Breaking up is so very hard to do


محمد حسني سيد مبارك

An early comment on my blog came from David; David thought I changed subjects too often and I needed to stay with one subject longer, longer to explore the issue better and to give others a chance to think about it more and respond.  David probably does not read the blog very often any more, I deviate too often from the core subject that interests him, casino operations, and get lost too often on subjects that hardly relate to casinos at all.  And here I am stuck again on a theme only vaguely related to casino operations – this time aging leaders struggling to maintain their place while a younger group of people seek to replace them.

Hosni Mubarak is not as old as Stanley Ho, he is only 83 years old.  But until a street vendor in Tunis decided to make a Radical Political statement, ala the Burning Man, Mubarak was on his way to another term of office, the election was to be in September, if reelected – seen up to this week as certain – he would serve 6 years, making him 89 at the end of that term, Stanley Ho’s age.  Ho and Mubarak have a lot in common; they have been in power for a very long time, they created (at least in their own minds) the world as it exists, they know all about that world and there is a much younger generation desperate for its chance to take over and bring the organization into the 21st century and move the old guys off the stage.  Revolutions are always made by young people, revolutions always seek to replace old people, it is the way of the world.

Both sides have something to say for themselves – Stanley Ho understands Chinese gamblers and he understands gambling.  Mubarak understands Egypt and Egyptians, or at least he understood the 20th century version; both Ho and Mubarak also have an incredible array of contacts and relationships that allow them to accomplish things their younger counterparts could not.  However, the younger generation understands technology – facebook and tweeting created the current situation in Egypt.  The Ho children know about using technologies in the same way to draw crowds into their worlds, keep their interests and manipulate their behavior.   And while the younger generation has less experience and fewer contacts, it is more adaptive and flexible – in today’s world those are very important qualities.

The dichotomy between those two extremes presents a challenge for every business as well as every nation – how to maximize the advantages of experiences and knowledge, while at the same time be flexibility and adaptive.  Even with that problem resolved there will always be the question of succession – when it is time to step aside and who should the new leader be?  They are very important questions and ones that in the best of all worlds are answered by both generations sitting together in dialogue – and not in court rooms or riots.

I occasionally wonder what my career would have been like had I kept my management job in the Comstock Hotel Casino – pretending of course that it had survived the competition from Indian gaming .  If I was a senior manager today, I would be facing this issue personally.   I should be in the process of considering my role, looking for replacements, trying to move younger people into significant roles and wondering when it would be time to leave.  But watching the events in the world, I wonder if I would have been any different than Farve, Ho or Mubarak?  We have not heard his name lately, but Kirk Kerkorian, is 90-something and is still a major share holder in MGM.  I don’t mean to question his abilities, but does he still believe he brings as much game as he did previously?  Is he planing for his exit strategy?  They say that breaking up is hard to do, but giving up seems equally difficult.

 

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