Friday 6 December 2019

TH€ PUNT: It's an unorthodox way to run biggest economy in the world

THE Punt is fascinated by Jack Lew, who this week became the first Jew to be named as US Treasury Secretary.

Mr Lew's life which has seen him move from humble beginnings in the Bronx to Wall Street and then chief of staff at the White House contains many lessons but perhaps the most interesting in this age of 24/7 gadgets, is Mr Lew's ability to cling to his faith.

Mr Lew, pictured, is an Orthodox Jew who observes the Jewish Sabbath, which means he cannot switch on a computer or answer an email from dusk on Fridays to Saturday evenings.

Despite this apparent handicap, or perhaps because of it, Mr Lew has prospered in business and politics.

He worked at Citigroup from 2006 to 2009 and for both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

His former boss on the National Security Council, Sandy Berger, has said that "Lew's faith never got in the way of performing his duties" and added that he "was able to balance the requirements, which was very, very hard – and he was determined to observe his religious traditions".

An entire day without phones, emails or tweets every week while running the world's biggest economy? The Punt feels humbled and can only doff its cap in awe.

While nobody is likely to maintain the close links between the Treasury and the Fed that his predecessor Timothy Geithner kept, Mr Lew has displayed a talent for working with Republicans which may come in handy in the months ahead. He also has a tenuous link with Ireland thanks to his work as adviser for eight years to legendary house speaker, the honourary Irishman Tip O'Neill.

Tip also wrote the book 'All Politics is Local' – a sentiment that most of our TDs would say 'Amen' to.

Gill's stopover at airline

The Punt hears that former Bloxham Stockbrokers' head of research Joe Gill has reprised a role providing advice to Ryanair and Michael O'Leary on the latest attempt to take over Aer Lingus

Gill took a brief sabbatical from Bloxham to advise Ryanair when the carrier launched its second takeover attempt of Aer Lingus back in 2010.

Bloxham disintegrated last year after it emerged that it had a multi-million euro shortfall in its capital requirements.

The shortfall had remained hidden for five years.

Highly respected in the industry, Gill had a lot more time on his hands since then to do this kind of consultancy for Ryanair.

No doubt, too, he's getting well paid for the work – a feat in itself at the carrier.

But the Punt wonders what the conversations in O'Leary's office with Gill have been like.

Few analysts give Ryanair a snowball's chance in hell of being given a stamp of approval by Brussels to chase Aer Lingus, especially after the Government said before Christmas that it wouldn't be willing to sell its 25.1pc stake to Ryanair.

All will be revealed soon though, with the European Commission set to say whether it or not it will allow Ryanair to continue the hunt.

No one to blame but itself

POOR old Research In Motion (RIM). The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone just can't seem to get a break these days.

Whether it's criticism of its new BlackBerry 10 software, complaints that it will never be as "cool" as an iPhone, or just the general sense that BlackBerrys are on the way out, the former "must-have" device for business people is now one of the most reviled.

Yesterday's outage served to highlight the unique system the company uses and the unique problems it creates.

Unlike the iPhone and Android devices, BlackBerry uses its own server network, rather than the mobile networks. This can have its advantages. But when the service goes down, it's the company's fault. If an iPhone can't get online, it's the network at fault, not Apple. By striking out on its own, RIM created a huge selling point – now, though, it only causes problems. And the new BlackBerry 10 system won't fix that.

Irish Independent

Also in Business