A titan of Irish business passed away this week. Alex Spain, for it was he, headed up many of Ireland’s top companies in a long and richly-rewarded career. He was famous for his decisiveness and didn’t tolerate fools gladly. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the boardroom table as his quaking underlings, fixed by his cold gimlet eye, delivered their spiels.
The ensuing instructions were invariably rapid, decisive, clearcut. And catastrophically wrong. His first major task was to take over Irish Shipping in the eighties. His fees for this were so enormous that a special ‘vehicle’ (Zeus Management) was set up to get around awkward pay restrictions. His impact on Irish Shipping was like that of a fleet of German submarines, and soon the company had gone to a watery grave.
Fresh from this accomplishment he was snapped up to take over Xtravision, Ireland’s largest video rental company (which also had a huge property portfolio). Same result, company down the tubes within a few years. And so it went, Alex headhunted to take over company after company, as one after another they bit the dust and/or or ended up in all sorts of legal trouble.
But it never held the bold Alex back. He retired, a wealthy man, feted by all and sundry for his ‘services’ to Irish business. And the mourners at his funeral represented the great and good of Irish business, the people who ran the banks into the ground, financial regulators and all the rest. I bet they took time out to congratulate one another on their ‘contributions’ over the years.
Entrepreneuricus Hibernicus: We fail, you pay .