Friday, June 8, 2012

Jon Corzine, Chocolate and Football

   Once upon a time, MF Global's CEO Jon Corzine wanted to turn a reasonably profitable, medium-sized brokerage into a global investment bank.It didn't have a happy ending.
   Jon Corzine believed that, because he had been a trader and CEO at Goldman Sachs and the Governor of New Jersey, he was invincible. In short, he believed his own PR. My husband is fond of an expression that sums it up really well: "If he were made of chocolate he would eat himself."
   I Googled the expression and it seems to have been born in the UK with its roots in football. Now I am not a particular fan of football (English, that is. American football I loathe with a gut-twisting passion; ten seconds of incomprehensible activity and then hours of faffing about and adverts), but having spent 20 years in London knowledge of the sport has seeped into my brain surreptitiously. When you are surrounded by a primordial soup of traders and brokers and bankers who adore the sport, there is a kind of sports-osmosis that takes place.
   The first quote I found regarding eating oneself came from Scottish footballer Archie Gemmill: "If Graeme Souness was a chocolate drop, he'd eat himself."  I actually knew that Graeme Souness had played for the Glasgow Rangers and that he loved seeing himself on TV, so that made sense.
   The second quote came from Scottish football manager Tommy Docherty: "If Jose Mourinho was made of chocolate he would lick himself." When coach Mourinho joined Chelsea he said in a press conference: "Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one," which resulted in the media dubbing him "The Special One." Brilliant. 
  I digress into football to make a point. If a person takes him or herself too seriously and believes his or her own PR, that person is like a lightning bolt for criticism. Especially if he loses $1.6bn of his customers' money. MF Global trustees seem to think Mr. Corzine should have relied less on his own PR and more on common sense and accountability.

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