Cathay CEO Axed to Placate Beijing
According to this article, the former CEO of Cathay turned the airline around over the past two years, taking the airline from loss to profit. Supposedly he was well-respected and capable. Now he is gone, because the chairman (not the CEO) made the mistake of saying this:
Only two Wednesdays ago, Cathay chairman John Slosar remarked at a press conference: “We employ 27,000 staff in Hong Kong doing all sorts of different jobs … we certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.”
My guess: the previous CEO was doing what he thought was best for his organization. He knew that the Hong Kong employees were very supportive of the protests, and he thought that maintaining morale was a top concern: productivity, profitability, turnaround, good management, etc. He was doing what he felt was right for his company.
Sadly, he was wrong. He blew it. Listening to his employees, taking their thoughts and feelings into account – not the right thing at all. What he needed to do was toady up to his political overlords, crack down on the staff, tell them what to think, and fire them if they demonstrated any deviation from appropriate speech or thought.
Then he would have been fine.
This is the Hong Kong-Beijing clash in microcosm. Ultimately, it is a culture clash. Of course since Beijing has the guns, they will win the power struggle. However I believe that Beijing will win the battle, but ultimately they will lose the war. Based on what happened at Cathay, I predict that, 27 years from now Beijing will get a hollow shell of what was once a very successful, thriving city. The best – those who can – will flee and enrich other places. Only the toadies will remain, and the city will sink into bland, subservient mediocrity. I’m sure this discussion happened back in 1997, but back then it was conjecture. Now we see the reality.
Win the battle, lose the war. Cathay Pacific is showing us the future of Hong Kong.