THE INDISPENSABLE MEN
THE INDISPENSABLE MEN
Two of our favorite CEOs are back in the news this week. Well…to be accurate, it’s one CEO and one former CEO, the latter being a guy who quit his job but, for some reason or another, refuses to go home – more than a year later! But more about him in a moment.
First up today, is our old favorite, a man who needs no introduction, the one, the only…Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan. Dimon is back in the news for doing what he does, that is to say, treating a reporter – in addition to his shareholders and the public at large – as if he were a complete and utter imbecile. To wit:
JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon defended his $31.5m pay in a HBO interview, saying his board would take offence if he asked for a pay cut.
Speaking to co-founder of Axios James VandeHei, Dimon said his pay was up to the board, who would be offended if he were to request a reduction.
As well as courtesy, the American billionaire justified his pay as being part of a wider retention strategy at the firm, whereby ‘fair’ pay was needed to keep top talent….
Dimon joined the interview to discuss JP Morgan’s pledge to spend $30bn over the next five years to help combat racial inequity.
The first thing to note here is that Dimon is right. If we’re being kind, then the reporter in question – Jim VandeHei – is a flipping imbecile. Any reporter who would let Dimon get away with that answer – AGAIN! – without immediately responding, “Uh…yes…but aren’t you the chairman of that board, Mr. Dimon?” is either as dumb as dirt or doesn’t really care about the answer and asked the question only perfunctorily, as a preplanned courtesy to Dimon. We’ll give VandeHei the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he is not a gutless toady and, instead, is just stupid.
As for the rest of Dimon’s blather, does he really think people are going to believe that he had to pay himself excessively because if he didn’t, if he complained to himself about what he was getting paid, he would offend himself? And – since we know that he does really think that people are going to believe that – what does that say about us? What does it say about him?
And how about the plan, for which he appeared on HBO to receive plaudits for his decency and his generosity, that will have him spend $30 BILLION in SHAREHOLDER FUNDS to assuage his conscience and buy him some public goodwill? I mean…we like racial justice as much as the next guy, but doesn’t he think that he should, at the very least, ask before spending SOMEONE ELSE’S MONEY on his all-but-certain-to-be-pointless PR stunt? That’s roughly an entire year’s profits for JP Morgan, after all, or about 20% of estimated profits over the period during which it will be spent – on his vanity project. Does he feel no compunction about that at all? (You don’t need to answer these questions, by the way. They’re rhetorical. We know he has no guilt and feels no responsibility to any shareholder other than himself. He’s made that pretty clear.)
By contrast to Dimon, Bob Iger, the erstwhile CEO of Disney, apparently feels so much responsibility to Disney shareholders that he simply refuses to call it a day and go home. His job isn’t done, dammit, until it’s done, no matter what the title on the office says! In a piece published on Tuesday, Kim Master, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, discussed Iger’s “long goodbye.”
In mid-July, Disney’s board and top management flew to the company’s Aulani resort in Hawaii for their annual retreat. It was executive chairman Bob Iger’s last official appearance at such a gathering. With retirement looming — former theme parks and resorts chief Bob Chapek had already taken the reins as CEO in February 2020 — this was the first time in 15 years that Iger would not be presiding.
Iger decided to open the meeting by offering his parting advice. A longtime critic of over-reliance on market research rather than instinct and taste, he made an inspirational plea for the value of talent. He touched on the challenges of managing creators but stressed that every transaction at Disney — parks, consumer products, movies and television — starts with creativity….
Though no outsiders were present, chatter about Iger’s talk soon began to seep through Hollywood. His words were interpreted as a shot at Chapek. Though a 28-year Disney veteran who most recently had overseen the theme parks and resorts, Chapek was an outsider in Hollywood. Known for cutting costs and raising prices, he was regarded by many with distrust if not outright hostility. So the version of the board retreat that made the rounds had Iger showing up Chapek, who was said to have followed Iger’s remarks by declaring in blunt terms that, in fact, Disney was now a data-driven company. It sent a chill through Hollywood.
Sources who attended the meeting say Chapek did not make such a bald declaration. They say he was merely being himself: a numbers-oriented, bottom-line-focused businessman lacking creative experience and without Iger’s polish and flair. Nonetheless, the retreat anecdote dovetailed with a narrative that was already taking hold among Iger confidants: that he had lost faith in Chapek and that his speech before the board was “a final warning” that Disney was veering off course….
Chapek was the only real internal candidate. Given his lack of creative background, it may have seemed likely to Iger that the board would want him to stick around. Then came the challenges of the pandemic. Several sources believe Iger was sure his plan to run the creative side of things until the end of 2021 — and maybe beyond — would work out of necessity. “I think he thought Chapek was so not liked and so not a creative executive that he would for sure be needed for the foreseeable future,” says a former Disney insider. “He could be executive chairman for who knows how long, and Chapek could be a glorified COO.”…
Several Disney veterans believe Iger did not anticipate how aggressively Chapek would move to take charge. In The New York Times in April 2020, media columnist Ben Smith reported that Iger, mere weeks after Chapek became CEO, had “smoothly reasserted control” and “effectively returned to running the company.” Iger was said to have made his intentions clear to Chapek on a flight in March.
Now, we know that just a few paragraphs ago, we contrasted Dimon with Iger, but that was just a bit of (very) wry sarcasm. The truth of the matter is that the two are very similar in specific ways, ways that are incredibly common, to the point of universality, among their contemporaries. They’re archetypes of the modern, major corporation CEO, and, as such, they both embody the qualities that are going to wreck American business, if we’re not careful.
We know it sounds counterintuitive to suggest that these two, incredibly successful businessmen are the type of people who are going to destroy American business, but it’s true. Both are, of course, “woke” – or, in Dimon’s case, at least he does a good job of pretending to be. Beyond that, though, both are absolutely convinced that they and they alone have the ability to lead their respective companies successfully. Dimon’s pay is, you see, “part of a wider retention strategy at the firm, whereby ‘fair’ pay was needed to keep top talent.” And Iger so distrusted his own TOP CHOICE to replace him to live up to his standard that he created a weird post-retirement job that allowed him to stick around for 18 months, and now appears to regret having made that extra term so short. Dimon trots around the world telling anyone who will listen that “his board” thinks he’s indispensable, while Iger appears to be trying to convince his board that he’s indispensable, even after telling them two years ago that he was quitting and leaving them in good hands.
The irony in all of this is that neither man is the founder of the company he runs/ran. Neither man is the “name” associated with the brand. Neither man has even run his respective business for the entirety of this century. Or to put it another way, both JP Morgan and the Walt Disney Company have had other CEOs – including JP Morgan and Walt Disney. Yet Dimon and Iger have both convinced themselves that they are the only ones who matter, the only ones who have ever mattered or ever will.
Yesterday, you may recall, we discussed the quasi-religious superciliousness of American Progressivism, its belief that only a certain group of “chosen” individuals is capable of governing the nation effectively and fairly. It is no mere coincidence that Dimon and Iger have both been connected, on various occasions, to Progressive politics and the intention either to run for higher office or to offer their expertise in “public service.” They share the Progressive conceit, the belief in their own status as the Enlightened, the Guardians who alone have the ability to run the world and save the people from themselves.
This supreme arrogance is the defining characteristic of our ruling class today, across all professional categories – government, journalism, education, medicine, and yes, business. This supreme arrogance is the impetus behind “gain-of-function” research with coronaviruses, mask mandates and vaccine passports, the “redefinition of the purpose of a corporation,” and the decision to kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party in return for a new theme park in Shanghai and the chance to film movies in Xinjiang province. This supreme arrogance is that which generally precipitates retribution from Nemesis, as Anthony Fauci could confirm, if he weren’t a completely delusional megalomaniac.
At some point, we plan to write a piece about how the pandemic has served as a grief-trigger for an immense, civilization-wide outbreak of mental illness; a mass outburst of sheer, horrified, pathological psychoses that manifests itself every day, in countless ways, throughout our world. In the meantime, though, we’ll note that the pandemic itself and many of its complicating factors are the result of an outbreak of mental illness – of narcissistic personality disorder – among our ruling class, among our indispensable men.
Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego's in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room:
Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how they humble your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining,
Is a measure of how much you'll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you'll find that in no time,
It looks quite the same as before.
The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There's no indispensable man.