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Jahn switches from politics to motors

Martin Jahn, the former Czech deputy premier, will announce on Thursday that he is to join Skoda Auto, a unit of the German carmaker Volkswagen, as the only Czech on the main board.

Mr Jahn announced in October that he would not stand in the next general election and would resign as deputy premier for economic affairs in order to join the private sector. However, until now he has refused to confirm which company had approached him.

His appointment as director for human resources from the start of next month is a coup for Skoda, which has a low profile considering it is by far the country’s largest company by turnover. Mr Jahn will be able to give Skoda a hotline to the government that it has lacked until now.

Mr Jahn will also be in charge of human resources and government relations in Skoda’s ongoing expansion into Russia.

Mr Jahn, 35, has excellent contacts with the foreign investment community from his previous post as head of CzechInvest, the highly regarded state foreign investment promotion agency. This put him in the position of business’s non-party representative in the cabinet.

Therefore his departure after less than 18 months in the job has been seen as proof that he had lost faith in the ruling Social Democrats making any more reforms in the run-up to this June’s general election.

Mr Jahn commented: “I reached the point in politics where I didn’t want to go any further. I realised it wasn’t my cup of tea at the moment.”

As deputy premier Mr Jahn masterminded a radical reform of the bankruptcy code that is currently going through parliament, but was unsuccessful in persuading leftwing ministers to liberalise the labour code or to cap higher earners’ social and healthcare contributions.
Robert Anderson, Prague

Ernest takes up Disneyland challenge in Hong Kong

Walt Disney has appointed Bill Ernest to be managing director of the four-month old Hong Kong Disneyland, replacing Don Robinson who left the company to manage a resort in Bahamas.

The announcement came as the park is under public criticism in Hong Kong for failing to attract as many visitors as hoped. The park had sold out twice only since its opening on September 12. Disney had not revealed attendance figures of the park, a joint venture between the company and the Hong Kong government.

Mr Ernest, who has been managing director of operations at the Hong Kong park, joined Disney in 1994. He was previously vice president of operations and support for Disney Cruise Line. He had also run Disney resorts in the Caribbean and Florida.

Mr Robinson is to become president of Baha Mar Resorts in Nassau, Bahamas.
Justine Lau, Hong Kong

Energias de Portugal reins for ex-transport minister

António Mexia is to take over as chief executive of Energias de Portugal, the country’s dominant power utility, in March.

Mexia, a former transport minister and CEO of Galp Energia, Portugal’s leading oil and gas group, was proposed for the post by leading private-sector shareholders at the request of the Socialist government.

This is the first time this happened in a Portuguese company in which the state owns more than 20 per cent and investors have responded positively, with shares in EdP, Portugal’s biggest listed company, gaining significantly since the appointment was announced.

Mexia will take over from João Talone, who was appointed by a previous centre-right government and is stepping down at the end of the three-year contract.

Mexia has a reputation as a dedicated team-builder and a hands-on manager who enjoys direct contact with customers.
Peter Wise, Lisbon

Matthews to tackle Alcatel regulatory burden

Alcatel has appointed Charles Matthews as chief compliance officer in a role created to deal with an increased regulatory burden.

The French telecoms equipment maker decided to give responsibility for its various compliance programmes to a single person, reporting to Serge Tchuruk, chairman and chief executive, to better manage a host of recent regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the US.

Mr Matthews, who has a degree in engineering and is a qualified barrister, has spent 20 years at Alcatel. From 2001 to 2003, he was chief country officer for the UK and Ireland. He began his career at GEC Marconi.
Tom Braithwaite, Paris

Nomura continues Deutsche hires

Marcus Le Grice has ended his gardening leave from Deutsche Bank to join Nomura, making the fourth hire from the German bank in the last six months.

Mr Grice, who left Deutsche in June, is heading equity capital markets in Europe, and held a similar role at the German bank where he was responsible for international equity and equity-linked capital transactions.

Recent poaching from Deutsche has been led by Christian Thun-Hohenstein who joined Nomura from the German bank as co-head of investment banking in Europe in July. Since then, he has made several hires from his previous employer, including Klaus Pflum, who joins Nomura in April to head automotive coverage in investment banking.

Kenji Kimura, global head of M&A at Nomura, said the company plans to increase global investment banking headcount by more than 20 per cent this year. Nomura said an even more aggressive hiring pace in M&A, corporate finance and equity capital markets is planned in Europe.
Ruth Sullivan, London

Miller succeeds MacGregor at Abernathy MacGregor

Abernathy MacGregor, the New York-based financial public relations firm owned by Havas, has named Adam Miller as president, succeeding James MacGregor, one of the firm’s founders.

Mr Miller, 35, is one of the most well-known consultants to companies pursuing mergers and acquisitions and other corporate transactions, particularly in the media and telecommunications industries, where his clients have included Comcast, Viacom and Sony.

The move to president means Mr Miller will be taking on additional responsibility for Abernathy’s day-to-day operations. Mr MacGregor will remain at the firm as vice-chairman, advising existing and emerging clients on communications strategy and crisis management.

Both will be reporting to James Abernathy, the chief executive and co-founder of the firm.
James Politi, New York

Paddy Power takes on expert receiver

Paddy Power, the maverick Irish bookmakers, is fond of marketing stunts. So it was perhaps to be expected that when it named Tom Grace, a leading insolvency expert, as a non executive director, it issued an accompanying press release stating the “receiver” had been appointed at the company.

Mr Grace is in fact Ireland’s best known receiver, and a former partner at PwC in Dublin. He is also a former Irish rugby international, a useful attribute for a bookies.

The company has actually had a bad couple of months, with a profits warning in November, and the resignation last month of Ross Ivers, its colourful finance director. He was overlooked for the chief executive’s job. The new chief executive Patrick Kennedy, hired from Greencore, the Irish foods company, starts this month.
John Murray Brown, Dublin


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