Brucie’s Life Before Swimming New Zealand

The Chairman of Swimming New Zealand’s performance is becoming annoying. A year ago he told the New Zealand Herald that Swimming New Zealand was still going through the rationale of understanding the Sport New Zealand funding cuts but the right coaching and facilities were in place. Since then the “right coaching” has all been sacked or fled the country, New Zealand has had its worst World Championship result, fewer national records have been broken than any year in history and an Annual meeting has come and gone and Brucie has told us almost nothing.

Brucie makes his living from giving inspirational management speeches and his blog tells me that two key qualities of good management are to “make sure your people know what you are trying to achieve and to communicate, communicate, communicate” It is the ultimate irony that at Swimming New Zealand we, the members, don’t know what he is trying to achieve and communication has been savagely cut. For example Swimming New Zealand no longer publish the minutes of their monthly Board Meetings, they no longer publish a weekly newsletter and their website news pages discuss very little of substance.

But irony turns into frustration when I read the following Tweet posted by Brucie in March 2017.

“Yesterday I sent a complaint letter. Response today says they are busy til mid April so will respond then. How do they stay in business?”

Wait for a month? That’s nothing. Some of us have been asking Swimming New Zealand for answers well before March 2017 and we’re still waiting.

My frustration prompted me to wonder whether Brucie was all that he seemed. Certainly his career has had its highlights. His time at Colliers Jardine seems to have been successful. He also appears to have had a positive time at Canterbury International even if it was for only one year and five months.

But there are puzzling aspects to Brucie’s resume. For example why does his resume say, “Chairman Swimming New Zealand September 2012 – Present (5 years 5 months) Auckland New Zealand.” The truth is Brucie was Deputy Chairman from 2012 to 2015 and became Chairman only in 2015. Some might call that padding your resume.

There also appears to have been some controversial events in his management career. For example Brucie was a Director of Pumpkin Patch Limited from 2014 to 2016. Wikipedia tells me that during those years things began to go off the rails.

“In 2014, the firm began to experience declining revenues and margin compression due to competition. The group lost $14.5m in 2014, $6m in 2015, and $20m in 2016, but continued to pay dividends to shareholders.  The children’s clothing company went into liquidation on March 7 2017 after going into voluntary administration in October.” 

And then there is Brucie’s time as a Director of Woosh Wireless from 2005 to 2007. A few years later in 2017 the financial press reported that

Wireless’ creditors, thought to be owed almost $13 million, have voted to put the troubled internet provider into liquidation. The business was founded in 1999 and has burned through more than $100 million since that time. Grappling with the challenge of its ageing technology, the company had been winding down some of its operations.

The liquidation was well after Brucie’s time, but the impression from this report appears to be that the company’s problems predated the liquidation.

Brucie was also Chairman of the Noel Leeming Group from 2004 to 2012. It appears that in Brucies final two years there the company reported losses of $3m and $615,000. In 2012, when Brucie left, Noel Leeming was bought by the Warehouse.

And the years 2009 to 2011, when Brucie was Managing Director and CEO of the Yellow Pages Group Limited, also have a puzzling quality. Here is how the financial website “” reported the company’s affair in 2011.

“Yellow Pages Group CEO Bruce Cotterill is leaving the struggling directories business, which recently wrote off NZ$1.05 billion of bank debt and announced a new board.

“For a variety of reasons, the last two years have been challenging,” said Cotterill.

Cotterill denied he was asked to leave by the new board.  

Following the debt restructure YPG’s BNZ led banking consortium is at the wheel with shareholders’ interests wiped out. Cotterill is thought to have been unpopular with some of the bankers.

 After massive write downs of goodwill and brand value, YPG last month revealed a NZ$1.4 billion loss for the June 2010 financial year, up from a loss of NZ$338.3 million in the June 2009 year.”

I’m concerned about the implications of the term “unpopular with some of the bankers”. Is there any merit to that claim? And, if so, what caused the unpopularity. However putting that to one side this description of events should be enough to strike fear into all Swimming New Zealand members. Consider this – in the 2017 Annual Report Brucie says this about Swimming New Zealand.

“income remains a challenge and has put significant pressure on our business.

The last time Brucie owned up to a “challenge” the company had to write off $1.05 billion bank debt. Please tell us similar problems are not in store for the New Zealand swimming community.

There are one or two other more minor questions in Brucie’s resume. But I’m sure you understand the questions that cause me concern. I just feel that the disasters that have befallen Swimming New Zealand do not match with Brucie’s image. This is how he describes himself.

“I currently work alongside business leaders in Australia and New Zealand, where I share my experiences and support the pursuit of operational excellence, increased revenues and improved profits. I am passionate about building outstanding teams and generating success through developing leaders, highly engaged people and the delivery of brilliant customer experiences.”

Or is Brucie’s reality contained in one of his other quotes?

“You’ll be surprised what you see in the mirror.  Usually, if you look closely, the problem will be right there standing in front of you.”

Whatever the truth, the affairs of Swimming New Zealand are in very poor shape. We will soon see whether Brucie is up to the challenge they present. He says his spare time is taken up, in part, being a surf lifeguard, an aging triathlete, and ocean swimmer, a campfire guitarist and a frustrated golfer. None of that has any relevance to competitive pool swimming. In fact, in my experience, surf life-guarding and elite competitive pool training are as far apart as darts and heavyweight boxing. It may be time for the Regions to investigate our leader.

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