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An inside look at the real business world

In Corporate Catalyst, Tony Griffiths gives readers aringside seat on the many boardroom and corporate battles that heboth fought and witnessed through the nearly six decades of hisproductive and colorful career. Among other stories, Griffithsreplays his two stints as the CEO of Canada's darling of thetelecom industry, Mitel Corporation. The first was in the late1980s, a time when he helped staunch the flow of red ink andreturned the company to profitability. The second was in the early1990s, when he steered the company through its majority ownershipby British Telecom and then its sale to Schroder Ventures. AsGriffiths relates it, he had to learn how to deal with thebureaucratic style of the former and the power-hungry moves of thelatter.

Corporate Catalyst includes the author's blow-by-blowaccount of what went on inside Confederation Life in the 1980s andearly 1990s—a story that should have prevented the failure ofthe likes of Lehman Brothers in the recent Great Recession.Griffiths, who had his hands full at the time with challenges atMitel, also sat on Confed's board. He tried to warn ConfederationLife's executives and his fellow board members of the financialdangers the company was facing. No one but a few other boardmembers would listen-and even they did not do so consistently. Thefall of Confed Life became one of the largest failures of a majorfinance company in corporate history.

Griffiths takes the reader on a dramatic tour of the trickery,betrayal, and politicking that the world of business seems toattract. He introduces readers to the biggest and boldest names inCanadian business, including Jake Moore of Brascan, Robert Campeauof Campeau Corporation, Terry Mathews of Mitel, Ted Rogers ofRogers Communications, Conrad Black of Hollinger, Adam Zimmerman ofNoranda, Pat Burns of Confederation Life, and Christopher Ondaatjeof The Ondaatje Corporation.

In the book's many cautionary tales, Griffiths warns againstmixing the roles of governance and management and shows the markedtendency of executives to take up residence far from reality whentimes get tough. "We don't listen. We don't plan. We don't act," hewrote in frustration to the board and management of ConfederationLife after months of trying to get someone to address the financialmess they were in.

Full of hard-won wisdom, Corporate Catalyst is amust-read for anyone working in business or interested in what thebusiness world is really like.

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