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Work Nicknames: Are You The Sage Of Soho, Or The Big Kahuna

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Work nicknames: Are you the Sage of Soho, or the Big Kahuna

US telecoms giant Liberty Global has just taken a 5% stake in Vodafone.

Its chairman, the FT notes today, is “cable cowboy” John Malone.

Why is he the cable cowboy? And is that a term of affection or abuse?

The paper never tells us, it assumes readers know enough not to have to Google it to find out/remind themselves. Maybe it is right, though I had to.

Not many corporate bosses get nicknames, presumably because they are mostly too boring/serious.

When they do, they tend not to be complimentary.

John Mack of Morgan Stanley was, inevitably, “Mack The Knife”, though I’m not sure he cut more jobs than other Wall Street chiefs.

Fred “The Shred” Goodwin probably delighted in this nickname, until it turned out he was also The World’s Worst Banker, and had to go into hiding.

More kindly, Warren Buffet is the Oracle of Omaha, which leads to Sir Martin Sorrell sometimes being the Sage of Soho. (Warren really is that clever. Martin is in advertising.)

Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap, who once charged a handgun and bullet proof vest to expenses, was a crazy guy with a crazy name.

Bruce “Bid ‘em up” Wasserstein liked his name until clients got the idea this meant he made them overpay for everything.

Sir Clive “20 per cent” Thompson definitely enjoyed his pet name until Rentokill’s earnings stopped growing that fast and it became a tool for acerbic City Editors.

Jean-Marie Messier of Vivendi liked to be known as J6M – which we should have known was a clear sign that trouble was coming, since it was code for Myself, Master of the World.

The dangerous egotists aside, there are trends with CEO names.

Men shorten their names – Bob not Robert, Bill not William.

Women keep them long since they have to fight harder to be taken seriously. Joanne and Stephanie better not get known as Jo or Steph if they want the keys to the executive washroom.

In the US, Jack plays a lot better than John.

Office nicknames are of course much more common further down the pecking order, which might be a problem for the truly ambitious junior account executive.

If your office nickname is Top Banana or the Big Kahuna, you aren’t ever going to be the actual boss.

The PR angle here is perhaps that if you have a feisty client who thinks he wants to be known as Terminator Terry because it is good for press, you might point out that in the long-run these things tend to backfire.

Press release of the day

Four in ten Brits still work from home at least once a week, a market retailers can’t ignore says this from ParcelHero.

Too right. When it comes to retail, WFH is always presented as this existential threat, but it surely isn’t.

I’d still go to shops anywhere if there was a good enough reason. And why aren’t the ones nearest to me doing special WFH offers?

Dyed-in-the-wool shops still hoping for a return to pre-Covid spending patterns have had it.

“They can no longer bank on lunchtime browsers to keep their tills ringing”, says the release.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) Is the criticism by Peter Hargreaves of the business he founded fair?

2) Can Barclays keep being a serious player on Wall Street?

3) Is UK inflation still rising? What does that mean for the Bank?

4) Are US regulators better on crypto than ours?


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