Monday, April 05, 2010

Barclays' Bob Diamond under the gun in the UK; another look at his platitudes at the groundbreaking

Less than a month after his noblesse oblige performance at the Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking, Bob Diamond of Barclays Capital is under the gun, at least on the other side of the pond.

As the Times of London reported:

Lord Mandelson has singled out the president of Barclays as the “unacceptable face” of the banking sector in one of the most vitriolic attacks on financiers since the financial crisis.

The Business Secretary, who said 12 years ago that Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes”, said that Bob Diamond was socially useless and paid an unjustifiable amount of money.

Mr Diamond, 58, who is American-born, is the number two at the bank and head of its highly profitable investment bank.

Lord Mandelson told The Times: “If you look at Bob Diamond, who took £63 million in pay — that to me is the unacceptable face of banking. He hasn’t earned that money, he’s taken £63 million [$96.1 million USD] not by building business or adding value or creating long-term economic strength, he has done so by deal-making and shuffling paper around.”

Barclays, for the record, disagrees with his math.

Deal-making in Brooklyn

The Barclays Center naming rights agreement is a savvy form of deal-making. Consider the sequence:
  • The state (Empire State Development Corporation) gives away naming rights to Forest City Ratner
  • Forest City Ratner sells the naming rights to Barclays
  • Barclays uses the deal as a marketing platform to grow in the United States
Smart business, most likely. Public giveaway, for sure.

From the groundbreaking

Considering the sequence, it's worth a second look at the groundbreaking. "Barclays shares our love for Brooklyn and is committed to our community," declared Brooklyn Borough President Mary Markowitz, introducing Diamond.



Diamond was relatively brief, leading off by thanking several people, "including my good friend Bruce [Ratner]."

"This is a landmark partnership in so many ways," he said. "It's about our commitment to the regeneration of Brooklyn in some small way. But it's also about facilitating absolutely top-flight professional sporting achievement."

Not only the Nets but "many great events" will be held at the arena. "All of them will emphasize commitment," he said. "All of them will emphasize dedication to excellence. And all of them will emphasize teamwork. And that fits very very strongly with the ethos and the values of Barclays."

"It's important that we give back," he said. (For example, consider the contribution to the Brooklyn Historical Society, which overemphasizes a connection between Brooklyn and the Nets.)

"The governor talked about the incredible generation of jobs: thousands and thousands of jobs, during construction, but more importantly, permanent jobs for many, many years going forward," he said. "The Barclays Center will not only help secure those jobs, but it's also about affordable housing, about new schools, and so many opportunities for the youth in these communities."

He cited a "20-year commitment to Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Barclays Center." (How about a 20-year advertising arrangement that will help pay for arena construction?)

Then, like Markowitz, Diamond fawned in an effort to introduce the next speaker, celebrity Jay-Z. Like the platitudes about "Brooklyn," it was another distraction from Barclays' goal of advertising.

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