Ever since his downfall and the resulting political firestorm cast him as ‘arch villain’ in the downfall of Royal Bank of Scotland (the world’s biggest banking failure so far), the erstwhile ‘Sir’ and now just plain old Fred Goodwin has never given a media interview. It could initially have been for legal reasons, but I wonder if maintaining a dignified silence was ever the best PR tactic and if he should now review that? Was it a deliberate, planned and considered action or an early mistake that he’s since compounded by failing to tell his version of events?
It really is fascinating and puzzling to watch this former business ‘superstar’ make no apparent attempt to defend his reputation. Did he really have no senior-level media allies throughout his career? Why didn’t he take the well-trodden advocacy approach of speaking through ‘friends’ or other ‘sources close to the subject’ to get his defensive messages out there?
If his position in considered indefensible, then why not hand back the pension pot with a humble ‘mea-culpa’, and start to redeem himself? He wouldn’t miss the money. His successor Stephen Hester found temporary reprieve from personal criticism by doing a u-turn on his controversial bonus award: change the story if you don’t like it!
Another possibility is that Fred Goodwin simply doesn’t give a damn. That seems unlikely from all that we’ve read about his allegedly Hindenburg-sized ego. Redemption is clearly possible although it takes a long time, much effort and genuine will: the old adage about reputations taking years to build and seconds to destroy is as true as it ever was.
But my point here is that reputations can be rebuilt. There are plenty of examples of people who’ve recovered from worse than Goodwin; does anyone remember Gerald Ronson? Look at his Wikipedia page to see how far you can sink and how high you can subsequently rebound. A more recent example is ex-BP boss Tony Hayward. He seems to have done all right so far, and in a relatively short space of time. And so has the reputation of Toyota, following the crisis surrounding its global recall. It will be interesting to see if and how Fred Goodwin finally reinvents himself. Maybe he’s working on a book deal?