Pitfalls Of Loose Executive Management

Apr. 05, 2012 7:41 PM ETVIVHY
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Contributor Since 2012

Senior small/mid cap analyst. My expertise is in executive management, corporate crisis and investor relations.

From high-end electric vehicles to e-commerce retailers, the need for smooth executive transitions have never been so vital.

The latest victim of sloppy executive management comes from across the Atlantic in the form of France's second largest telecom provider. After a price war with France Telecom and Bouygues Telecom, SFR has announced that it had lost over 1% of their customer base, representing nearly 200,000 customers through Q1 of 2012, losing roughly 13-16 percent of their 2012 profit, accounting for 1.7 billion Euros, or 15% of their cash flow from operations.

As a result, Vivendi's [1] Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy has taken over the helm of the troubled SFR, displacing a doleful Frank Esser, who had been the CEO of SFR since 2005. By taking this role, Levy now serves as the head of Vivendi and SFR[2] as chairman of the management board, and CEO.

Uncertainty in the executive role as well as an unclear vision of the company's immediate strategy has manifested itself through the stock price, sliding nearly 19% since January 1st. One of the core goals on any public company's task-list is to instill confidence in their shareholders. With a shareholder base that is confident in its management, there are less distractions for the board of directors to deal with; they can then successfully run a business in the best interest of it's shareholders.

Like a cruel circle of causation, it takes shareholders that are confident for a board and executive team to make decisions that instill confidence. When asked about the SFR and Vivendi turmoil at a recent Goldman Sachs Conference, Peter Nakamura [3], a VP at executive recruitment firm Berkshire Group Inc [4] said "For as much as it regards their state of business, if SFR had chosen to conduct its internal organization of management with a clearer vision, or had taken a little more time to calmly analyze the consequences of this type of market disruption, they could have walked away with more at the table then what they actually got."

Nakamura elaborated further by commenting on the Tesla executive situation that caused stock price of the electric car company to drop over 10% in one day. "In the case of SFR and Vivendi, they were actually buoyed by external factors, such as sector confidence, however, you can easily see the need for executive crisis management in the case of Peter Rawlinson and Nick (Sampson) over at Tesla".

Vivendi shares were down half a percent to 13.75 euros per share mid-day GMT. New forecasts for the telecom company's future earnings see it slumping until at least 2013. The company has been quoted that it will need to make changes to its cost structure to offset the declines to its EBITDA.

[1] Vivendi is a French telecom and media entertainment company. The Company operates six core subsidiaries: Activision Blizzard, Universal Music Group, a 100%-owned recorded music company; SFR, Maroc Telecom Group; GVT, and Groupe Canal+.

[2] SFR is aFrench mobile phone company owned by Vivendi.

[3] Peter Nakamura is a Managing Director for Berkshire Group Inc.

[4] Berkshire Group Inc is a premier global executive recruitment firm with offices in San Francisco, New York and London.

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