Bad rep

The Economist recently mused on whether those chief executives most implicated in the current financial crisis deserved a second chance in corporate life (see article). In an interesting twist, two, it seems, have found their way onto the advisory board of a research centre advising on corporate reputation. The appointment of former chief executives Andy Hornby of HBOS, a failed British bank, and John Tiner of the Financial Services Authority, the much-criticised UK regulator, to the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation has raised some eyebrows. Although the original invitations were made last year, prior to their troubles, Jacob Turner, the president of the Oxford Union Labour Club, is quoted in Cherwell, Oxford’s student newspaper, as saying: “The phrase ‘corporate reputation’ might be a contradiction in terms these days, but the least they could have done might be to select someone who is not a bastion of exploitative capitalism.”

However, when it comes to learning about the pitfalls of corporate reputation—which is generally considered by boards as one of the major areas of corporate risk—the executives who have made the biggest mistakes might just make the perfect teachers. Indeed, faculty at the centre believe that, although appointing tarnished executives may not have been part of their original brief, it may have become a lucky beneficiary of their demise. Certainly the views of Andy Hornby on the importance of protecting a firm’s reputation is going to be a far bigger draw now than would have been the case 12 months ago.

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