If Robespierre were to ascend from hell and seek out today’s guillotine fodder, he might start with a list of those with three incriminating initials beside their names: MBA. The Masters of Business Administration, that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in.
From Royal Bank of Scotland to Merrill Lynch, from HBOS to Leh-man Brothers, the Masters of Disaster have their fingerprints on every recent financial fiasco.
I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School – once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today’s purposes, perhaps it should be Masters of the Business Apocalypse.
Harvard Business School alumni include Stan O’Neal and John Thain, the last two heads of Merrill Lynch, plus Andy Hornby, former chief executive of HBOS, who graduated top of his class. And then of course, there’s George W Bush, Hank Paul-son, the former US Treasury secretary, and Christopher Cox, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a remarkable trinity who more than fulfilled the mission of their alma mater: “To educate leaders who make a difference in the world.”
It just wasn’t the difference the school had hoped for.
Time after time, and scandal after scandal, it seems that a school that graduates just 900 students a year finds itself in the thick of it. Yet there is remarkably little contrition.
Last October, Harvard Business School celebrated its 100th birthday with a global summit in Boston. While Wall Street and Washington descended into an economic inferno, Jay Light, the dean of the school and a board member at the Black-stone private equity group, opened the festivities by shrugging off any responsibility.
You would think after failing on so many levels, the school that provides more business leaders than any other might feel some remorse. Not in the least. It’s onwards and upwards, with the very people who blew apart the world’s financial plumbing now demanding to fix the leak.
You can draw up a list of the greatest entrepreneurs of recent history, from Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Bill Gates of Microsoft, to Michael Dell, Richard Branson, Lak-shmi Mittal – and there’s not an MBA between them. ...
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