In this interview we discuss Luke Preece’s email from January 2011 in which he describes Mariam’s actions as ‘pretty dumb’ and criticizes her work ethic.
This email dates from January 2011. What can you tell us about your relationship with Luke Preece at this point?
Luke was always telling me he was my friend and by the end of the year he even started telling me he loved me (as a friend), which was uncomfortable and odd, but I did think we were close colleagues. He told me a large amount of information about the inner workings of TBI and was very free in his abuse and contempt of his bosses. He consulted me about TBI policies and procedures on everything from recruitment to how to deal with Mariam, as that email will attest.
Why do you think he discussed such confidential material so freely with you?
What he told me is that he shared my values and wanted to transform TBI to a more professional and accountable enterprise. He said he thought I had a very good and detailed knowledge of TBI policies and procedures and liked bouncing ideas around with me. He supported me on numerous marketing and administration initiatives, so he did back his word on supporting me at times. We can only speculate as to why he went to so much trouble to win my trust only to betray it. I believe he gets some kind of sick enjoyment out of betraying people, but other people are free to draw alternative conclusions.
In the email he engages in a lot of discussion about TBI’s current recruitment crisis and suggests an ‘upgraded package’ to attract qualified expats. This was at the start of the recruitment crisis. Tell me what you remember about that.
He said he thought TBI didn’t pay enough and needed to offer more perks and a bigger package to lure teachers with English degrees. He was very enthusiastic about this plan of his. But when he took it to Ning and Mariam, they turned him down. What I noticed was that he immediately agreed with them and said that on further consideration TBI did pay enough. This is Luke’s character: he seems to hold no deeply held beliefs or principles and just goes along with whatever the prevailing authorities want to happen.
Would you call him a ‘pragmatist’?
That sounds too generous to me, as it has some positive connotations. In the end I learned that Luke Preece believes in nothing except gaining more power for himself. He isn’t who he pretends to be.
Luke Preece criticizes Tuti and Mariam in the email, saying they have done next to nothing to solve the recruitment crisis. Was this a theme he often elaborated on?
He was fond of saying things like that. But I thought, “OK, he’s got a big head, no one’s perfect.” There was a large amount of truth to his criticism of Mariam: she really did seem to do nothing to manage or maintain TBI. You have to remember at this point that the franchise owners had banded together and refused to deal with Mariam and Retty again due to their lack of professionalism. There was some substance to what he was saying against Mariam. What I didn’t know was that this guy was using the crisis to stuff his own cronies all over the company and cement control. I didn’t know who I was really dealing with.
According to everyone we know, Luke has now been trying to distance himself from you, denying that he relied on you as a confidante and seeking out your judgment on policy.
The record indicates otherwise, doesn’t it. There are numerous emails you have shown which prove he consulted with me on a wide of range of management issues. Why he did that is a matter of speculation but that email proves he was even comfortable enough with me to blast his bosses in a work email. He was very free in his manner of talking to me.
In one remarkable phrase he describes Mariam’s actions as ‘pretty dumb’. He says it was ‘pretty dumb’ for her to try and get back involved in Franchise operations at that point. Was he often contemptuous and belittling in his comments about Mariam Kartikatresni?
Very often. But he is strangely inconsistent. He could tell me how useless she was one week and then the next week say how much he was looking forward to Ning’s retirement as Mariam was much better. This eventually prompted me to ask him to stop ‘bad mouthing’ Mariam all the time. But it was like he couldn’t help himself. He’d say, “I know you told me not to tell you about Mariam all the time but…..”, and then continue much as before.
Luke says it was ‘pretty dumb’ to get involved in Franchise as she had five years to get it right. Can you expand on what he meant by this?
Luke called me in December 2010 and said that he had gone close to replacing Mariam as TBI Director. Reza and Ning had considered firing her after the franchise owners got together and criticized her. Instead, he ended up with control of Franchise Schools and Mariam stayed as TBI Director. Luke Preece was saying it was ‘dumb’ she was telling him what to do with franchise schools when her 5 year control of them had ended in the humiliation of the franchise owners getting together and refusing to deal with her. He viewed her a proven failure with nothing to add.
A screen dump of the email discussed in this interview can be viewed on the old blog.