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England, Imports CEOs Losing Self-respect

Posted December. 21, 2001 10:22,   


In the flood of news from all over the world all day long, most significant events are usually reported. So we are apt to miss the small yet meaningful things. One of these events is the report that Sven Goran Eriksson, who is from Sweden, is in charge of British national soccer team for the first time as a foreign coach. Although is activities received enough press coverage, the significance of his appearance to England and to Korea was usually ignored.

It was obvious that the British looked displeased with Eriksson. Sir Bobby Charlton, the English leader of World Cup championship of 1966, expressed the wounded self-confidence of a soccer suzerain, saying it a `serious mistake`.

But what really hurts the pride of the English is the shortage of CEO, who is the head coach of an enterprise. England has imported from abroad the CEOs of representative enterprises as well as the head coach of National soccer team

The British Airways, one of the representative British airlines, had Rod Edington (52) from Australia as CEO in May last year, and 117 year old Marks & Spencer, which has its retail chains all over the world, invited Luc Vandevelde (51) from Belgium as CEO last year.

A financial company Barclays, which is proud of its 311 years` history since 1690 before the Industrial Revolution, changed its top manager to a foreigner. British Telecommunications, which is a national enterprise whose annual turnover is 30 billion dollar, finally chose Ben Verwaayen (49) from the Netherlands after it had searched for CEO for 16 months.

The import of Eriksson is trivial for England, which wants to be remembered not as a suzerain of soccer but of capitalism, compared to the imports of foreign CEOs.

Of course its cultural environment and openness, which enabled to import foreign CEOs, may be highly appreciated, but educational and social systems have significant defects so that the country does not produce talented CEOs from its own.

Financial Times, the representative British economic paper, which was also sold to a foreign owner, lamented, "What made our social and educational systems not produce an excellent manager like Jack Welch." comparing with the U.S., France, and Germany.

Eriksson took over the England national team with a tie and one loss in the elimination games, and led them through the elimination recording gorgeous 5 wins and 1 tie, compensating for the damaged self-esteem. Foreign CEOs might be another Eriksson in the future.

It may be off the subject, but, Guus Hiddink the head coach of Korean national team may lead his team through the final 16 and beat England.

But what about our CEOs? What about our systems? I wanted to report such a story.

Eun-Taek Hong euntack@donga.com