Dog throws bone at Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone:
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

So goes the old nursery rhyme.  Couldn’t really get more apposite than that, could you, with today’s news that South Canterbury Finance (SCF) is to be placed in receivership?

Majority shareholder Allan Hubbard’s outstanding reputation as a regional folk hero has been quietly under attack since he and Margaret Jean Mrs Hubbard were placed in statutory management in June. The growing stream of anti-Hubbard sentiment was kept in check by a loyal core of supporters who mounted a brave campaign to keep his good name from being dragged under. But today the dam broke.

It’s been clear for a while that the relatively reclusive Hubbard needed to start upping the ante in terms of getting out his perspective on the issue.  So I was delighted when I read that he’d finally issued a statement.

He’s struck completely the wrong tone. It’s full of fire and fury – but a whole heap short of humility.

Sadly, I’m left less than enamoured. He’s struck completely the wrong tone. Or somebody has struck it for him. It puts across his perspective, all right. And it makes the points that he doubtless wanted to make about the role he feels he could have played in preventing the situation from getting to where it is today. But while it’s full of fire and fury, it’s a whole heap short of humility.

Why?  This man is the epitome of humility!  A multi-millionaire who lives the most frugal and unostentatious life. It’s his very humility that has carried his reputation this far, to the extent that his statutory management, and the way it should be dealt with, became a hotly debated topic in some of the highest offices in the land.

Yet on the very day, at the very moment, that this humility should have been called on to help cradle his reputation during its moment of need, it was stripped from his statement.

By who?  He talks about his team of professional legal and financial advisors.  Could that be the problem?  I understand he has a proper public relations consultancy advising him.  Were they hobbled?

The result is fast-growing public hostility towards Mr Hubbard. Since I started writing, even. This version of that old rhyme has started circulating widely on Twitter within the past 15 minutes…

Old Mister Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To help Mainlanders buy cheap farms everywhere:
But when old Mr Hubbard got to the cupboard,
He found that the cupboard was bare, oh dear,
He found that the cupboard was bare.

But old Mister Hubbard 
Could not be discouraged,
He just shifted money from here to there:
He invented some assets,
And used other facets,
And that seems how we finally got here, oh dear,
That seems how we finally got here.

[UPDATE: 1830 on September 2 – check out this piece by Bernard Hickey.]

I, like thousands of other Kiwis, will be following this saga to the end. But among all the intrigue, blame-gaming, heroics, politicking, grand-standing and back-stabbing, I’ll be watching most carefully to see how the little old man at the centre of the storm manages this, the greatest fight of his life.

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