You’ve probably seen the news of Martin Winterkorn’s resignation from his CEO post at the Volkswagen Group. Rough year for this guy. Earlier in the year, VW Group supervisory board chair Ferdinand Piech publicly stated that there was distance between him and Winterkorn. I wonder if anything related to this discovery of VW vehicles emitting pollutants up to 40 times the legal amount contributed to that distance. Look for Andrew Ross Sorkin to analyze Winterkorn’s apology (or lack thereof), and Harvard Business School to put out some case studies on leadership, the impact of government regulation on commerce, family-controlled businesses, and trust.
New African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina announced yesterday that Dr. Sipho Moyo would be his Chief of Staff. My Howard University alum friends will like this, considering that she did quite a bit of graduate work there. Add Dr. Moyo to the list of women I’ll be pointing my daughter to. (As an aside, the little one has been killing it at school. She turns three in a couple weeks and is the youngest in her class that has students who will turn six during the school year. The feedback has been shock that she is so young, yet so vocal. That’s my girl!)
I just finished up Zero to One by Peter Thiel. It’s provides helpful insight into how one of the most successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs/investors thinks. In unpacking his perspective on the ingredients to building a company as meaningful as Facebook, PayPal, Palantir, and Netscape, he traces the evolution of the technology industry before and after the dot com bubble and addresses how our society tracks individuals to not put together the building blocks necessary to do big things. At a more granular level, he gives his perspective on building technology, marketing, creating a team of people who know each other really well, and the list goes on. I will probably give this one another read. Some of the thinking in the technology world is pretty fascinating. Some of it is a bit scary. The concept of singularity, for example, is something I need to chew on. Basically, it is that concept of humans transcending our limitations exponentially thanks to technology. Here’s Singularity evangelist Ray Kurzweil discussing the idea. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile – the book I mentioned in my last post, says not nice things about Kurzweil in the book. Essentially, Taleb is all about stripping away things that he thinks make us die sooner – technology, GMOs, etc. Kurzweil is all about building tools that he thinks will make us immortal – technology, GMOs, etc.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance landed a senior advisory role with the asset management firm, Lazard, in their sovereign advisory practice. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala faced a good bit of criticism the last few years of her tenure, with the perception that she was quiet on corruption issues, unlike former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Lamido Sanusi Lamido. So, her landing a nice paying role to advise countries in the background on all things finance should be a nice break. She has consistently countered criticism with the argument that she was focused on building institutions that countered corruption. We’ll have to see how much of those systems fare now that President Muhamad Buhari has focused his energy on rooting out corruption throughout the government, even if that means not having a cabinet several months into his administration.
Investors are challenging Bob Diamond to show, not tell, them about his bullishness in the growth prospects of Atlas Mara, the bank holding company he founded with Ashish Thakkar. Bob Diamond is facing criticism from investors for not putting more skin in the game by buying back shares of the company and limiting executive pay at the firm, especially with the firm’s share price halving in the nearly two years Atlas Mara has been public. Jason Calacanis’ dressing down of technology entrepreneurs who don’t have what it takes came to mind while reading the admonishment Leon Cooperman gave Diamond during their most recent conference call. It’s really interesting following people like Diamond, Eike Batista, and Halsey Minor. They take these pretty enormous stumbles, and keep coming back. The desire to win is a powerful thing.
I’m finishing up Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s a strongly opinionated read on how things can get stronger through adversity. Taleb approaches the material from a risk management perspective, and has a great voice. He holds nothing back in lobbing insults at people who exhibit behavior that makes things fragile, in his opinion. The content is a little dense at times, but mostly accessible. Give it a read.