US Budget Crisis – an example of “Positional” Negotiations?

The real negotiation here may well have been about things other than the US budget deficit.

Politicians are often involved in “positional” negotiations where the intended target to be influenced is someone other the person across the table. There is another dynamic as well. All negotiators have a personal emotional agenda which has nothing to do with the organisational interests they represent. These personal needs might be to do with e.g. a need for respect or esteem or reassurance.

In the case of the budget deficit the positional requirements of the negotiators and the individual emotional needs of the negotiators involved will all have pointed to an imperative to get the deal done. Nobody involved would have benefited from a shutdown.

Response to Erik Sherman’s Article (

By |April 13th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on US Budget Crisis – an example of “Positional” Negotiations?

Negotiation the only rational solution in Afganistan?

Given that a military victory in Afghanistan is impossible for the West to achieve, the only option is a negotiated solution of some kind. This is difficult for a number of reasons;

– The West and in particular the US needs to accept that a negotiated solution is not necessarily a defeat

– The Taliban will need to be included in any such negotiated solution

– There are many other stakeholders in any such negotiation, and all their needs will have to be addressed – not least a local population large parts of which appears to be hostile to the West, anti-Taliban, and very sceptical of their own corrupt Government.

For all these challenges though, the only alternative to negotiation is indefinite military intervention or the abandonment’s of the West’s hopes of ever creating a stable Afghan regime which is not a home to extremism.

In response to original article (

By |April 13th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Negotiation the only rational solution in Afganistan?

HMV asks majors for help

A tricky negotiation here for the Majors. HMV are clearly in desperation mode and need the sale or return terms to give them a bit of breathing space. For the Majors this represents a dilemma. If they agree to SOR then they expose themselves to greater risks at a time of plummeting revenues by way of CD sales. Furthermore the risk may have no upside because HMV may go bust anyway.

On the other hand if they leave HMV in the lurch and it goes down without the Majors having tried to help, then the last specialist music chain in the UK disappears from the High street. This is an even worse prospect for the Majors.

I would expect this WATNA (Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) to govern the Majors attitude and encourage them to find some way of helping HMV in its darkest hour, whether that’s through limited SOR or some other concession.

A response to this (

By |April 18th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on HMV asks majors for help

EMI look to offer ‘Bundle Deal’

The Music Business has often liked to do deals where in order to get what you want you have to buy something else you don’t particularly want. If you want to retail the hit CD you have to buy the CD by the up and coming artist too. If you want the hits you have to buy the whole album with its filler tracks too.

No doubt, using this analogy, Citigroup would rather sell EMI off in one go rather than in bits. The Publishing company is profitable and an attractive target for other Major Publishers and Funds. The Record label is a less attractive proposition, as despite extensive restructuring it probably lacks the scale to compete effectively as a Major in a very challenging market.

So, it may be easier to sell the record label bundled up with the Publishing Company, than to find a buyer for it on its own.

However, this bundling strategy only works when there are buyers who are prepared to take on the less attractive part of a deal in order to get the bit that they want. The question here is, is there a buyer around who is in that position? Warner seem to have their own funding issues to deal with. BMG Rights are interested in records as well as publishing, but parent Bertelsmann went to some lengths to offload BMG Records to Sony. Would they be keen to take on a full blown record label again?

It may be that this transaction just has to be unbundled, despite Citigroup’s wishes. Just as you no longer have to buy the whole album to get the track you want, it may be that the Publishing Company will get sold without […]

By |April 18th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on EMI look to offer ‘Bundle Deal’

Crunch time for the Coalition

I think the Coalition deal is going to come under real pressure after the May 5th local elections and referendum.

Firstly the Coalition is going to get hammered in the local elections. Secondly, whatever the result of the AV vote, one half of the Coalition is going to be unhappy. If there is a “Yes” vote then the Tories will be unhappy with Cameron for handing the Lib Dems the opportunity to win more seats at the next general election. If there is a “No” vote, a lot of Lib Dems will feel there is not much point in staying as a part of an unpopular coalition if there is no prospect of voting reform.

The rationale for the deal to get the parties into power, will feel less attractive in these circumstances and I could see the alliance coming under serious internal pressure from the wings of each party – particularly if Vince Cable leaves, which can only be a matter of time.

By |April 21st, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Crunch time for the Coalition

Edging Nearer to a Palestinian-Israeli Negotiated Agreement?

It’s good to see see Mahmoud Abbas turning away from violence even if a deal can’t be achieved in the Middle East. He knows that threats of violence have absolutely no impact on Israel and only serve to harden Israeli attitudes.

At the same time going to the UN for a unilateral resolution is not the answer either. Any solution needs the buy-in of all stakeholders, so imposing a solution will not achieve anything. What is needed is time for all relevant parties to realise that peace serves their interests better than war. For that reason it is silly for the Obama administration to set a deadline for September. This conflict has been going on for 3000 years, so it is not going to respond to a US short-term deadline that coincides nicely with their election cycle.

The split with Hamas that is apparently encouraged by Iran shows how difficult it is to get all sides to the table with a common aim of creating peace, and only serves to emphasise the long-term nature of the project.

Expert negotiator Stuart Diamond suggests that maybe giving the two sides some common economic goals to work on would be a great way of moving forward? This would be a way of focusing on common interests which are potentially more powerful than the competing interests which currently divide the two sides.

A response to article (Associated Press)

By |April 28th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Edging Nearer to a Palestinian-Israeli Negotiated Agreement?

Any Way Forward for NFL Talks?

As the NFL annual draft begins, due to the ongoing labour dispute between team owners and the NFL players, it is still unclear as to whether the new players will even have games to play in come the start of the new season. So far the players have failed to negotiate a new pay deal via their union and have been ‘locked out’ by the owners.

I’m not sure mediation stands much chance of success whilst all parties are more focused on outside-litigious processes to try and give themselves an edge in the negotiation. Mediation requires both sides to want to reach a deal through discussion, rather than continuing to be preoccupied with getting a grip on the other through legal process.

As reported by the New York Times here, there could soon be more parties involved. Some of the players, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, have suggested they will hire a law firm to represent their interests in the negotiations.

I’m not convinced it will be helpful to have a law firm in the middle of the mediation. Lawyers often find it difficult to avoid being partisan and confrontational on behalf of their clients. Not a great position from which to mediate, which requires a willingness to suspend hostilities and work collaboratively towards settlement with the other parties.

I’ll be watching this one closely…

By |April 28th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Any Way Forward for NFL Talks?

Maybe it’s not too Late to Negotiate with Libya

Negotiating a settlement seems overwhelmingly the right thing to do in Libya, but it will only work if the Coalition is prepared to meet Gaddafi’s needs for some sort of dignity and security in his exit.

The problem at the moment is that the Coalition doesn’t want to meet any of his needs, and that is why we currently seem to have no option other than to seek a depressing military solution which will require increasing violence and bloodshed to get anywhere. The Coalition’s highly aggressive attitude and public ruling-out of any compromise, has only served to harden Gaddafi’s attitude and resolve to fight to the end.

If necessary I would negotiate with anyone who can persuade Gaddafi to go quietly – including his son, Saif. This would be a far more effective way of ensuring regime change and a much better way of protecting Libya’s citizens, which is what the UN Mandate is meant to be about.

If only it was as simple to envisage a negotiated solution in Afghanistan. The problem here is that the Taliban know that the Coalition forces are going to leave anyway, so they have no reason to negotiate; they can just sit tight and wait for the UK and the US to meet their self-imposed deadlines for withdrawal. Perhaps if we had started talking earlier instead of militarily occupying their country for years we might have got somewhere, but I fear it may be too late now.

In response to two articles here ( and here (CNN)

By |April 28th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Maybe it’s not too Late to Negotiate with Libya

Mind the Gap – Close your deals quickly

It’s one of the problems of a negotiation where the bargaining phase is drawn out over time that the value of what you are negotiating over can change. If there is a gap between the bargaining phase and the closure phase then the value may go up or down. This can be because of economic factors, changes in personnel, or, as in the case of BSkyB’s potential deal with News Corp, a change in the underlying value of one party or the other.

Normally it’s advisable to get to closure quickly once it looks like there is a deal to be done in principle, for precisely this reason.

It’s difficult to see how this could have been done in the instance of the BSkyB deal though. There was always going to be a big gap before closure was possible because of the need for the competition law issues to be resolved.

Sky’s recent announcement of increased profits and customer numbers (see article here) will inevitably raise the value of the company. The consolation for Murdoch is that as Sky’s value increases so does the value of the percentage of Sky that Newscorp already owns…

By |May 4th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Mind the Gap – Close your deals quickly

Potential Digital Music Deals Highlight Motivations of Big Players

Last week it was rumoured in Music Week (here) that deals may be in the pipeline for both Apple (signing licensing deals with the Major labels for their Cloud-based iTunes service) and Google (forming an alliance with Spotify to provide their own music streaming service).

Looking at the motivations which may underlie these potential deals, it’s easy to see why Spotify might want an ally to effect rapid entry into the US. Utilising Google’s negotiating strength might help lower the cost of licensing deals which must be a pressing (reassurance) negotiating need.

It’s also clear that a Google/Spotify deal could suit Google, giving it instant clout in the subscription streaming market to help with its own (achievement-based) negotiating needs.

From Apple’s point of view a cloud-based streaming service would also give it a significant place at the subscription table, which might allay its concerns about the vulnerability of its itunes ‘a la carte’ downloads service as streaming services grow in importance (a reassurance negotiating need).

From the Majors’ point of view, streaming deals with mighty players such as Google and itunes may still be seen as the path to digital salvation (a survival need). However, it remains to be seen whether this is really the case. So far, take up of subscription services has been slow, and by focusing on deals with only the bigger players such as itunes, Google and Amazon, the Majors put themselves in negotiations with parties who are much bigger than they are, and wield a lot of negotiating clout. This has not always worked for them in the physical world (think for example of the tough terms a major player like Tesco is able to impose on them).

Maybe a better route […]

By |May 4th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Potential Digital Music Deals Highlight Motivations of Big Players