Power Sheet - April 7, 2016
Three of the biggest bad-news leadership stories of the past 12 months advanced yesterday:
-Just when you thought that maybe FIFA had finally gained control of its corruption scandal, after months of constantly playing defense against troubling new revelations, it turns out that, no, actually nothing has changed. The world soccer authority in February replaced former president and accused lawbreaker Sepp Blatter with Gianni Infantino, who promised to “restore football’s reputation.” Then the Panama Papers appeared, and guess whose name turns up. Infantino’s signature is reportedly on two contracts selling a set of TV rights to an Argentine father-and-son marketing firm for far less than their market value; the father and son were indicted in the U.S. last spring on separate charges of corruption and bribery. Also in the Panama Papers is a member of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, who is shown to have had a relationship with a Uruguayan businessman whom the U.S. has charged with bribery.
None of this proves that anyone at FIFA has done anything wrong. But these developments mean more attention from law enforcement, more distraction at FIFA from its purpose, more sponsorship cutbacks, and greater loss of faith by fans. FIFA’s leadership crisis, far from turning a corner, could get worse.
-Doubts about whether Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and the company’s directors are operating in good faith grew yesterday. Activist investor Jeff Smith of Starboard Value Fund has been urging for months that Yahoo sell its core Internet businesses, and the company finally agreed. But then nothing seemed to happen. Last month Smith sent the company an open letter suggesting strongly that leaders were deliberately going slow. Then he proposed replacing Yahoo’s entire board with a rival slate of directors. That move seemed to get their attention, and the company publicly invited bids, due by next Monday.
But yesterday Re/code reported that the financial disclosures the company is showing to potential bidders seem, at least to some, deliberately obfuscatory. They also reveal that Mayer’s turnaround strategy, which she still promotes vigorously, won’t deliver results this year; the company expects revenue and profits to continue their years-long decline.
-The owner of three U.S. Volkswagen dealerships sued the company yesterday, the first dealer to do so. Dealers have so far preferred to negotiate with VW rather than wage war. The new lawsuit seeks class-action status, and maybe it’s just the latest step in the negotiation. After CEO Matthias Müller’s many missteps in managing this crisis, the company seems finally to have learned that combative or quibbling public statements don’t go over well. In response to the suit, it said only that it’s committed to ending this mess “as quickly as possible…as we work to earn back the trust of our customers and dealers and the public.” One way or another, the dealer part will likely cost VW additional billions of dollars.
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