We have been told by several well placed sources that Kerry Prendergast and the right of Wellington have come to the conclusion that Jo Coughlan is not a contender (as we have been saying for weeks) and that they need a new champion to split between Morrison and Wade-Bicycle.
Morrison has had a mixed opening with a couple of good wins offset by a conservative/yawn-fest campaign with a dash of plagiarism. Meanwhile Celia has launched a rather ginger website.
While Labour has struggled to find any women to stand, the right have identified that its best chances sit with former Telecom CEO, Theresa Gattung. Approaches are being made to Gattung in a desperate attempt to win back the mayoral chains by the right.
Gattung’s business credentials are obviously well known, starting out as a marketing guru before leading the largest listed company in the country. However, she also stands out as a polarising figure as it was under her leadership that Telecom firmly held its grip on the telco industry and sucked maximum profits out of customers to the point that the Government intervened.
Under Gattung’s leadership, the company was known as ‘Fortress Telecom’ as it fought like hell to protect the record high share price and shareholder dividends. This forced the Government’s hands and its intervention saw $2billion wiped off the value of the company almost overnight, and saw the beginning of a 5-6 year period of regulation, intervention and restructuring at the company.
At a time when Wellington is seen as being out of step, there is something of an irony that the woman who wrote the book on making sure your business angers the government is the one the right has chosen.
But it isn’t only the relationship with Government that Gattung has a poor track record on. The 2006 and later reforms were driven by customer dissatisfaction. The customers were vocal in their unhappiness and the then Parliament acted – remember only the two ACT MPs at the time voted against the intervention.
Gattung symbolised all that was wrong with ‘big business’ culture and New Zealanders were unhappy when she got a $5million golden handshake to leave the company. Remember, it was Gattung who admitted in a speech that her company had “used confusion as it’s chief marketing tool” so that it could “keep calling prices up and get those revenues”.
It will be interesting to watch and see if she does stand, we all know she has the resources to fund and run a campaign – but the reaction of the general public will be telling. If any of that historical unhappiness remains, Gattung may face an uncomfortable campaign.