Nicholas Pye, Buyout Guy: Strong and decisive

Pye faces up to the awkward prospect of having to sack his portfolio company's CEO

“Have you fired that bl**dy useless Greek yet?” were my boss’s first words as I arrived in the office on Monday morning (I hadn’t even had time to give him his triple espresso, let alone the précis of the weekend business pages that I like to prepare for him on a Sunday evening).

Now you may recall that in my last missive, I was somewhat scathing about Big Shop’s craven inability to fire people. This, however, is absolutely 110 percent different. In their case, the problem is intrinsic weakness and chronic indecision. In this case, although (as you may also recall) the consultants who did the due diligence on my olive oil deal strongly recommended that I consider ‘upskilling’ the senior management team, I strongly and decisively decided to leave that decision until the end of the 100-day plan. 

And here’s the thing: my boss agreed wholeheartedly with that decisive decision. I know this for a fact, because when I made the case for keeping this guy on, I was only 42 slides though my 75-slide pack when he threw his hands up in the air and agreed that the issue was not worthy of further debate (as he put it: “As long as you stop talking, you can keep him”).

“Boss, sacking him would have run totally against our brand values.”

“Our what?”

“On page 16 of the Big Shop brand values document, it states very clearly that we as a manager passionately back great management teams. To not give [the CEO] time to implement the new business plan would have been totally unfair and disastrous to our reputation in the marketplace.” More to the point, I didn’t want to spend two months talking to recruitment agents unless absolutely necessary.

“Two things, Pye. First, the only time that document comes in handy is when they run out of 3-ply in the lavs. Second, and more importantly, this is not a great management team. This is a bunch of Greek half-wits who should be retired to a farm somewhere to drink ouzo and fiddle their tax returns.”

“I’m actually quite offended by that characterisation, Boss. Greece is not only the cradle of democra-“

“I genuinely couldn’t care less if you’re offended, Nicky. More to the point, nor does Leviathan.”

My ears pricked up at this mention of our glorious managing partner. “Gosh… So JTL’s been taking an interest in my deal?”

“I wouldn’t look so pleased, if I was you. JTL has a portfolio monitoring thing on his iPad so sophisticated that he gets a text message notification every time one of our CEOs picks his nose. So presumably he’s seen the numbers emerging from your brilliant 100-day plan, which is why he’s calling me up to shout at me on a Sunday afternoon. And it was my weekend with the kids, too. Like I wasn’t suffering enough already.”

“I’m sure JTL trusts our judgement implicitly…”

“Pye, John’s precise words were: ‘Start pulling some levers fast, or I’m going to get my buddy at the Pentagon to call in an air strike on Athens’. Does that sound to you like a man who trusts your judgement?”

The thing is, although the numbers emerging so far are incredibly promising and totally in line with my expectations, we are a teensy bit behind plan – although only by 30-odd percent, which is basically a rounding error when you’re talking about a market opportunity like this. 

That said, there’s no question of the plan being wrong. So I can only assume the failure was in the CEO’s execution of it. I’m an incredibly loyal guy, but if there’s a chance he’s making me look bad to JTL, he’s going to be on a flight back to the Peloponnese before you can say taramasalata.