Or did he refuse the job?
BayBuzz has learned that Bill Gates, philanthropist and Microsoft founder, was considered by the Napier Council for the post of Chief Executive. What is not clear is whether the job was offered to Gates and declined, or whether the Council passed him over in its extensive search for alternatives to CEO incumbent, Neil Taylor.
Our inquiry was triggered by an email sent to BayBuzz by Mr. Gates, who was concerned that his reputation might be damaged if he didn’t present his side of the story. And I quote:
“Having built the most successful company in modern American history and having rescued sub-Saharan Africa single-handedly from utter poverty through my philanthropy, I was looking for a new challenge. Plus, I like fine wine, love rugby and I’m sick of Seattle’s rain. So I was cruising the internet looking for options and I noticed the Napier ad for Chief Executive candidates. I thought, “Lucky for me they’ve cast such a wide net, I’ll give it a shot.”
Reached at home last evening, Mayor Barbara Arnott commented: “Yes, I can confirm, our search came down to Neil and Bill. Actually, they were the only two applicants. At first blush, Bill’s credentials are impressive, but when we scratched beneath the surface, we began to have misgivings.”
“There were three concerns in particular,” she continued. “First, he offered to pay not only his own salary, but the entire Napier budget for the next ten years. We thought that might make him a bit too independent. Some Councillors felt such an arrangement might make the Council itself redundant. He also wanted to make a very sizable multi-year contribution to the Magpies, but was disappointed to hear that Sam Kelt had the sponsorship rights all locked up.”
“Second, some Councillors didn’t like Bill’s opinions on a few issues he might have to confront as Napier’s chief executive. For example, he just couldn’t “get” why we would want to continue pumping s**t into the Bay, and his views on Marineland left poor Councillor Lawson apoplectic.”
“And third, he had this ‘thing’ about younger people and fresh blood. He kept going on about ‘opening the shutters’ and ‘more transparency’ and ‘sweeping out the deadwood’. At one point, he even said he ‘didn’t give a rat’s arse’ about how we had done things since 1990! But probably his worst mistake was saying he supported the ward system and thought it fostered public involvement and accountability. Personally, that was the last straw for me.”
“So, we axed him,” concluded Mayor Arnott. “Besides, we knew Neil Taylor was a safe bet on all these issues.”
BayBuzz reached Mr. Gates at his home in Seattle and asked him to confirm this version of events.
“In a word, nonsense!” he said. “I withdrew my services.”
“Actually, I began to have misgivings even as my jet circled Napier for its landing. First, I thought, ‘what a freakin’ short runway!’ Then I noticed most of the city was below sea level, like in a bowl. I did a lot of homework on Napier, but I hadn’t caught that. Even with all my riches, with global warming there’s not enough money to keep this place above water for very long. Then, as I drove into town and saw this Art Deco stuff, I thought: ‘Haven’t these people heard of Miami?!”
He continued: “I did offer to finance the city budget, including my own salary. But as we discussed the Council’s insecurities about not having an economic whip to keep me in line, I realised I needed to back off on that. So I offered to do the job for only $25,000 a month, and everyone seemed keen on that.
“And yes, it’s true I wanted to sponsor the Magpies, but everyone was so devoted to this Kelt fellow. He seems to have his name on everything, and for so little cash. Having agreed to only a $300,000 a year salary, without the perk of getting my name on the Magpies — ‘Bill’s Magpies’ — I began to wonder, ‘Where’s the incentive?’”
“As for the differences on issues, I was prepared to take my chances there. I figured that with a three-year infinitely renewable contract, I could eventually talk some sense into those dunderheads on issues like sewage treatment and captive animals. Heck, give me 17 years on the job and we’d be making biofuel out of our waste and attracting tourists with taste.”
But the real deal-breaker for me was the restrictions they wanted to put on my hiring authority — no women in positions of authority and no men under 60.”
Gates concluded: “So I told Mayor Arnott, ‘forget it, I’ve got a better offer from Invercargill.’”
And that’s how it came to pass in Napier, the Chief Executive job was awarded, once again, to Neil Taylor.