By Stephen Mayne

The 7.30 Report
had an interesting Emma Alberici story
last night about Coles Myer, which picked up on this “Bill Eclairs” story pushed
on Crikey last year about the way that Coles Myer lost Mark McInnes and
Stephen Goddard, the two executives now towelling them at David Jones.

As retail consultant Ross Honeywell explained again last night, McInnes
and Goddard did a great job building Officeworks for Coles Myer, but
were then allowed to walk in 1997 by a negligent Coles Myer board.

Sure, it’s been quite a long-term turnaround program, but Myer actually
lost money in the second half whilst DJs is strongly profitable and
going from strength to strength.

The most important job of a board is to manage succession planning and
appoint the right CEO. Therefore, it is surprising that no-one has ever before
attempted to list the “CEOs who got away,” but here goes:

John Alexander:
Fairfax foolishly sacked him in 1998 after cost blowouts at The SMH
when they really should have sacked their dunderhead CEO Bob Muscat and
installed JA in the top job. Instead, he was lost to the Packers and is
now running the whole of PBL far more effectively than Fred Hilmer ran

Keith Barton: Missed out on the top job at CSR in 1993 when outgoing CEO Ian Burgess
and the board backed the wrong man in Geoff Kels. Barton then
defected to James Hardie where he did a good job before clearing out as
the asbestos shenanigans really started under Peter Macdonald.

Terry Davis:
Should have succeeded Ted Kunkel at Foster’s but
the board stuffed it and Ted’s huge ego got in the way, so Davis took the
offer from David Gonski and is now doing an excellent job running Coca
Cola Amatil.

Gail Kelly: David Murray was allowed to stay on for way too long
at the Commonwealth Bank when Gail Kelly would have been an excellent
successor if she hadn’t been lost to St George.

Grant King: Was running a large part of AGL’s gas business but
long-serving plumber-turned CEO Len Bleasel was showing no signs of
retiring so he defected to Boral and has built Origin Energy into a
power house when he would have been a better choice than Greg Martin as
the next CEO of AGL.

Paul Little: Was a senior executive at Mayne Nickless in 1986
when he quit to run a private hospital in Geelong and then participated
in the management buyout of the little-known Toll Holdings, which is
now a $4.5 billion logistics and transport giant. Meanwhile, Mayne is
now totally out of logistics and is only capitalised at $3.5 billion. Little would have saved Mayne from itself.

Mark McInnes: After doing a great job launching Officeworks for
Coles Myer, he should have been fast-tracked but instead defected to
David Jones and is now causing his old employer enormous problems.

John Mulcahy: Same category as Gail Kelly. Would have been a
good successor to David Murray at the CBA but instead is now running

If we’ve missed anyone or made any bad calls, drop us a line to [email protected]