Most every major paper covered the shakeup news coming out of Fidelity last week, but that doesn't mean they agreed on what the news was. Some reporters simply skimmed the surface of the press release and covered a "management restructuring" and
the chief operating officer's retirement, while savvier reporters dug deeper to uncover what this means to Ned Johnson's line of succession at Fidelity. That gap in coverage may not entirely be accidental and fund firms seeking to handle their own news crises may want to pay close attention to what Fidelity did.
The headlines tell the story -- Marketwatch
proclaimed Fidelity Investments COO Reynolds to Retire
imparted Fidelity Says Vice-chairman Reynolds to Retire
told us that Fidelity's Ned Johnson to Step in as Reynolds Retires
, Dow Jones Newswires
said Fidelity Investments COO Reynolds to Retire
simply put it as Fidelity's COO Retires
, and Morningstar's
Fund Times added the length of tenure with Longtime Fidelity Leader Retires
Oddly, all of the above stories took the view that this was a routine retirement of a top executive, not pausing to consider that Reynolds was in line to succeed Ned Johnson on the Fidelity throne, and that he is just 55 years old.
Publications that were closer to the action, like those in Fidelity's hometown of Boston, made a deeper assessment of the situation.
The Boston Globe
had the headlines -- Climbing Fidelity's ladder? Wear a helmet
, A surprise retirement changes succession picture at Fidelity
, and McColgan boosted brokerage business
. All three highlight the succession issue.
The Globe's Beantown rival, the The Boston Herald
, also set its sights on succession with Nedís retirement plan: Heir-apparent Out, Brokerage Chief In
and Some see McColgan as next CEO
also got the real story with Management Shakeup at Fidelity
and Changes at Fidelity Stir Succession Speculation
Surprisingly, the LA Times
and Washington Post
did not cover the story at all.
The fact that many business oriented publications missed the larger story highlights the rousing success by Anne Crowley and the Fidelity public relations team. Presumably, Crowley, Jennifer Engel, Vin Loporchio, Michael Shamrell and perhaps others, strove to make this story about a routine management realignment and not the loss of Bob Reynolds, perhaps the most viable successor to Ned Johnson.
The Fidelity press release framed the story as the announcement of "a new alignment of the firm's distribution, operations, and administrative functions in a move designed to meet the present and future needs of an ever increasingly diverse customer base."
This clever camouflage set the tone for the rest of the release, disguising the news as a simple realignment and not Reynolds' sudden retirement.
Crowley and team also report the information about Ellyn McColgan's new post and Abby Johnson's new role as part of the realignment. Reynolds's name finally pops up in the the third paragraph, as a seeming footnote to the story.
This is a lesson about how valuable a good public relations team can be to a fund firm; they can turn a succession shakeup into a "management realignment" that benefits customers above all. Now that's magic.
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