Man U plays Fergie exit to perfection

In 1986 when Alex Ferguson became Manchester United manager, the club had a value of £15m, a sum that might buy a decent midfield player today.

Ian Monk: 'It was imperative the changeover was presented as a carefully thought-out piece of corporate succession planning.'
Ian Monk: 'It was imperative the changeover was presented as a carefully thought-out piece of corporate succession planning.'

Twenty-seven years on, the US-owned global corporate entity from which Sir Alex's departure was announced last week is valued at around £2bn.

Getting the comms right around the swansong of the legend responsible for the unprecedented on-field success that created and underpinned the expansion of this leviathan of sporting brands was crucial.

The slightest miscommunication would have impacted on share price, activating perceptions that the departure of the most successful football manager ever could threaten the corporate deck of cards.

Forget replacing a football manager. Such relatively inconsequential hirings and firings happen weekly.

Frequently such changeovers are characterised by the emergence of caretaker managers from the locker room into the harsh TV spotlight, and destabilising speculation about who might be hired in the long term.

Those making and communicating the changes at Manchester United had to avoid any such anxieties. It was imperative the changeover was presented as a carefully thought-out piece of corporate succession planning.

The initial leak took the form of speculation that Fergie's time might be up, published on astute newspaper sites and appearing just after the New York Stock Exchange had closed. No statements were given to dampen the speculation that went global overnight.

Then, shortly after 9am, came confirmation from the club of the era's end via perfectly dovetailed personal and corporate statements.

The question of succession was effectively resolved by lunchtime. Without a word on the record, the world knew the new custodian of this unique global brand was to be David Moyes, a man apparently hewn from the same piece of Scottish rock as Fergie.

All change but nothing changes, was the message cleverly conveyed to the surprise of no-one the next day.

In the quintessential results business, the United comms team delivered impeccably with 'son of Fergie'.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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