Daily Insider: The entrepreneur suppressing Schadenfreude over Comair collapse

Plucky South African entrepreneur Barbara Walsh (below) would have been forgiven for a little Schadenfreude after hearing yesterday’s news that Comair has gone bust. Comair behaved appallingly after acquiring Walsh’s sizeable built-from-scratch training consultancy Metaco in 2018, a story we covered in some detail on BizNews (click here).

In brief, Comair reneged on pretty much every commitment it made to Metaco, which it had promised to elevate into the Big League. Worse, Comair’s executives took unilateral decisions that sent Metaco into a tailspin. Adding insult to injury, the corporate then demanded repayment of the first and only instalment it ever made for the acquisition – plus interest.

Instead of capitulating, Walsh and her partner Danny Tuckwood invested massive personal energy and millions of rand in legal fees to defend their case. Unfortunately, it was never heard as Comair went into business rescue three weeks before arbitration was due to start. The BRPs subsequently accepted Metaco’s claim in full and withdrew Comair’s counter claim. 

But the story does have a happier ending. Although a lot smaller than its pre-Comair-deal self, Metaco is back in the original partners’ hands, survived Covid and is growing again through a remote business model. Good things really do happen to good people. As for the Comair board, Karma Sucks, doesn’t it? 


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Comment from BizNews community member Greg Stewart:

Morning Alec,

I hope you and the team are well.

I had to respond to your newsletter intro today as it is something I believe is really important.

It is a peculiarity of human kind that we often take solace or even schadenfreude at the demise of a person or enterprise, particularly those with shady practices, or those who have consciously damaged others or perhaps those we do not particularly appreciate without any further thought.

Corporate shenanigans have been happening since, well probably forever, and there are always winners and losers and we like the good guys to win but this is not often the case.

In this instance it is particularly meaningful to the owners of Metaco as they have certainly been put through the grinder by unscrupulous business dealings and they might well feel a sense of Karma.

The flip side of this story however are the hundreds or thousands of people and the extended supply chain that supported the business that are feeling the worst kind of pain; loss of businesses and jobs and a means to support their families.

In our crazy situation in South Africa, where there is so much distress and where we have a government, hell bent on enriching themselves at the cost of all others and all else, and where ridiculous lock-down’s and insane health protocols and extortionate taxes and demands for BEE have already wreaked such damage in our economy, we should be mourning the loss of every single business and job and growth opportunity – not celebrating it.

An article today in DM indicated that there was a massive increase in life insurance claims paid out in 2021 to the value of R52 Billion, with some life insurers having a 50% increase in pay-outs for suicide. This of course countering the false narrative that has been fed about these increases being covid related.

It is something that the current government should be held culpable for but more importantly it is something that the broader society we live in needs to be cognisant of.

We have to have more jobs and more enterprises to lift our beleaguered and battered country out of the swamp we find ourselves in and while we could certainly do with rooting out all the “bad apples” in business and politics, we also have to be aware of the high price paid by so many for what seems to have been a senseless act of greed.

If only it was only those who brought the disaster who suffer, but sadly it is more often the innocent who are most hurt by these events.

Kind regards.

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