costolo stepped down, and news reports Wednesday said he was getting the job permanently. The company has still made no announcement, but investors have spoken: They hate the idea. The stock dropped yesterday on the news. The Dorsey idea faces at least two big problems. One, he’s already CEO of Square, the payments company that he founded and that he says he won’t be leaving, especially now that it’s preparing for an IPO. Could he really run two companies? Two, investors for now have no reason to believe Dorsey can solve Twitter’s big strategic problems, like where it will find more users and revenue. If he gets the job, his odds of succeeding look no better than even.
–Stefan Larsson was named CEO of Ralph Lauren Corp. on Wednesday, and initially it looked like a home-run transition. Larsson, 41, came in from Old Navy and looked like just the kind of outsider who could restore Lauren’s growth. The stock jumped, after falling some 40% this year. But then Ralph himself sent a note to employees making clear that this wasn’t a transition at all. “I am not stepping down, nor am I stepping back. I am stepping up,” he said, and he noted pointedly that “As the largest shareholder, I will continue to nurture and grow this company.” Founders who can’t let go are an old story in business, and the story doesn’t usually end well. Larsson’s prospects look markedly worse today than they did two days ago.
–Matthias Mueller became Volkswagen’s CEO one week ago, and so far it’s hard to tell if he might be the revolutionary that the company needs. In the best case, he could be like General Motors’ Mary Barra, an insider who understands the culture deeply and knows why and how to blow it up, and who uses the company’s current crisis to make it happen. That’s the best case. But he could also be a highly competent insider who’s hands are clean and who could be installed as CEO on short notice, but who has no intention of leading a revolution. And even if he wants to be a revolutionary, VW’s powerful supervisory board may not let him. For now his prospects are shrouded in fog, which is not an encouraging sign.
–Oscar Munoz has been CEO of United Continental Holdings – United Airlines – for just over three weeks, and he’s starting off well. A headline at http://www.time.com this morning sums up his stance: “United Airlines CEO Pledges to Stop Being Awful to Customers and Employees.” He is saying what needs to be said out loud, that the company has a problem, that it isn’t treating customers well, and that “this merger hasn’t gone as well as it could have.” That’s step one. Now he has to fix the culture and operations, and the hopeful news is that it can be done, as Gordon Bethune demonstrated when he rescued Continental from far worse problems in the 1990s. Munoz faces a huge challenge, yet among all of September’s new CEOs, I like his prospects the best.
What We're Reading Today
Obama calls for stronger gun control
Following a mass shooting that killed at least ten people at an Oregon community college, President Barack Obama called for legislation to stop gun violence. He has responded to a mass shooting over a dozen times since becoming president, saying “somehow, this has become routine.”
Stanford B-school dean sued over work environment
Outgoing dean Garth Saloner faces a discrimination lawsuit alleging difficult working conditions, among other things; some professors say colleagues left because of Saloner’s leadership style. Stanford and Saloner say they’ll fight the suit aggressively.
Glencore struggles to stay afloat
Only two years after CEO Ivan Glasenberg led a $29.5-billion merger with Xstrata, the company is defending itself to creditors as commodity prices have decimated Glencore stock. Officials yesterday said that it’s not going through a “Lehman-like” meltdown, but with the price dropping 30% on Monday, investors are concerned that the mining conglomerate may no longer be solvent.
The Pope clarifies meeting with Kentucky clerk
The Vatican admitted that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused gay marriage licenses, while he traveled in the U.S. last week. But the Vatican reiterated that the 15-minute conversation didn’t signal the Pope’s position for or against her actions.
Building a Better Leader
IBM paves way for faster computers
Instead of silicon chips, IBM’s research shows how carbon nanotubes could be used. If successful, the technology could speed up computer systems at a time when some feared that growth in processing power would slow down.
Yes, you can return to that old job
More than 75% of hiring managers say they would hire someone who had left the company.
Leaders should practice empathy
Think beyond the business roles that your employees represent.
Hackers stole information on 15 million customers through T-Mobile’s data collector, Experian. The stolen information includes names, addresses, and encrypted social security numbers. T-Mobile CEO John Legere apologized and said the company would “review” its relationship with Experian.
Russian hackers tried to spam Hillary Clinton
Just like all of us, Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State received spam attempts on her personal account. If she clicked the links, it’s possible that the classified information she accessed via her personal account could have been breached. But she probably wouldn’t have been safer from the spam attempts on an official email account.
Amazon bans Apple TV, Chromecast
CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon will stop selling competitive streaming devices produced by Apple and Google because the devices do not “interact well” with Amazon’s Prime Video. It’s an attempt to boost Amazon’s streaming service, but it could increase sales at rival retailers, such as Best Buy.
Up or Out
Jamba Juice CEO James D. White will step down. He will remain at the company until a replacement is found.
Frank Witter, chief of Volkswagen AG’s financial-services unit, has been named CFO. Hans Dieter Pötsch, the current CFO, is expected to become chairman of the beleaguered company.
Fortune Reads and Videos
Neiman Marcus lays off 500
In preparation for its IPO, CEO Karen Katz said the layoffs would include corporate and support staff.
Chik-fil-A’s plan to invade New York…
…include a three-story building, two kitchens, and iPads.
Snapchat introduces sponsored “lenses”
Watch out for sponsors in your selfies soon through an animated overlay of your photo. Sponsorships for the features on “peak days” will run companies $750,000, as CEO Evan Spiegel looks for ways to make money off his popular social media platform.
Ralph Lauren can learn from Bill Gates…
…if he really intends to step away.
“Damn sure I’m going to be opportunistic. We’ll buy anything if it makes economic sense…Will commodity prices stay strong [and] justify putting this much money into an asset-rich company? Have we done the right thing? This is my biggest fear.” – Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg discussing his plans following the 2013 $29.5-billion merger with mining company Xstrata.
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|Produced by Ryan Derousseau|