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.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.