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Survival in the corporate jungle

http://finance.sina.com.cn 2004年04月16日 10:36 新浪财经


上周欧洲隧道(Eurotunnel)举行股东大会,解散了公司董事会。该大会与其说是一场年度股东大会,还不如说是一场群众集会。数千名股东对董事们冷嘲热讽,一边有节奏地呼喊着他们的英雄尼古拉•米盖(Nicolas Miguet)的名字,这个泄露股票信息并犯有欺诈罪的记者领导了这场股东反叛。

Last week's gathering of Eurotunnel shareholders, which threw out the company's board, was more of a mass rally than an annual meeting. Thousands of shareholders jeered the directors and chanted the name of their hero Nicolas Miguet - the share-tipping journalist and convicted fraudster who led their revolt.

《回声报》(Les Echos)的一名记者把这场年会比作一次革命性庭审。《回声报》是《金融时报》的法国姐妹报。另一名记者将此事称为“资本主义的4月21日”,那是在借用2002年4月21日发生的事件:当日极右国民阵线领袖让-玛丽•勒庞(Jean-Marie Le Pen)在总统大选第一轮总统选举中得票仅次于雅克•希拉克(Jacques Chirac),震惊了法国和全世界。

One journalist from Les Echos, the Financial Times's French sister paper, likened the annual meeting to a revolutionary tribunal. Another called the occasion "capitalism's April 21", a reference to the day in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the extreme-right National Front, shocked France and the world by coming second to Jacques Chirac in the first round of the presidential election.


Observers noted how much Mr Miguet's tactics resembled an electoral campaign. "It's a bit of an occult movement which seeks to pitch poor against rich, the weak against the strong in more of a political campaign way rather than a business one," a corporate governance specialist told the FT.

在法国,如此规模的小股东反叛是史无前例的,但在其他国家,发生过的投资者起义要多得多,包括股东把菲利普•沃茨(Philip Watts)赶下皇家荷兰/壳牌(Royal Dutch/Shell)董事长的席位,以及43%的股东投票反对迈克尔•艾斯纳(Michael Eisner)连任沃尔特迪斯尼(Walt Disney)的董事长。

Although a revolt on this scale by small shareholders was unprecedented in France, there have been many more investor uprisings in other countries, from the ousting of Sir Philip Watts as chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell to the vote by 43 per cent of shareholders against the reappointment of Michael Eisner as head of Walt Disney.

一年多前,我应邀为一群新任公司董事讲讲有关新闻界的工作方式。其中一位董事问,为什么他非得向媒体讲话。我当时承认,一些最成功的公司领导人从不那样做。吉姆•柯林斯(Jim Collins)在其畅销商业著作《从优秀到卓越》中介绍了一些最杰出的首席执行官,其中大多数人都不接受采访。

A little over a year ago, I was invited to talk to a group of newly appointed company directors about the workings of the press. One of the directors asked why he should ever speak to the media. I conceded that some of the most successful corporate leaders never did. Most of the outstanding chief executives profiled in Good to Great, Jim Collins's best-selling business book, did not give interviews.


Were I to answer the director's question now, I would say that not speaking is probably inadvisable in this age of shareholder activism. Much of the investor fury against Sir Philip resulted from his failure to appear in person to explain Shell's reduction in its declared oil and gas reserves. Chief executives need to be as alert to the changing attitudes towards them, and as ready to address them, as any president or prime minister.

甚至在“欧洲隧道”股东反叛事件之前,我就一直在考虑公司生活与政治生活之间日益增加的相似点,那是受到我朋友黛博拉•迈丁森(Deborah Mattinson)寄给我的一篇论文的启发。她是Opinion Leader Research的联合创始人。这篇论文由她与该研究公司的董事格雷姆•特雷纳(Graeme Trayner)合撰,并已在上月市场研究协会(Market Research Society)的年会上发布。该论文认为,正如政治家越来越多地被要求表现得像经理人:用业绩目标来衡量他们是否成功,因此,商业人士也越来越必须表现得像政治家。

I had been pondering the growing similarity between corporate and political life even before the Eurotunnel revolt, prompted by a paper my friend Deborah Mattinson, co-founder of Opinion Leader Research, sent me. The paper, which she wrote with Graeme Trayner, a director of the research company, and delivered at the annual conference of the Market Research Society last month, argued that just as politicians were increasingly required to behave like business managers - measuring their success against performance targets - so business people increasingly had to behave like politicians.

该论文称,政治家已经感到,每隔4、5年向投票人说明政策是不够的。他们必须不断竞选,以赢得公众支持。比尔•克林顿(Bill Clinton)的顾问迪克•莫里斯(Dick Morris)说,政客必须天天赢得“多数票”。

The paper argued that politicians felt it was no longer sufficient to present their case to voters every four or five years. They had to campaign constantly to win support for their policies. Dick Morris, an adviser to Bill Clinton, said politicians had to win a "daily majority".


"The permanent campaign has now become very much the norm in contemporary politics and is particularly associated with the emergence of New Labour in the UK and the political approaches of the Clinton and Bush II administrations in the US," the paper said.

商界领袖也发现自己要不间断地竞选,例如目前因薪酬问题而遭到抨击的葛兰素史克(GlaxoSmithKline)首席执行官让-皮埃尔•加尼耶(Jean-Pierre Garnier)。同政治家一样,企业领导人也在一个受到普遍怀疑和猜忌的环境中运作。而且同政治家一样,他们也面对一群日益不满、苛刻的选民。政治家的选民是投票人,商界领袖的选民则由消费者、维权活动组织和股东组成。

Business leaders - such as Jean-Pierre Garnier, the GlaxoSmithKline chief, under fire over his pay - were finding themselves permanently campaigning, too. Like politicians, corporate leaders operated in an environment of popular scepticism and mistrust. Also like politicians, they faced an increasingly dissatisfied and demanding electorate. The politicians' electorate was the voters; the business leaders' was made up of consumers, campaigning organisations and shareholders.


How valid is the paper's comparison between politics and the boardroom? Although the oft-cited tenure of the average chief executive - four years - matches the electoral cycle of many democracies, chief executives in recent months have found they are even less secure than politicians.

菲利普爵士和霍林格国际(Hollinger International)董事长布莱克勋爵(Lord Black)已被赶下台,被罢黜的速度比任何政客都要快。不受欢迎的政客通常能把自己的位子保到下一次选举,除非是极其少见的情况,如加州州长格雷•戴维斯(Gray Davis)在去年一次罢免选举后下台。

Sir Philip and Lord Black, the head of Hollinger International, have been thrown out more quickly than any politician would have been. Unpopular politicians usually keep their jobs until the next election, except in rare cases such as Gray Davis, California's governor, who was dismissed after a recall election last year.


On the other hand, the corporate leaders have an easier task in one respect: they can talk to their detractors more directly. Although the paper sees the challenge to business leaders as coming from activists, consumers and shareholders, it is only shareholders who exercise real power over chief executives.

消费者已经对企业造成了打击:欧洲的购物者拒绝接受转基因食品,重创了孟山都(Monsanto)。针对壳牌的Brent Spar石油平台及尼日利亚业务,活动人士给该公司惹了许多麻烦,而且在承包商工厂问题上令耐克(Nike)非常尴尬。但在有关血汗工厂的维权活动上,耐克几乎没有遭受任何经济损失。而一些人认为,壳牌花了太多时间来让活动人士对它满意,结果冷落了投资者。

Consumers have hurt companies: European shoppers' refusal to countenance genetically modified food did huge damage to Monsanto. Campaigners caused Shell problems over its Brent Spar oil platform and its Nigerian operations, and embarrassed Nike over its contractors' factories. But Nike suffered little financial harm over the sweatshop campaign. And some argue that Shell spent so much time trying to make itself acceptable to campaigners that it ignored investors.


Chief executives used to justify everything, from factory closures to their pay and share options, by saying their principal responsibility was to shareholders - secure in the knowledge that shareholders would do little to control them. That has changed. It was the small shareholders who did the damage at Eurotunnel. In most companies it is the large pension, insurance and investment funds that hold most of the votes. They are easy enough to find and talk to.


Before he was deposed, Lord Black said of his shareholders: "They can't do much about me." Others are unlikely to make the same mistake. But it is not a good idea to wait for the annual meeting. Chief executives need to court their shareholders as assiduously as politicians court voters.






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