The Promised Land!


To receive a free full-text email of The Zeitgeist whenever we publish to the website, please sign up here. You’ll get two or three of these emails every week, and your email will not be shared with anyone. Ever.

Every once in a while, narrative-world gives you a gift that just keeps on giving.

So it is with outgoing CEO Ginni Rometty’s regime of despair at IBM.

I mean, I haven’t even gotten to the billions of dollars frittered away on stock buybacks. We still haven’t seen the 8-k IBM will file after the close on a Friday afternoon detailing the tens of millions of dollars that the board will lavish on Rometty as she walks out the door.

I’ve already compiled all 167 of Rometty’s SEC Form 4s to figure out just how much money in stock comp alone she’s sucked out of IBM. The answer to our puzzle is over $100 million.

Once You Buy a Prize, It’s Yours to Keep

I’m not even going to count Rometty’s salary and annual cash bonuses. I’m not going to count the corporate jet. I’m not going to count the Augusta National membership and all that. Nope, you’ve gotta work hard to fritter away a national treasure like IBM into irrelevance, so let’s not begrudge the woman whatever tens of millions of dollars she’s been paid in cash comp  … Continue reading

But today my focus is on the IBM-sponsored hagiography that is springing up like slime molds on the underside of rotting swamp cabbages.

It starts with this:

Which is drawn from this:

Rometty’s Legacy: Leading to IBM’s Promised Land [Chief Executive]

Moses may have been able to see the Promised Land, but that doesn’t mean he could complete his mission to lead the people there. A different skill set was needed, and Joshua was selected. No one faults Moses for his time in the desert.

History will be equally kind to Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM. The company’s share price may have lagged rivals over the last few years, but inside the company—deep inside, where it counts—Rometty has transformed IBM in every possible way, setting the stage for a promising next chapter. IBM’s stock is up 25% just this past year.

Some cynical business media never quite got the story right, and it was eye opening that the same respected business voices who preach against short-termism were focused solely on the 4 percent jump IBM’s stock took on the news of Rometty’s retirement, rather than the foundation she’d laid for the years to come. So much for long-term investment, technological transformation, community impact and “ESG,” right?

— Yale professor Jeff Sonnenfeld, winner of the Epsilon Theory lifetime achievement award for narrative construction in service to the oligarchy, popularly known as The Renfield.

The author of this quite serious analysis where Ginni Rometty is favorably compared to … checks notes … MOSES, is none other than Yale professor Jeff Sonnenfeld, who is also the founder and leading light of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, a non-profit “school for CEOs featuring applied research and peer-driven learning” that generates a multi-million dollar revenue stream for the Yale School of Management.

Would it surprise you to learn that Jeff Sonnenfeld works hand-in-hand with Chief Executive Group, a decidedly for-profit company that, among other things, runs the Chief Executive website that published Jeff’s little paean to Ginni Rometty?

Would it surprise you to learn that IBM is a major sponsor of Sonnenfeld’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute?

Would it surprise you to learn that Jeff Sonnenfeld presented Ginni Rometty with the … checks notes … Yale Lifetime of Leadership Award and the … checks notes, does a double-take, and checks notes again … Yale Legend of Leadership Award?

Yes, apparently the Yale Legend of Leadership Award is a real thing. And “prestigious”, too, according to Jeff’s hand-written Wikipedia entry.

Would it surprise you to learn that Jeff Sonnenfeld has been doing this stuff for literally decades, to the point where even the New York Post catches on to his act?

Being friends with Yale prof Sonnenfeld has its benefits [NY Post]

Three times in the past 16 months, Sonnenfeld has written opinion pieces or been quoted in the media supporting a company or CEO who was honored by his Chief Executive Leadership Institute or was a financial backer of his biannual CEO Summit, The Post’s research reveals.

None of the op-eds disclosed either the financial backing the companies supplied to the Sonnenfeld-led nonprofit or that CELI had honored their CEOs.

— by Josh Kosman and Michelle Celarier (April 15, 2015)

Actually, I would bet a lot of money that Nelson Peltz tipped off the NY Post to dig into the Sonnenfeld puff pieces around his DuPont activism, but still, good for them to publish this article five years ago.

Not gonna lie, I can’t wait to dig into the Form 990 for the Chief Executive Leadership Institute.

Like I say, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

One more thought on all this for today.

There is no structural difference between the “conspiracy theories” of Zero Hedge and the “serious opinions” of Chief Executive. The only difference is whether the constructed narrative supports the status quo or challenges the status quo.

And yet Zero Hedge is banned from Twitter for making up narratives from the flimsiest of “facts”, while Sonnenfeld and his fellow Renfields are celebrated for doing exactly the same thing.

Clear eyes, friends. Clear eyes.


To receive a free full-text email of The Zeitgeist whenever we publish to the website, please sign up here. You'll get two or three of these emails every week, and your email will not be shared with anyone. Ever. It's our effort to spread the word about what we're doing, and allow you to read more Epsilon Theory!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ward Good
11 months ago

Professor Renfield is a frequent contributor to CNBC as well. Recently, Joe Kernan tweaked him on the subject of Jeff Immelt formerly of GE which is also laughable but the righteous indignation at the scofflaws who didn’t pay up is worse.

11 months ago

…how much did IBM pay to flood Twitter with that story? Why would they do that? I was told by an IBM employee that they used their AI to search the internet for negative comments made about the company by current employees. Maybe IBM’s priorities were misguided while she was at the helm…

Nicholas Allen
11 months ago

Shouldn’t the Lifetime Award for Narrative Construction in Service to the Oligarchy be known as “The Hilsenrath”? Or is that for the honorable mentions?

Nicholas Allen
11 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Allen

Oh, oh! Nope, got it. “The Krugman”

11 months ago

I am watching a few clusters led by very smart minds who analyze facts and produce opinions about future conditions of socio-economic systems. Mostly these conditions are claimed to be bleak and existential. All of these clusters without exception are thinking of profiting from “chaotic” conditions anyway – in full knowledge it systematically and unfairly hurts a vast and weak majority of citizenry. Some bash the Fed in a manner what would make the reader think the guy is out of the market only to find out, upon confronting, that he’s also in on it – by all means, but why the false impression? All without exception seem to care about “the future generations in the great country of ours” while actively choosing to reside in seclusion. Not one, without exception, has translated these very powerful imaginations into a commensurate, concerted and equally powerful action. NOT EVEN AMONG EACH OTHER. I am talking about accomplished, experienced individuals who address several hundred thousand people in a go. Not one of these outputs has been translated into MLK type of march all the while claiming “oh, how so poorly the poor are doing”. Strike that – many of these clusters gather here and there annually to enjoy some conference or a fish where again the effort is directed at yapping an imagination of the future without lifting a finger to put the mental output into a LEGISLATION that will correct the “inevitable demise”. It’s a treason of self, a gross negligence. It’s… Read more »

11 months ago

Per Charity Navigator the entity is eligible to be rated; here’s a link to their most recent 990, if click thru doesn’t work, register and you can see all of them
Sonnenfeld works 40 hours a week draws no salary. Gave cash grant of $500k to Yale school of management all from 2016 990.
Biggest other expense that year were Conferences at $1M+. Joseph DeLillo paid $195k as EVP of CELI..

The Daily Zeitgeist

“Suicide Bomber” vs suicide bomber

By Ben Hunt | December 29, 2020 | 19 Comments

On Christmas Day, Nashville was attacked by a suicide bomber terrorist. But not by a “Suicide Bomber”. Not by a “Terrorist”.

Why not? Because his terrorist goals didn’t fit neatly into a useful political narrative like “Antifa!” or “Proud Boys!”

Here’s what this looks like in the Narrative Machine.

Read more

Russian Nesting Deals

By Rusty Guinn | December 3, 2020 | 4 Comments

Sometimes complicated is complicated because it has to be. But this nesting doll of a SPAC deal with Dyal (Neuberger Berman) IS weird and worthy of more than usual scrutiny, especially if you are an LP in one of these funds.

Read more

Ten Times Faster Than The Sun’s Beams

By Ben Hunt | November 25, 2020 | 10 Comments

The Wall Street narrative machine is in overdrive to create a “Yay, Value!” rally here at year-end.

Like any effective advertising campaign, it will work. I’m not saying this rally isn’t real.

I’m saying that you should reconsider what “real” means.

Read more

The Frustrated Money Manager

By Ben Hunt | October 8, 2020 | 12 Comments

The frustrated money manager is almost always a smart, accomplished professional in his own field who believes VERY much in the existence of The Smart Money ™.

The frustrated money manager is almost always a liiiittttle bit on the make.

Like a Vatican cardinal.

Read more

Scapegoating the Zeitgeist

By Ben Hunt | October 2, 2020 | 5 Comments

One day we will recognize the defining Zeitgeist of the post-GFC Obama/Trump years for what it is: an unparalleled transfer of wealth to the managerial class.

This Wall Street Journal article is not an attack on that system. It is a defense. It is telling you that the system is fine … we just need to do something about these bad apple CEOs.

Read more

Why Am I Reading This Now?

By Ben Hunt | September 25, 2020 | 8 Comments

Yesterday, 5 GOP Senators wrote a letter to Netflix, saying that their plan to adapt Liu Cixin’s “The Three Body Problem” for TV/film amounted to “complicity” with the CCP and their horrific mistreatment of the Uyghurs.

Why am I reading this NOW?

Read more


This commentary is being provided to you as general information only and should not be taken as investment advice. The opinions expressed in these materials represent the personal views of the author(s). It is not investment research or a research recommendation, as it does not constitute substantive research or analysis. Any action that you take as a result of information contained in this document is ultimately your responsibility. Epsilon Theory will not accept liability for any loss or damage, including without limitation to any loss of profit, which may arise directly or indirectly from use of or reliance on such information. Consult your investment advisor before making any investment decisions. It must be noted, that no one can accurately predict the future of the market with certainty or guarantee future investment performance. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Statements in this communication are forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements and other views expressed herein are as of the date of this publication. Actual future results or occurrences may differ significantly from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, and there is no guarantee that any predictions will come to pass. The views expressed herein are subject to change at any time, due to numerous market and other factors. Epsilon Theory disclaims any obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements or views expressed herein. This information is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. This commentary has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. Epsilon Theory recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.