The right image for the recession

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The soundbite of former Lehman’s boss Fuld being grilled by a US congressional committee about his beachfront home and multi-million dollar art collection made for great radio this morning. 

 
On BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on my drive in, you got the full contempt in the voice of Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Comittee, as he accused Dick Fuld of not just ineptitude but also extravagance, with the implication that it was the ostentation of the way he spent the money that was what was truly offensive about the whole debacle. So if he had just salted it away discreetly, that wouldn’t have been half as bad?
 
Are we now entering a period where appearances will count for everything?
 
Already the EPCA annual conference plans to forsake the glitz of Monte Carlo and sit out the recession in the serious cities of Berlin and Vienna.
 
Menswear companies are reporting a surge in sales of suits and ties, as executives seek to hang onto their jobs by projecting a smarter professional image.
 
But my favourite image-conscious story from last week’s EPCA conference was from one senior executive, who had booked a hotel suite in the Monte Carlo Le Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel for his meetings stipulating that the meeting room should be without a bed. That’s fair enough – I agree it is a bit unnerving having a business meeting in a room with a large bed prominent in the background.
 
His customers arrived for their meetings with him to find that the suite was in a glass tower on an upper floor of the hotel, through a door from carpets to marble, through a swipe-card security door, up a spiral staircase and into an openplan suite with a prominent big red sofa. “This isn’t what I wanted,” he pointed out to visitors, as they wondered at the unwanted image of great lavishness.
 

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