Editorial: Enterprises on a knife edge

Back in 1993, I wrote an article about the 20th anniversary of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT Editor
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

As well as interviewing the band's members - who were, at the time, split into two factions and communicating only via lawyer-delivered curses - I met the then head of EMI, Rupert Perry. I won't say he didn't have a care in the world, but behind his desk on the wall hung an Edward Hopper. (One of the US artist's paintings sold for $26m in 2006.)

Dark Side had been (and continues to be) a nice little earner for EMI, with 45 million copies sold worldwide. Little can Perry have then suspected that an industry-wrecking whirlwind lay in wait six years distant. Napster, the first large peer-to-peer file-sharing network, was launched in 1999, and life has never been the same since.

Elio Leoni-Sceti, the current CEO of EMI and the subject of our MT Interview this month, would kill to be back in 1973, or even 1993, now. Instead, he's at the head of an enterprise on a knife edge - bought for £4.2bn in one of the worst private equity deals ever, it now needs £120m in cash just to make it to the spring. 'Money, it's a gas/Grab that cash with both hands/And make a stash,' rasped the Floyd. Sage advice.

GlaxoSmithKline is not in a pickle of EMI-style proportions, but it does have issues that demand attention. Not least of these is trying to sort out its dodgy public image, which afflicts Big Pharma generally. GSK's new boss Andrew Witty has embarked on the most radical shake-up of the company for a generation: changing the way it does R&D, agreeing to sell a new malaria vaccine in the developing world at just over cost, and accepting that global blockbuster drugs may be a thing of the past.

On the subject of new direction, I rarely allow any other bod's mugshot onto this editorial page without a good reason. The guy with the luxuriant hair is Octavius Black, founder of The Mind Gym, which has contributed an excellent column to Brainfood for nearly a decade. Together with The Mind Gym, we are launching a new Management Masterclass series of group coaching sessions this May. It'll be the coolest and most effective business learning experience you've ever attended. Think of it as an animated MT, coming alive and leaping from the page to challenge and enlighten you. Don't just wish you were there - book up now at www.managementtoday.com/masterclass.

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