There is little news about the CML bid. The politicians and other interested parties, so noisy on Friday, have gone quiet. The bidders’ identities remain unconfirmed.
We have been told little more than the offer is highly conditional, the bidder wants board cooperation and that a team of consultants has been appointed.
When the Coles Myer board met on Monday to formally discuss the buyout, they should have had two priorities near the top of their agenda. The first — to resolve this contretemps as soon as possible.
As a recruiter, I well understand the effect this is having on team morale. It is highly destabilising.
Uncertainty gets people moving along a line that runs from “staying forever” to “out of here as soon as possible”. The nasty consequence of the information vacuum is that in the last couple of days, pretty much every mid to senior manager will have moved some distance toward the latter option. The longer speculation continues, the further people will move. Unfortunately for Coles, it’s the best people who get the opportunity to depart first.
The second agenda item is, if there is to be a sale, it is the board’s duty to extract the highest price possible for shareholders. Thus they may want to start an auction.
These priorities militate against each other.
The chairman’s statement and letter to shareholders does little to address either of these causes. Allert mentions “the next few weeks” and “due course”. Little urgency there — and nothing about the staff. Not a word. I hope they are doing something internally.
The board needs to understand that there are many stakeholders. They address the 400,000 shareholders, (albeit with scant information) but they must not ignore suppliers, customers, the community and most of all, the 165,000 Coles team members.
Two things are drifting in this silent fog: CML shares and team morale.