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ACBL CEO: Post-Mortem

Bahar Gidwani was viewed as extremely polite, brilliant, popular, very responsive and willing to listen to each and every member. Everyone may rest assured that the entire BOD wanted Gidwani to succeed. To think otherwise is paranoia. When the BOD unanimously hired Gidwani, hopes were high and expectations were as well -- everyone was sure he had new and good ideas. Now the BOD appears bumbling, stumbling, and unfortunately, seen as doing business as usual. Its's true, the BOD is slow to really let the CEO run the League. Maybe they are right, I am not sure, I do not know enough. I will say, the title Executive Secretary is more appropriate than CEO. 

In North America either Bridge must gain in popularity or continue to suffer membership decreases. Each and every CEO candidate is told this at each and every step of the search process. Every CEO is told this at each and every CEO Review meeting. I personally mention  this membership imperative as part of any correspondence with Management or BOD member, either we prepare for a smaller ACBL, or we popularize the game (difficult) and then add new members as a by-product of the new popularity. 

So what happened in the short period of time between the honeymoon hiring and last Monday? Simply put, I fear that if the BOD does not respect your Bridge ability or knowledge, they won't support your "10 Big Ideas." I will comment that my reading of Gidwani's 10 big ideas indicated to me that he failed to comprehend how much more important gaining members was than anything else on the list. As but one example, the creation of a more accurate qualitative rating system -- either in addition to -- or instead of -- the current MP formula -- seems very sexy to everyone -- Gidwani liked it. To me, if the ACBL tells a long-time member exactly how much worse that player is than the player at the next table (let alone  a true comparison with Meckstroth) then that player may quit the ACBL. Worse yet,  something designed to heal the ACBL Bracketed KO dilemma (too much spread between best team and worst team ... makes the worst team in the bracket feel unable to compete) was a CLEAR indication to me that the real dilemma -- aging membership, was not truly being focused on. We can make the experience better for 10,000 members who are older and feel they are not longer competitive, but we need really to focus on the big picture. 

Next, the ACBL staff was unimpressed with CEO Gidwani -- a feeling was discussed that Gidwani "just did not get it." Another tiny nit, an expelled player requesting reinstatement was apparently supported by Gidwani. if true, then Gidwani may be honest and true, but politically naive. The BOD does not want to spend time on expelled players. There were a lot of tiny issues like this which made it appear to me from afar than Gidwani was unfocused. 

Was Gidwani still an officer in his previous company while running the League? Was that an issue? I do not know of any time he spent on his previous job, but there were rumblings about this issue. Death by a thousand paper cuts. 

So, now we come to Philadelphia for the NABC meetings, the short version is: the BOD wanted Gidwani to follow their priorities, not his. He stood firm on his ideas --maybe some that he had already been asked not to focus on -- were moving forward against the BOD wishes. Next, he was offered a "coach" or "counseling." Gidwani refused the coach (what CEO would accept one, not many) ... now a rapid deterioration in relationships, a request to resign, and an apparent recognition that resigning was both admitting defeat and unwise from a personal financial point of view. With apparently 2 years left on a contract with 300K salary, the normal breakup is a negotiation. No lawyer would advise Gidwani to resign. Yes, i foresee protracted settlement negotiations and possible litigation; the league claiming dismissal with cause -- based on a lack of confidence and the refusal to accept counseling -- while Gidwani requests his 3 year contract be paid in full. I believe the vote to dismiss was 24-0-1 with one abstention. 

To the next CEO, its all about the popularity of Bridge in North America and membership loss. 

P.S. this may seem petty, but its telling: the only initials that matter are CEO. Gidwani's string of initials after his signature were not attractive. 

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