Coles Myer CEO John Fletcher has nicely summed up the real
responsibilities of a CEO: one was to set and implement the strategic direction
of the company (which of course includes earning more money); the second to
handle succession and make sure there was a plan in place.
Funny how he knew that at Coles Myer but at Telstra realised
that Ziggy (and his chairmen, Bob Mansfield and Donald McGauchie) didn’t
understand the need for succession.

That’s why Telstra had to go to St Sol of Wyoming on a short term deal to tizzy the
company up, say the right words and try to get a good price for T3.

Likewise at the Commonwealth Bank, David Murray did a great
job making money, but a lousy one preparing for his departure by finding a
successor. He drove Gail Kelly and John Mulcahy away. But at least
the board with new chairman John Schubert in place realised that and went and
got an old boy in Ralph Norris.

Three other leading companies have succession problems, and
no sign of resolving them. Fred Hilmer has been going for more than a year
from Fairfax.
Doug Flynn, an outsider said no, so the company seems to have been forced by
circumstance to look internally. Brian Evans, the new chief operating officer
seems to be the pea.

Woolworths was going to change CEOs last August, but the
succession fell over when Tom Flood had to retire early (and he and CEO Roger
Corbett had let the supermarkets lose sales growth after being slow to react
to the Coles Myer fuel offer). Roger is there for at least another year, having
done two big deals in that time. Will he go and is there anyone inside Woolies
worth promoting?

Bet you Roger tries to hang on.

But the big problem is at Qantas. CEO Geoff Dixon has about
15 months or so to go before he departs. He was due to go about a year ago, but
no obvious successor had been developed (or allowed to develop). None seems to
be around internally. What’s the betting the airline looks outside?