Kiwis fizz over Coke boss' criticism

CEOs, unionists and public all have a view about George Adams' attack on New Zealanders as anti-big business

George Adams, managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil in New Zealand. Photo / NZ Herald.
George Adams, managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil in New Zealand. Photo / NZ Herald.

Chief executives and unionists have weighed in on the debate sparked by a soft drink boss' comments that New Zealand's "ingrained" anti-corporate mentality is stifling the growth of companies.

In a report in yesterday's Business Herald, Coca-Cola Amatil NZ managing director George Adams said New Zealanders had a distrustful relationship with big business that was unhealthy for the country.

"I think it's part of the tall poppy syndrome," said Northern Ireland-born Mr Adams, who will leave the top role at the soft drink firm and return to Europe in June.

"There's a very negative connotation with the word 'corporate' in New Zealand - it's used in a very negative way."

Many Kiwis took to social media websites to express their opinion. One Twitter user said: "I am glad Coke boss is leaving NZ, even happier if coke went as well. He's right we do hate corporates. Long may it continue."

The bosses of a number of large companies contacted by the Herald, including Cadbury and Telecom, were unwilling to wade into the debate, but others were more forthcoming.
Restaurant Brands chief executive Russel Creedy said he did not believe New Zealanders were necessarily "anti-corporate", but they were questioning of big business.

"I think it's a good thing because any corporate is part of the whole social fabric," said Mr Creedy, whose company operates global fast food brands including KFC and Pizza Hut in this country.

First Union general secretary Robert Reid said Mr Adams' comments were "breathtaking" as corporates got too much of an easy ride in New Zealand.

Rather than being anti-big business, this country showed too much deference to large corporations, said Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly.

"Big business, if it wants more respect from ordinary people, has to behave better," she said.

Eric Hertz, chief executive of cellphone company 2degrees, did not think New Zealanders had an anti-corporate mentality at all.

"I've worked in seven or eight countries and I think there's always a healthy scepticism about corporations," said Mr Hertz, who is originally from the United States. "I think there's a real entrepreneurial spirit here about creating businesses."

Don Braid, managing director of international freight and logistics operator Mainfreight, thought New Zealanders were far more company- friendly than people in other parts of the world, including Australia, where effigies of bank chief executives have been burned in the streets in protests against their super-sized pay packets.

"I don't agree with George's comments about anti-corporate attitudes but I do think [businesses] need to have higher aspirations and bigger aspirations," said Mr Braid.

In his interview with the Business Herald Mr Adams said an anti-corporate mindset resulted in many businesspeople being happy with their firms remaining small.
He said too few Kiwi companies were taking the risks needed to grow into bigger, export-driven concerns.

Read more: Parting shot by Coke boss

- NZ Herald

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