Did somebody forget this thing called culture?PN Balji, you'll never know. You can speculate, and make your guesses. Maybe from somewhere within your personal network, you might even hear some rumours of the "inside" story. But you'll never know for sure.
by PN Balji
AS THE buzz about Mr Charles Goodyear's sudden departure from Temasek Holdings continues to dominate discussions, one can't help but ask this question: Could a no-nonsense CEO who bulldozed his way through a traumatic merger to form mining giant BHP Billiton, retrenching thousands in the process, have fitted into a Singapore culture, which for all its outward glow of modernity, is essentially conservative?
Temasek is no ordinary company. To run it, having good business acumen is not enough. You need to understand not just the dynamics of the company, but that of its associate companies, the Ministry of Finance, the Cabinet and the people of Singapore. It is a jewel in Singapore's crown and the person protecting and growing it must have the clout to push through his initiatives. If not the clout, then at least the savvy to win over its stakeholders.
Pity Mr Goodyear. It looks like he did not even have the time to go on a charm offensive, assuming that plan was in his briefcase at all.
Just four months after he was appointed to the Temasek board and just two-and-a-half months before becoming the CEO of the sovereign wealth fund, the 51-year-old American businessman is leaving with questions being asked about not only his style but about Temasek's ability to pick the right person and about whether a foreigner can ever run an outfit like Temasek.
His credentials are impeccable, they have been talking to him for two years, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew described him as one who had an affinity for Temasek's values, yet Temasek and Mr Goodyear are parting ways. Strategic differences was given as the official reason. How could that be?
Why? Because this is Temasek. You know their style. Through all these years, it has not changed. Basically, Temasek will never tell you anything, except perhaps the reasons why it will never tell you anything. And even those reasons will be vague and obscure.
Take Goodyear's departure, for instance. It is revealed that he left because there were "strategic differences". No further details. This kind of answer could mean anything and everything, and therefore means nothing.
Except one thing. It means - Temasek doesn't want to tell you, lah.
Perhaps one day, Singaporeans will understand - how risky it is, for so much of the nation's money to be managed in this way.