So difficult to hire good help these days

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am


Gordon McKie has become the latest high-profile, highly paid overseas recruit to abandon ship after coming to Hong Kong for a quickie. The Football Association's first chief executive took a three-week holiday back home in Scotland before the end of his six- month probationary period and returned just in time to negotiate a face-saving package for him to leave town for good. Apparently, HK$3 million a year wasn't enough for him to hold on to his job. McKie was to be a key figure in Project Phoenix, the government's master plan to revive soccer in the city.

This has a ring of deja vu about it. Remember Graham Sheffield, the grandee of British arts management? Boy, we all thought Sheffield was such a catch to head the arts hub in West Kowloon, until he skipped town for Christmas in 2010 and never returned, pleading 'serious illness'. He was on the job for a grand total of five months on a HK$3.5 million-a-year contract. Apparently he had already been approached by the British Council for a cushy job as its arts director, a position he took up after making a miraculous recovery in March last year.

Angus Cheng Siu-chuen, the arts hub's first executive director, quit after less than two weeks during the summer of 2009. He apparently thought he was to be the boss and didn't realise he would be answerable to a new chief executive. It's worth remembering that Henry Tang Ying-yen, the failed chief executive candidate, presided over these personnel disasters as the hub's board chairman.

Meanwhile, we have another hiring controversy on our hands. Adrian Walter, the new head of the Academy for Performing Arts, left his job with the Australian National University under a cloud amid protests surrounding his restructuring of its music school, which could lead to significant job cuts. Will Walter be able to stay and do a good job? Fingers crossed!

In each of these cases, the public was never told what really happened; there were meaningless PR statements about having gone through proper procedures. It appears that, with all the money in the world, we still can't hire proper people properly.