Caesar’s wife…

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February 6th, 2009 Shyamal Majumdar

I don’t know A S Murty; in fact, I must admit that I heard his name for the first time yesterday. I am sure there are many like me who know only one IT man blessed with that name, though spelt differently.
All of us know Mr Murty now. For, he is the man in the hottest seat that India Inc can offer at this point.  He has been described by his friends and well-wishers (their tribe seems to be increasing every second) as Always Smiling Murty; a people’s man; man for the moment; meticulous; hardworking; consensus man; focused on work etc.  Those who came in late and ran out of words are saying he is the right person for the job simply because he is a `gentleman’.
Some others say he knows the DNA of the company, though I am not too sure whether anyone is terribly impressed with Satyam’s DNA. For, I remember Ramalinga Raju once telling me during an interview that `corporate governance is in his genes’.   
At the moment, Mr Murty’s main qualification seems to be that he knows Satyam well as he has worked in the company for almost 15 years. It’s true in these times, Satyam needs an insider who can marshall his forces well. And that can only happen if the new CEO knows Satyamites for a considerable period of time.
Mr Murty, a workaholic (a media report stresses this point by saying he has no hobbies), will of course try hard to make a success of his job — that is guiding Satyam through the toughest time in its history.
So I wish him well. But I see three problems in my wish being fulfilled. The first is the nature of the job itself. He would possibly be the CEO with the shortest tenure as he would be the leader in transition. The company will be sold shortly and no one knows whether the new owners would like to keep him as the CEO. It’s doubtful whether it will be possible for him to establish any sort of confidence with either his employees or his clients. Already some entities with substantial stake in Satyam are resenting the fact that they were not consulted for the selection of the CEO. Also, it’s well known that no outsider, with any sort of track record, was willing to take up such a short-term job.
The second problem is the fact that he is perceived to be among Raju’s favourites. He was given a clean chit by the former Satyam chairman in his famous confessional letter to the board.  Mr Raju had said Mr Murty was among those who had no knowledge of the situation in which the company is placed. I admire the guts shown by the government-appointed Satyam board to appoint as CEO somebody who was given a character-certificate by Raju!
The third problem – and this is the most complicated one — is the disclosure that Mr Murty sold 40,000 shares in two transactions in December, 2008 – the last one being on December 16 just hours before Satyam announced its aborted bid to buy two Maytas firms.
It could be sheer coincidence, or a fantastic sense of timing on Mr Murty’s part to have sold a majority of the shares in his company just a day before the scrip slid over 30 per cent following investor outrage over the Maytas deal. Mr Murty gained Rs 90 lakh through the deals and the sale was done to meet some of his personal financial commitments.
To be fair, he was not part of the board and may not have been privy to any of the wrong-doings. But there is also another section of people who are saying that Mr Murty had sniffed the negative implications of the buyout scandal much before others did.
This may well be loose talk. But the point is it all boils down to perception at the end of the day. And as they say, Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.


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2 Responses to “Caesar’s wife…”

  1. Anand Says:

    The whole move of making AS Murthy CEO, brings the pre-eminent existing satyam board into question. Not about the man himself. He can do what he is asked to. I am already having doubts about the board and its actions. Dont think they were naive not to do some background checks on AS Murthy and his selling share JIT - just in time! If they did, why they went ahead and if not, why didn’t they do a proper check.
    Hope ASM thing works out and satyam are back to normal in its due course of time. My prayers are with the employees. These are not boom times. So satyam should be running & running well till globally things turn better.

  2. Arjun Says:

    Just hope they’re not prey to nomenclaturism again. Satyam they thought signalled truthfulness, Murty they may think signals NR Narayana-ness


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