Monday, November 21, 2011

My experiences at Mellodramatik Murkathon South Africa. Part 3

 A multi-part story of deceit and corruption.

The Parent Company

Mureno  Skoche

Parent company involvement in MMSA was minimal, there was a strong language bond between Jester and his peers in Europe, and no one ever suspected that the local company was on the brink of collapse, due to reduced sales and loss of customer confidence due to apathy on the part of Jester, who had not visited certain key customers for anything up to 10 years prior to his retirement. This became obvious when on tour of customers; he was treated in some cases with such surprise by them. He appeared to have spent his time, either at the office, or taking extended lunch breaks to be with his ill partner.
It also became clear from comments passed by the CEO of the parent company, that they were aware of his limitations, if not his personal circumstances with regard to his partner. The managing director of the parent company was an abrasive, arrogant individual that engendered conflict at all levels of the organization. Consequently he was kept in the dark by his subordinates as much as possible with the aim of limiting conflict, and avoiding becoming the target of his violent temper. He appeared to be person desperately clinging to his position, with no real grasp of the culture of the company, and or the essence of the company’s business, which was selling machines, as opposed to launch pad for his strident irrational outbursts. He would neither tolerate discussion or what he perceived to be dissent of any kind, and this almost resulted in a physical confrontation between us in 2004. Something I was not averse to, but refrained because it happened in Europe, and I had no desire to run afoul of the German authorities. Thankfully that individuals tenure was remarkably short, and I did not spend any more time in Germany at the factory, than was absolutely necessary, and time I did spend, I avoided contact with him, preferring to deal with his subordinates and promoting the business in that manner.

Kalharry Bothdown

His successor as a result of some impromptu shuffling by the parent company in the USA, had been his boss before, but was given additional responsibilities with his abrupt departure, was an individual thoroughly schooled and integrated in the company.  Kalharry, from day one, had a vision and a mission for the company which he had no trouble getting the majority of the staff to support and promote. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him, and shared his vision for the company, to the extent that I compiled an extensive business plan to grow MMSA and to take advantage of the prevailing BEE legislation. Regrettably Kalharry had a serious falling out with the US management and left suddenly as well some time later, so the growth plan for MMSA was never implemented.

Gean Mincehere

After Kalharry’s abrupt departure, the replacement was Gean Mincehere, with no experience in the plastics industry, no business qualifications, a slightly dubious past, which appeared to be linked to what many considered to be his boyfriend, although I have never seen any reason to support these views, in the M&A sphere, linked to a consulting company in Switzerland. My initial assessment of Mincehere was weak, but dangerous due to his lack of formal qualifications, and he appeared to have spent the last few years prior to his joining Melodramatik, languishing in the shadow of his alleged boyfriend.
That taken into account, and a large deal in the offing, I contacted Mincehere, and asked him to come to South Africa, to see our largest customer in Africa, with me, as that customer was well aware of the developments in Melodramatik, and they required some kind of assurance that their principal machinery supplier was able to support them into the future. The reply I received was a lengthy excuse as to why his schedule did not permit that at that time. My reply was to issue a direct order for him to get on the next available flight if he was maintain any possibility of winning that order that year. All due credit, he did take instructions quite well, and a few days later, he was on his way to South Africa.  Oddly, his first point of call was not MMSA as anyone may have reasonably expected, instead he was entertained by two of our biggest competitors, Mixico (then agents for Arbtech, and through a subsidiary, for a Chinese Injection machine brand) and ETT, the company formed by the breakaway technicians of MMSA. His actions were brought to my attention by a local magazine writer who saw him and his accomplices at a well-known local river resort, on the weekend prior to his visit to MMSA, which he visited only on the Tuesday, the Monday having been taken up with business meetings at competitors of MMSA. When I confronted him with these facts, he did not bother denying them. Possibly my demeanor may have indicated an intolerance to any denial.
On that highly suspicious and untrusting note, we travelled to Cape Town to see the customer where the deal had to be closed. Conditions around the sale were discussed, Mincehere made some vacuous comments to the customer, and I walked away with the order. Mission accomplished, or so I thought. During the course of speaking to various line managers at the customer, Mincehere would take these customers aside when he fondly believed I was unaware of actions, and interrogate them regarding my presence and performance at the customer. After one such aside with one of the line managers, when I sarcastically enquired if he had heard what he wanted to hear, he had the unmitigated effrontery to inform me that that particular line manger had just saved my job. I realized right there; that not only was Mincehere incompetent, he was dangerous, and I commenced documenting every action and communication between us. I ceased to discuss anything telephonically, due to his penchant for inveterate lying after the fact, as I had observed with his visit to the competitors of MMSA, so I started to build a scenario where I eventually trapped him into giving me a written admission of the real reason for his dealings with our competitors. His intention was to close down MMSA and to award the service and sales to an outside company, so that the parent company would not have to carry any responsibility for the local company. This was not an unreasonable strategy, and under normal circumstances it should have been communicate to the company’s employees, the legal aspects of the closure dealt with, and business would have continued under the control of the preferred company. Instead Mincehere chose to do nothing to close the company down, but rather than incur the expense of closure, he instead chose to accuse me of dishonesty, and attempted to suspend me some time later.
The incompetence accompanying the attempted suspension saw the suspension fall flat, and the audit which was carried out immediately after that, cleared me of any wrong doing. No further mention at the time was made of the suspension; Mincehere seemed to think that if he did not bring up the subject again, then it would resolve itself. This was not the case, seeing as we had received a clean audit, I resolved to re-examine the package I was receiving from the company, as I t had not been reviewed for five years. When I had raised this with Mincehere, he had responded by being evasive and mumbling something about EBIT performance of the company, so I convened a meeting of the remuneration committee, and tabled a proposal to address the parent company’s negligence and to adjust my package accordingly. The documentation pertaining to the actions of the remuneration committee was forwarded to Mincehere for information, and comment.  No reaction was ever received, to date, it is not known whether he ever read it, or for that matter understood it.
Communication with Mincehere was always difficult, as he has a disconcerting habit of when he responds to communication, his replies are never connected to the original communication, so, one would write to him about sales for example, and he would reply regarding marketing, or administration. He would initiate communication about a specific issue, receive replies which addressed all of the points he had raised, and reply about something completely divorced from the initial subject. His communications quickly took on the aspect of case building, but due to their disjointed nature, he was never able to sustain communication for long enough to actually build a case of failure to comply with instructions, or insubordination, due to his replies never being in sequence with the replies to his original points. Perhaps the finer details of communication were lost in translation.

Supporting competitors

Since February of 2007, Mincehere was covertly providing support and material assistance to our competitors. We came upon information in the market place that pointed to the fact that our competitors were being supplied with parts directly from the factory. We however had no documentary proof that this was taking place, and I could confront Mincehere with hearsay information and tell him to stop. In that regard, we got a lucky break, one of our Business associates of long standing received a set of documents in error, and we were able to obtain copies from them which proved beyond any doubt, that the factory was indeed supplying our competitors with means to damage the business of MMSA. So when Mincehere once again travelled to South Africa, I arranged a surprise meeting at my attorneys to resolve the issue and to negotiate the terms of a separation package as clearly the relationship had deteriorated to the extent that Mincehere was prepared to damage the brand in order to prove a personal point. Because at the same meeting he made the statement that he would not negotiate, and that him and a colleague would “take over the company” and resolve the matter that way. The meeting however was aborted when Mincehere left in a huff and waited for a taxicab in the reception area of the lawyer’s office.

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