Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Sometimes in PR you encounter an implacable enemy who is out to destroy you. Nothing will mollify this opposition. It is you or them: Only one will remain standing. This is what is happening right now to the CEO of Morgan Stanley, Philip Purcell. His enemies are wealthy former executives of Morgan Stanley who want to destroy him as CEO. They are spending their own money to run ads, generate news coverage and stir opposition to Purcell in every way they can.

With enemies like this, if you throw them a sop, they don't go away. They become stronger because they know they caused you to crack a little. And, that is what happened with Morgan Stanley's sudden decision to spin off its Discover Card unit that Purcell said he would not sell. The opposition howled all the louder.

With implacable enemies, there is no niceness, no middle ground, no way to make peace. One must be prepared to conduct a scorched-earth campaign and have the courage to see it through.

Thankfully, few of us will have ever have to engage in such warfare but, as this affair shows, it can happen. What will Purcell do? News reports say he has kept his board on his side for the time being, and he has placed two more supporters on it as well. That doesn't mean his enemies are defeated. They will continue to undermine him: The worst way they can hurt him is to lure away Morgan Stanley's talent to competitors. Thus, even if Purcell wins the battle, he loses the war.

What is the PR department doing at Morgan Stanley? I'd like to know. I can hardly believe the department is on the sidelines watching the battle, unless lawyers have taken over and are running tactics. In any event, living through a situation like this matures one quickly as a counselor.


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