Friday, June 3, 2011

The problem with regime change (Microsoft, Dodgers)

In the political world, I am not a fan of regime change for regime change's sake. And I am not a fan of regime change in the business world either.

Two examples of potential regime change are being discussed in the business world. Over at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer is getting low approval ratings, and shareholder David Einhorn wants Microsoft to can Ballmer and give someone else a chance.

Meanwhile, over at Chavez Ravine, just about everyone is calling for Frank McCourt to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team - again, to give someone else a chance to run the organization.

While such appeals seem attractive on the surface, business regime change proposals, like political regime change proposals, often don't consider what would happen afterwards.

All you have to do is ask a basic question - who will replace Ballmer/McCourt?

Once you start filling in that blank, and a real person emerges as a competitor to the current leader, then the idea of throwing the bum out often looks less attractive.

Take Microsoft, for example. The chances of Microsoft hiring a CEO from outside are not all that great (and for you dreamers, don't count on Steve Jobs accepting an offer to run Microsoft). Yes, I know that Microsoft hired Jon Shirley as President/COO in 1983, but he left day-to-day operations of Microsoft in 1990. So if Microsoft doesn't hire a CEO from outside, that means that they need to hire a CEO from inside. And for those who are arguing that Microsoft is stuck in the past, how will another insider be any better than Ballmer, who is nothing if not enthusiastic?

I'll look at the other case. I was a former Dodgers fan until Fox bought the team, and the team jettisoned Bill Russell, Mike Piazza, and Hideo Nomo within a very short period. Now you'd expect that I'd be arguing for someone to take over the team from Fox, and eventually I got my wish - Frank McCourt bought the team. While McCourt has had more success in the postseason than Fox, I don't think anyone would claim that the Dodgers were better off after Fox left the stage.

Now it's a different matter if someone proposes a regime change and has a viable candidate to take over. For example, I would not mind if Mark Cuban were to buy the Dodgers. However, I also realize that Cuban has little chance of being approved as an owner by Major League Baseball.

So before you jump on a regime change bandwagon, ask yourself - can you propose a likely, viable successor?
blog comments powered by Disqus