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What the country's biggest company thinks about wealth creation

Friday 28th April 2000

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Theresa Gattung NOT SURPRISED: Theresa Gattung

Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung: "In New Zealand there's this huge divide, particularly about business and non-business, and about small business and big business. Small business is good, big business is bad.

"That report [the ANZ EVA report] that a lot of companies have destroyed shareholder value ran for a couple of days in the New Zealand papers and then disappeared off the radar screens. It had no legs.

"And you'd have to say that's because [newspapers] think their market, their customers, aren't interested. And you say, 'How could that be? How could it be that people don't understand?'

"They understand in their own sense. I come from a family of small businesspeople. People understand in an intimate way in relation to their own situation but there just seems to be this gap in terms of understanding it in a wider community sense. And I've never really figured that out.

"The closest I can get to understanding is that I believe New Zealand was peopled with immigrants from the British Isles who were coming away from elitism and a class system.

"We're so desperate to make sure it doesn't happen again here that the linkage in terms of big business and wealth creation 'for a few' means there's just a sort of anathema to it.

"I do think shareholder value in terms of wealth creation is not regarded as a social good in this country, so it doesn't surprise me that CEOs haven't been focused on that by their boards."

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