Silly Celliers Backs down.

Jacques Celliers, CEO First National Bank

With the troubled SAA in the headlines so much, it was inevitable that much attention was given to a recent tweet by FNB CEO Jacques Celliers, in which he pledged to stop using the airline.

This was not just an annoyed aside from a frequent flyer, but was a boycott by the head of one of our major banks.

Yet by Friday, Celliers was pictured smiling sheepishly alongside Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, having kissed and made up.  They were even clutching wine glasses to toast the new accord.  (The Treasury, of course, is in charge of SAA.)

So what went right/went wrong?

A quick internet search of the shareholders of RMB (which is the listed parent of FNB), shows that the PIC, which is the custodian of state pension funds, holds about 8%.   Not a massive share, but enough to be a voice from the State to which attention must be paid.

Then, of course, there are bound to be many billions in government dealings with FNB/RMB, which is another lever which could be pulled tight around the neck of grinning Celliers.

We may never know what provoked his U-Turn, but that does not detract from its significance.

It came as a batch of leading CEOs had been meeting Gigaba to discuss corruption and other important issues.

This apparent show of force by Gigaba put the FNB boss firmly in his place, and suggests that next time a senior business leader decides to make a strong political statement, he or she will do so at their peril.

One again it shows that you should think carefully before you tweet. Unless you want to emerge as a prize twit.


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