Outgoing Coca-Cola chief may have obesity hang-up

New Zealand regularly wins plaudits for being one of the very best countries for doing business. How, then, to read the scathing criticism of George Adams, who is returning to Europe after nine years heading Coca-Cola Amatil's local operations? This country, he says, has a damaging "love to hate" relationship with big business, which is seen as "nasty and untrustworthy".

Several factors suggest his comments are misplaced. First, it is unlikely that New Zealand would have created an environment so receptive to business if society was as set against it as Mr Adams suggests.

Secondly, his talk about the presence of a tall-poppy syndrome may hint at the real reason for his disquiet. That reference point is a lazy port of call for those who object to criticism even when they have been shown to have feet of clay. Mr Adams may just be miffed by Coca-Cola's connection, fairly or not, to obesity.

The syndrome is hardly unique to New Zealand or, indeed, to business. There is also a healthy scepticism of politicians and certain professions which believe they deserve better.


And in this country, much of the scepticism about business dates back to the late 1980s, when the considerable faith placed in corporate leaders was not vindicated.

Mr Adams also suggests an anti-corporate mindset means many businesspeople are happy with their firms remaining small. The reasons for this are, however, far more complex. They include, not least, the way many small businesses receive takeover offers they cannot refuse from overseas companies just as they are realising their potential.