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March 6, 2013

As spectator sports go, reading rich lists is a pretty grim one. Poring over stories about others peoples’ billions is an odd pastime, vulgar and vaguely dirty. There’s also a 300-foot-high flashing neon question-mark over whether they are even accurate.

As spectator sports go, reading rich lists is a pretty grim one. Poring over stories about others peoples’ billions is an odd pastime, vulgar and vaguely dirty, which seems to appeal to the sort of boggle-eyed saddo who is obsessed with money for its own sake. There’s also a 300-foot-high flashing neon question-mark over whether they are even accurate.

March 5, 2013

If they want a piece of the Middle East’s action, businesses have to do a deal with one of the region’s family-owned conglomerates. 

It’s 2010 and the new owners of Harrods have parked their luxury sports cars on a busy street outside the department store in Knightsbridge, rather than avail themselves of the valet service that their latest acquisition could provide. Sporting the renowned baby-blue colour of Qatar’s Al Thani royal family, the Koenigsegg CCXR and Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SuperVeloce, two of the world’s fastest cars, were promptly clamped by parking inspectors.

February 28, 2013

Families are often tempted by the idea of teaming up to pool expertise, but the reality can be less enticing than it sounds.

Fed up of paying two and 20? Tired of getting returns near the median? It may be time to strike a deal – and it seems that many family offices are joining forces for the first time.

Club deals, the staple of the private equity sector, are the flavour of the month. On both sides of the Atlantic, the world of family offices is awash with talk of who is striking deals with whom.

February 25, 2013

Equity purchases made under duress produce a joyless stock market rally, where people are desperate to preserve their wealth, rather than cheer on recovery.

Six years ago, Zimbabwean shares were enjoying one of the greatest rallies the world has ever seen.

In the year to April 2007, the local stock market was up 12,000% as investors rushed to invest.

President Robert Mugabe was leading the country towards bankruptcy, after letting his war veterans seize farms owned by white farmers. Agriculture was in a state of collapse. Roads were crumbling. The rate of unemployment was 80%. Industry was bankrupt. Yet stocks defied reality.

February 18, 2013

Ask someone in Hong Kong, or for that matter Los Angles, Rio de Janeiro or Dubai, what their perception is of the state of Europe’s economy and you’ll probably get some pretty standard responses. 

Ask someone in Hong Kong, or for that matter Los Angles, Rio de Janeiro or Dubai, what their perception is of the state of Europe’s economy and you’ll probably get some pretty standard responses.

They’re likely to contain words like recession, gloomy or troubled, and unlikely to contain words like buoyant, dynamic and robust. Although raging less today than a year ago, the euro crisis has left its mark on much of the collective thinking of not just Europeans, but the rest of the world as well.

February 14, 2013

You’ve got to give it to the Catholic Church, they do things in style.

The process in most organisations, when they are looking for a new leader, is to get a bunch of people to sit hunched in soulless offices and thrash it out over Formica tables and pots of over-brewed coffee. The result is announced by a press release. New popes, however, are elected by a bunch of men fluttering down baroque corridors in colourful gowns, talking in Latin, fidgeting with prayer beads and channelling the Almighty. 

They let the world know what they’ve decided via an eccentric system of smoke-signals. Still, it seems to work.

February 5, 2013

Family businesses shouldn’t think they are more ethical because of their adherence to stewardship and long-term planning.
 

Should businesses be ethical beyond what is required by the law of the land? Does ethics make good business sense? It’s probably true to say that neither of these weighty questions are top of the agenda as boardrooms sit down to sign off budgets for 2013, or otherwise. But now is the time they should be.

January 31, 2013

An early contender for euphemism of the year has to be the statement from Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of energy company Chesapeake, who earlier this week said that he was standing down over “philosophical differences” with the board.

An early contender for euphemism of the year has to be the statement from Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of energy company Chesapeake, who earlier this week said that he was standing down over “philosophical differences” with the board.

January 29, 2013

Leadership today, as far as I can see, has much to do with openness. At Davos, it is not only the wine that makes people feel at ease and exited. 

I have been going to the World Economic Forum in Davos since I took over as chief executive of Ferd in 1998. As such I inherited the slot from my father who had been going to Davos since the late 1970s. At that time there was hardly any security concerns: skis were left in the cloakroom in the morning, then sessions until lunch, skiing was done in the afternoon, and fireside chats rounded off the day. The world and the WEF in Davos have both changed.

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