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Boomerang bosses: When founders come back at the helm

Last updated on: June 3, 2013 09:50 IST

Boomerang bosses: When founders come back at the helm

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Sudipto Dey in New Delhi


In India, founders coming back to their companies is unheard of as the promoters never go away. However, globally, there are numerous instances of ex-leaders -founders or chief executive officers (CEOs) - being called back to the helm of affairs of the company they founded or led for many years.

The most recent instance is that of A G Lafley, ex-CEO of Procter and Gamble (P&G), who led the consumer goods firm from 2000 to 2009. In May this year, Lafley rejoined P&G as president and chairman.

In April this year, Myron Ullman rejoined US-based department store chain JC Penney as CEO, a position he vacated in February 2012 after a four-month stint.

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Image: Infosys Chairman N. R. Narayana Murthy.
Photographs: Jagadeesh N.V/Reuters

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Boomerang bosses: When founders come back at the helm

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Struggling coffee chain Starbucks Corp's founder-chairman Howard Schultz reclaimed the CEO's position in 2008, after a hiatus of eight years, and continues in that post till date. Schultz was CEO of Startbucks from 1987 to 2000.

Like him, Michael Dell, founder of the world's third largest computer maker, took over as CEO of Dell Inc, amid falling personal computer sales, in 2007 - a position he left in 2004.

Dell now wants to take the company private through a leveraged buyout, with focus on services and end-to-end information technology (IT) solutions for enterprises.

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Image: Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz.
Photographs: Bobby Yip/Reuters

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Boomerang bosses: When founders come back at the helm

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Jobs' class act

Among founders returning to steady their floundering companies, Steve Jobs' was a class act, perhaps difficult for any other founder or CEO to parallel.

He was literally thrown out of Apple Inc by its shareholders in 1985, a company he co-founded in 1976. Jobs came back at the helm in 1997.

He turned it around to make it the world's second largest IT firm, and the third largest mobile phone maker, before his death in October 2011.

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Image: Copies of the new biography of Apple CEO Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson are displayed at a bookstore.
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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Boomerang bosses: When founders come back at the helm

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According to Kavil Ramachandran, the Thomas Schmidheiny Chair Professor of Family Business and Wealth Management at the Indian School of Business-Hyderabad, any return of the founder is a reflection of the helplessness of the board to groom successor from within or outside the company.

"One of the reasons why Boards prefer to go back an ex-CEO or founder is the charisma to keep the flock together," he says.

N R Narayana Murthy's second stint at the helm of Infosys as chairman will be more challenging than the first time, says Ramachandran.

"In his absence, the market condition has changed. Internally, too, the organisation has changed." Murthy may do well to take a few clues from Jobs' fairy tale comeback.


Image: N.R. Narayana Murthy.
Photographs: Jagadeesh N.V/Reuters

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