Ziggy takes a beaking on the Sunday business shows.
So who won the Gold Logie for the businessman most likely to be
attacked after this Sunday morning’s business shows? Bob Mansfield?
Nope, he’s at home in Sydney not reading board documents. Graeme
Kraehe? Nope, he still can’t work out why he should follow Bob
Mansfield’s honourable route out of Telstra and quit the NAB
chairmanship.

No, it was poor old Ziggy Switkowski, the Telstra CEO, after both
Business Sunday on Nine and the ABC’s Inside Business joined the pack
in forecasting his demise.

Michael Pascoe on Seven had a small dip, but saved his arrows for the banks and fund managers. Check it out here.

Peter Morgan of 452 Capital won the most popular commentator, appearing
on Seven and the ABC, while Business Sunday commentator, Alan Fels also
popped up on Inside Business as a panellist, making him a close second
in popularity.

Michael Pascoe rightfully pointed out how most of the media had missed
the real point of the NAB’s profit downgrade: the way investors, in
particular those in super funds and other managed accounts, are heavily
leveraged to the banks because of their large weighting to the banks.
This at a time when the NAB downgrade revealed the cracks may be
showing in the profit-generating abilities of the NAB and its
competitors, putting those fully-franked, high dividends under pressure.

However, it was Channel Nine which delivered the big call of the
morning: Telstra CEO, Ziggy Switkowski has only weeks to go in his job
because of a combination of third quarter revenue figures this week
that will show no major surge in sales, and a review of the
CEO-generated strategy next month.

Ross Greenwood pointed out that Ziggy’s promise of revenue gains of up
to five per cent a year could not be met and analysts were looking for
two per cent a year at best. He added the obvious that Ziggy is far
more exposed now that Mansfield has gone.

Business Sunday put together a good panel with corporate ethicist Simon
Longstaff, Investors Mutual head Anton Tagliaferro and the Silver Fox
of corporate Australia, Dick Warburton. Anton and Dick both pointed out
that the board had had to sign off on the revenue strategy. So to blame
Ziggy and say that his neck was on the line over this, as Ross
Greenwood did, was a bit rich, especially as he didn’t point out the
board’s complicity.

Check out the panel transcript and Greenwood’s bold prediction here.

So what is a poor little CEO to do? At least Ziggy has a board
committed to doing something, as Terry McCrann pointed out. Faint
comfort we know for Ziggy, but it’s better than what John Stewart is
getting from the collection of self-servers on the NAB board who are
fighting Cathy Walter. From comments in the press and Terry McCrann’s
chat on Business Sunday, there’s a strong chance Catherine Livingstone
could be chairman of Telstra after organising the coup against Bob
Mansfield.

For Alan Kohler on the ABC’s Inside Business, it was also a panel
looking at Telstra’s problems after Mansfield’s departure, with all
agreeing that Ziggy was history. It wasn’t as strong as Business
Sunday, but Inside Business joined the baying pack and ignored the
importance of the NAB’s earnings downgrade, as did Business Sunday.

Telstra’s where the blood’s been spilt and like a collection of gummy
sharks, the media is swarming, looking to be able to claim they were
first in forecasting Ziggy’s demise, just as some have claimed
Mansfield’s scalp.

As Alan Fels told Alan Kohler, Ziggy has proven to be pretty resilient,
After all he was Optus CEO (as was Mansfield) and adapted pretty
quickly from “Telstra is bad” to” Telstra is good” rhetoric.

So will Telstra go for third time luck and select Optus chief operating
officer, Paul O’Sullivan, as suggested by some, including Ross
Greenwood? Twice bitten, third time shy might be the real outcome and
leading internal candidate David Moffatt would be the safer option than
going outside yet again.

Peter Fray

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