The occasional snipe or parting shot is a common sight when corporate relationships break down, but former Telstra (ASX:TLS) CEO, Sol Trujillo, appears to be packing a machine gun.
Trujillo’s frequent outbursts of rhetoric and bile against the Australian Federal Government since his departure for its allegedly “Sol-less” stance and unfair behaviour towards Telstra have been given plenty of air time across most Australian media outlets.
But his latest comments to the BBC have targeted not just the politicians of Australia. According to Trujillo, ours is a wide, brown and racist country of sweeping generalisations and ragged prejudice.
“I would say that Australia definitely is different to the US, you know in many ways it’s like stepping back in time… it’s a much different operating environment and climate than most other countries,” Trujillo said to BBC interviewer, Steve Evans.
“My point is that that does exist and it’s gotta change because the world is full of a lot of people… and if there’s a belief that only certain people are acceptable versus others, that is a sad state".
The tragedy is that Trujillo has a point. When the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was asked to comment on Trujillo’s departure, his one-word response was “Adios”.
Numerous cartoonists in Australian daily papers placed sombreros and other stereotypically Mexican paraphernalia on Trujillo when satirising him, despite it being clear that the Wyoming-born and bred telco boss is, if anything, an American archetype. If this isn't public racism, then nothing is.
But here’s a question that must be asked – although the language and imagery used to describe one of Australia’s most high-profile corporate figures is based in race, does that mean he wasn’t given a fair go?
What’s undeniable is that Australian ICT analysts largely saw Sol as a negative force, and all but popped the bubbly when he left the building.
Telstra now finds itself criticised by the regulatory bodies and its foolhardy game of brinksmanship against the government on the National Broadband Network (NBN) has led to rapid share price drops and a dramatic fall from grace.
In the end it was mostly Trujillo’s ambivalence towards government and his corporate decisions that contributed to Telstra’s current fortunes, rather than any social prejudice. So while his talk of racism strikes very close to the heart, the majority of his comments sound like nothing but blanks.