It really is time to put the lid on it!
After a couple of weeks of a media feeding frenzy based on whispered half truths, appalling leaks from people who I assume should have known better, speculation and speculative "analysis" - it is time to calm down and think of the future for the Bank.
The "leaks" were inexcusable. I don't care what folk say about "public interest" - because that can be their only "so called" defence for telling anyone - but when things are in a state of flux it is surely better to get them resolved than indulge in a "nomination by media" exercise. Or in Mike Geoghegan's case - "vilification by media". How times have changed. We saw the beginnings of a more loose-lipped Board - or those very close to it - when the news broke prematurely about Geoghegan's move to Hong Kong. Without any conversations at all about that particular matter in advance, the information was volunteered to me in intricate (and accurate) detail by someone well removed from the Board. It was a sort of "I expect you know already ..." type of conversation. I didn't.
But look, it might have been ugly but a win's a win and we have to move on.
Mike Geoghegan I met as a young man in the Middle East - I actually think it was on a rugby pitch the first time, but our paths have crossed many times since then - none so closely though as when we worked in the Bank's Mongkok office in the early 80s. He was then showing the right signs of leadership and ability, and I am sorry about the manner of his departure. It could have been handled so much better - and I hope that any companies out there who have been reading the negative commentary about Mike put it all into perspective. Mike is tough, rough and gets things done. He has considerable charm - although I do admit there are occasions when you have to find it, and he does not suffer fools gladly. There will be many, certainly inside the Bank, who will see Mike's tenure as positively transformational. Those less able may welcome his departure (although that underestimates Stuart Gulliver).
He will handle all of this with dignity, no matter how much he may hurt inside, and I wish him well.
[Oh, and STOP all this silly speculation about his "pay-off". Much of what he might receive in the future will depend on how the Bank performs and it is not cast in stone. And that is something I can testify to from somewhat bitter experience. But that is another story - and it's private!]
And so to the future. Messrs Flint and Gulliver will make a great combination for the future of the Bank.
I know there are those who would have preferred to see the change at the top come from the outside, in the shape of an Independent non-executive Chairman. But this is a regulatory and market "preference" - and it's also "comply or explain". The Bank chooses to explain - and the Bank's results do not seem to have suffered as a result of following a tried and tested tradition. What would an Independent Non-Executive bring that someone with the skills of Douglas Flint could not bring? If anyone thinks Douglas is a "patsy" who will not have the interests of all constituents of the Bank at heart - then they don't know the Bank or its people at all.
Stuart Gulliver is a person to watch - always has been. He is highly intelligent and very articulate. I see he is being "criticised" already for being an "Investment Banker" - well he does run the investment bank in HSBC, but again - if you don't understand Stuart, get to know him before you start writing rubbish about him. I have no doubt in my mind that he will step right up to the plate and continue to perform as well in his new role, just as he has in the past.
Having already been regaled with stories of dinners at plush restaurants in London prior to Mike's decision to move on (a week before he was supposed to have threatened to step down if he didn't get the top job), I hope we are not going now to be subjected to two weeks of analysis of the new team and what they can do wrong. They have more than sufficient ability, and are supported by a highly competent team of executives around the world. Let them prove themselves, and go find other victims to write about.
I see that already the focus has now changed slightly to the future role of Mr. Thornton with HSBC and the fact that he might himself step down. That, it seems, would be a pity from the perspective of some but if his skills were China related (forget the fact that he was an Investment Banker and an American - two issues that seem to have unsettled some), then I think there are plenty of others out there with good China credentials too.
So - let's now all get on with our jobs!