With vegan grease
(See also Canned Miyoko: the ballad of Jon Blair & Miyoko Schinner.)
The recent ouster of Miyoko’s Creamery founder Miyoko Schinner from the vegan food company she founded in 2014 will come as no surprise to longtime Australian vegan activist Phil Wollen.
Indeed, Wollen, also a former Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew member and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society insider, outlined what appears to have been the entire scenario to ANIMALS 24-7 after Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson was ousted in 2022 from the organization he founded in 1978.
“In a past life,” Wollen began, “I was an investment banker in the corporate world. This made me privy to secrets,” including “the internal politics, the plots, the jockeying for position, the shady little games played by ambitious, sneaky people when they think no one is looking.
“Wearing my corporate hat”
“Wearing my corporate hat,” Wollen told ANIMALS 24-7 in specific reference to the Mikoko’s Creamery episode, “I understand that boards of directors have a fiduciary duty to act in the ‘best interests of the company as a whole’––and therefore their right and obligation to make hard decisions is unfettered. But the manner in which it was done appears to me to be profoundly disrespectful.
“I have no insight into the reasons or the backstory behind the termination. But unlike many other similar dismissals, Miyoko was still active in leading and managing the organization.”
“When a ‘raider’ wishes to seize control of a company, or at least a significant degree of influence or access to its cash-flow,” Wollen explained to ANIMALS 24-7 after the Watson ouster from the Sea Shepherds, “he often starts by acquiring a strategic stake in the company.
“To appear less threatening, the ‘raider’ may acquire a stake comfortably below the trigger threshold” for alarming any of the other power-holders.
“This tactic often lulls the “target” board into a false sense of security,” Wollen said. “The wolf in shepherd’s clothing has arrived.
Isolating the board chair
“The wolf will then patiently put out innocuous feelers to the incumbent board, assuring them that he is a passive investor, and has some unique skills, relationships, and qualities that he could bring to their table, thereby benefitting the board and the company.
“As time goes by,” continued Wollen, “the wolf surreptitiously finds charming ways to undermine, or at least shed doubt on the judgment of some of the chairperson’s supporters.
“After the first elimination, all subsequent hatchet jobs become easier. The more astute staff will silently observe the chair having regular lunches with the wolf, even moving the wolf into the office next door in the executive suite.
“The coup de grace comes,” said Wollen, “when the wolf successfully persuades the board that he should become the executive director.
“He is now the gatekeeper. All information is funneled and filtered through him. He is now in control. It does not take long before the wolf goes after the main target. He will soon elevate himself to the role of president
“The chair, now operating in name only, barely notices that his once sturdy network of qualified supporters in the management team and on the board have become more distant, more reserved. Many have gradually been replaced by unfamiliar strangers.
“The chair soon becomes more isolated. His influence wanes. Attending fewer meetings, he becomes less involved in five key areas: chairing the finance sub-committee, hiring, firing, stakeholder relations and media interviews.
“No longer involved in actively framing strategy, he is presented with a bound copy of the finished product.
“Castrated ex-chairs are defacto allies”
“But the chairman will be handsomely compensated. He will be feted; sent on extravagant, ambassadorial but inconsequential trips; his expense budget will be increased; perhaps a handsome housing allowance, a driver, a gardener, or a cook. The cost of these perks to the company is miniscule in the overall scheme of things.
“But here is the beauty in the wolf’s strategy,” Wollen observed.
“Castrated ex-chairs are de facto allies. They rarely chose to fight on a matter of policy, particularly after they have been beaten.
“Airbrushed off the web site”
“The weakened chairman’s main role will be limited to shaking hands, opening the meeting, calling for votes, closing the meeting and signing the minutes. Soon he will voluntarily retire, but retain a lucrative role as a consultant.
“He will be airbrushed off the web site,” said Wollen, “replaced by the wolf, who has by then assembled a coterie
of acolytes within the organization, and a network of well-paid spin doctors outside the organization.
“This scenario is not limited to the corporate world,” Wollen warned in conclusion.
“It has happened frequently in various SPCAs, animal rights alliances, wildlife protection organizations, and those involved in campaigns against clearing old-growth forests for timber, agriculture, and mining.
All of this, Wollen finished, “reminds me of a rib-tickling Monty Python skit. A dull, insipid, middle-aged accountant wishes to change careers.
“He is seeking glamour, excitement, and public adulation.
“He explains to a career counsellor that his ambition is to become a lion tamer. And wishes to start work the following morning.
“He admits he has never tamed a lion before, or any other animal for that matter. Nor has he ever seen a lion; and couldn’t recognize one if he did. In fact, he confuses a lion with an ant-eater.
“But he confidently claims he has all the qualifications required of a lion tamer because he is the proud owner of a lion tamer’s hat.
“And the hat has an illuminated sign on it which reads ‘Lion Tamer.’
“So my message is simple,” Wollen advised. “Real threats come from the least qualified, most devious, and most mendacious. They always start by being your friends. Eternal vigilance is the price you pay for liberty.”
Jamaka Petzak says
Been there. Saw it done. I was low on the totem pole but eventually most of those in our office, including myself, were axed. The little fish revealed herself to be a big, hungry barracuda.
Sharing, with gratitude, and sorrow for Ms. Schinner.
Risa M Mandell says
great reporting – thank you!
JULIA E ORR says
I am surprised that Phillip Wollen used such speciesist language. Wolves aren’t devious ..humans are.
Elizabeth and Merritt Clifton says
Actually Julia, wolves often hunt by stealth.
Jane Eagle says
😠 2 of the people I admire most. Miyoko is local, and a wonderful activist and food artist.