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Archive for Feb, 2013

The accused may be key.

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I don’t know about anybody else, but I am pretty much depressed and saddened by the Oscar Pistorius bail application. Can you imagine how we are going to grind to a halt when the trial proper finally breaks loose? Presumably by then an investigating officer will have had a chance to do some homework, with results that will stand up to cross examination.

As one wag put it on Wednesday, Hilton Botha’s poor performance under cross examination by Oscar’s defence counsel was an “Oscar winning performance”. So much so that Pistorius stopped crying for the first time in days. At least this joke is not at the expense of the runner. I won’t lower the tone with the, at least a dozen of those one liners that started doing the rounds within hours of the killing – I’m sure you’ve seen some of them.

But jokes aside – what about the effect on Pistorius’ “business”?

In another exercise I am involved with in respect to Suitegum Splinter, key man insurance is essential to most businesses with a shallow skill base. You know, if one of the key people in your organisation dies or is incapacitated in some way, the insurer pays an agreed amount of money to the business to use in the replacement of the key person. If not that route, the money is paid to the other shareholders so that they can buy the shares from the surviving spouse.

So that ties up with the current mess Oscar finds himself in. One could argue that he is part of a business that includes himself as the star performer, his agent, his public relation  people, his coaches, nutritionists, sponsors, attorneys, travel agent, liaison people, and possibly others.

Like yours, his is a business entity to a greater or lesser extent. And like yours, it has a key person, a specialist – Oscar. Someone without whom the business is all washed up. What would happen to your business in the event that your key person is accused of a serious crime tonight, and arrested tomorrow morning?

Let’s remember that this nightmare broke for Oscar and Reeva only one week ago. In that time Reeva has been cremated and the memorial service has come and gone. That is the most serious consequence of whatever happened that night. But for her boyfriend, DSTV tore down its Oscar advertising on giant billboards around the country on the same day he was arrested! They cancelled the Oscar month theme at the same time. That was the first lot of income that went down the tubes.

Nike at first said that they would stand behind him, but by the time City Press was finished with him a few days later, they and Oakley had given him up. Clarins followed on Wednesday.

People have jumped to conclusions at the evidence in support of a bail application. At the end of the first day, “experts” were shown on television, and sound bytes abounded of people convinced that he is guilty. This on evidence led by his own affidavit as to his version of events. It all seemed so unlikely. Just a jump to the left…

What chance does Oscar (Pty) Ltd have at this stage?

Soon into the second day of the bail application newspapers around the world were announcing him guilty. Evidence of  the existence of two bottles of testosterone had Tubby Reddy telling EWNsport the fact he even had this in his possession meant that action could be taken. Ken Borland suggested that this was “almost worse than the murder charge“.  This because it destroys everything he has achieved before the killing,  he continued.

Then Advocate Roux got stuck into Botha. By the lunch break a BBC journalist tweeted that he had heard a junior member of the prosecuting team say that they were in deep trouble:

  • The testosterone turns out to not having even been tested yet, but the label on the bottle suggests that it is not a banned substance at all.
  • The investigating team missed a bullet (an actual projectile) left on the scene and found by the defence’s team of investigators in the lavatory. No mention of whether or not it was nestled in the contents of Reeva’s bladder, which will become a central part of the eventual trial.
  • The crime scene was not properly protected – the chief investigating officer himself being the biggest culprit.
  • Reports of Oscar’s property in Europe was just “something he had heard”.
  • Evidence of foreign bank accounts included an account that has been dormant for ten years and has no money in it.
  • And more.

By mid afternoon Oscar was able to stare squarely into the eyes of his investigating officer. Clearly he felt a lot better. The day finished for him, but is by no means over. And a step to the right…

Perhaps there was a light at the end of the tunnel; and the Twitterati experts started believing.

At 17:19 on the second day Reuters tweeted that testosterone had been found in Pistorius’ bedroom. This, despite the fact the evidence had been discredited several hours earlier. Reuters’ associated web site is here. Perhaps it will be down by the time you get to it. Perhaps not; I don’t know how they deal with errors. As I write this it is more than 24 hours later, and the story remains in place. With your hands on your hips…

On the third day the prosecution were embarrassed as the story broke that their investigating officer has himself been charged with attempted murder. In desperation he produced a copy of “Sarie” as evidence, only compounding the derision. Not often that a murder is investigated by a criminal suspect who relies on that bastion of investigative journalism – Sarie – to support his evidence that Pistorius intends to go on the run to Italy.

No matter what, Oscar’s previously enviable reputation is in tatters, no matter what the eventual outcome of the trial and with it, the income stream of Oscar (Pty) Ltd. There is very little chance of a recovery from here.

So that’s all very fascinating, but I’m sure you have read and seen and formed some opinions about all that yourself. Having shown that Oscar’s life is effectively a business, and it is a business that for the foreseeable future is wrecked; what would happen to your business if one of the key players were to be accused of a crime tonight, and arrested tomorrow. Whether guilty or not, what would the effect of the arrest have on your business by next week? You bring your knees in tight.

It is not a fair process. Not in the age of instant social gratification. Not when most of Barry Bateman’s followers instantly retweet every comment, appending their own analysis to the one minute old semi-report. When Roux agrees with Botha, he’s awesome. When he disagrees, Botha is an unreliable witness. And 140 characters are multiplied millions of times over in the most destructive antiponzi scheme yet seen in our age. This is the terror that the accused deals with, the gross unfairness. If he is granted bail, do you think he will be able to work on that project with a clear mind? How would you perform in that ugly place?

How do we protect our businesses from this sort of event? An important employee? The managing director? The chief engineer?

  • What is your strategy?
  • Can we insure against this?
  • What damage control ideas do you have?

It may be an idea to discuss the scenario with your leadership team.