December 06, 2010
The end of an era
Friday evening, the Spousal Unit and I attended an event supporting health care reform. While there, a friend showed me an email message from her smart phone that said that Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship announced plans to retire.
(Another friend at that moment, who happens to be a fellow Tolkien geek, said something about Frodo and Sam melting the Ring in Mount Doom...)
I didn't believe the news at first, not because I didn't trust the messenger, but I just had trouble believing was real. There had been rumors for some time about a possible sale of the company, a step that Blankenship was said to oppose. Many people believed that decades of excess had finally caught up with him, the Upper Big Branch mine disaster being one of the last straws. Many of us believed that something had to give. Still, it was just hard to believe that it finally happened.
This story is bound to unfold more over time, but it seems clear to me that Blankenship was finally overtaken by his own excesses, which eventually convinced shareholders and others involved in the industry that a change was needed. I had long believed that national media exposure was a weak point, one that would eventually convince decision makers that his kind of leadership was a liability.
Nobody knows what the future holds for the company or its former leader, but I have two initial guesses. First, whoever eventually takes over or buys that company is unlikely to be as excessive on all fronts as the former leader. Second, while Blankenship will no doubt walk away with a big severance package, I doubt that he will wield the same power in the future as he did when he ran a major company and controlled thousands of jobs.
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GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED