- Of the six largest media companies, three, almost in tandem, have dismissed their CEOs and top managers. When any big company throws out its management, you know something pretty extreme is going on — it’s akin to a coup in a mostly stable nation. But when half (to date) of the leading companies of one of the nation’s leading industries all at once begin firing their leaders, you have to stand back in awe. It’s destabilization on a continental scale.
Is there another industry ever to have arrived, all at once, as the media business has, at such a crisis of faith and leadership?
Now, each of the management coups at AOL Time Warner, Vivendi, and Bertelsmann has been reported as a function of internal travails, and that is obviously the case — each enterprise has reported its own variation on a looming cash crisis (which, in business terms, is the mother of all crises). But three is a trend. Three trumps any unique situation. Three indicates a mass movement, a systems issue, a rapidly spreading condition. It is not just a function of bad management but of larger, converging forces. History is turning against you — and is probably out to get you. And there’s no way to manage yourself out of the mess.
What this reasonably means is that these companies won’t exist in remotely their present form in the foreseeable future (i.e., they won’t make it through the year).
….For argument’s sake, and in the interest of developing a method by which we might accurately, or at least usefully, predict the coming apocalypse of the media business, let’s assume that these men will not logically and deliberately disassemble what has so irrationally been assembled. Let’s assume, too, that the hubris that created these companies does not naturally convert to reason — rather, it converts from mania to helplessness. In my model, then, these companies are now being run by men much less temperamentally suited to run them than even the overblown figures they’ve replaced. The situation has not gotten better; it has gotten worse (and less fun too). More chaos….