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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 14, 2000. All rights reserved.
Miguel Basanez vs Robert M. Worcester
What started as an internal squabble has turned into
a food fight that split one company and started another. The feud
is between Robert M. Worcester, chairman of a British-based market
research firm, the Mori Group, and Miguel Basanez, the head of Mori’s
Princeton-based U.S. subsidiary. The upshot is that Basanez has left
Mori to open an independent firm, called Global Quality Research Corporation,
at HQ in Forrestal Village.
The Mori Group made its first connection with Princeton when it partnered
with Response Analysis (now Roper Starch International) and Basanez
worked there on State Road. In 1998, when Response Analysis was bought
by Roper Starch, its partnership with Mori dissolved, so Basanez opened
Though Mori-USA kept a low local profile, it was doing international
surveys for the Wall Street Journal in the Americas. Basanez was also
active in the professional association, the World Association of Public
Opinion Research (WAPOR), and is currently serving as its president.
Basanez’ attorney for both firms is Richard M. Miller of Miller and
Mitchell on State Road. His Mexican firm owns 49 percent of Mori-USA.
Last March Worcester — a native of Kansas City who moved from
Princeton to England 30 years ago — engineered a management restructuring
to reduce his stake in the company. Basanez was not included in this
deal. Basanez sent out a two-line announcement to WAPOR on Monday,
June 5, saying that regrettably Bob Worcester had sold Mori in London,
wishing him the best in his retirement, and that he had founded another
That seems innocuous enough, given that Worcester is 67 years old,
but Worcester took offense. "He said to the group that we belong
to that I have retired. It was very upsetting," says Worcester
in a telephone interview. "We signed the deal of the transfer
of shares and on Monday morning I was back in the office and am still
working 78 hours a week." Also, Worcester points out, the management
of the Mori Group still holds 52 percent of the group’s stock and
so the company has not been "sold."
And on Thursday, June 8, Worcester retaliated with a press release
to this newspaper claiming that Basanez had been "dismissed from
his post as president of MORI-USA" on June 6, adding that the
parent company "regrets that this action has had to be taken after
a more than 10-year association with Dr. Basanez."
It’s not surprising this international squabble was fought on Princeton
soil. As Basanez points out, "Princeton is the Silicon Valley
of survey research, the region of the country with the most dense
and most sophisticated survey research."
Industry insiders say the relationship between Basanez and Worcester
— two entrepreneurs with healthy egos — has been rocky from
the start. "Miguel has a large vision of research as an international
enterprise, and he saw Mori as a vehicle to help implement that. They
have disagreed in the past. Miguel has had designs on things bigger
and more grandiose than Worcester was willing to accept," says
Andrew Kulley, chief statistician and senior vice president of Roper
Basanez’ father was a business man in a small town on the Gulf Coast
of Mexico. He went to Mexico City for high school and law school,
took master’s and doctoral degrees in England, and worked in statistics
for the Mexican government for 20 years. "In 1988 I didn’t like
much the way the country was going, and I was the pollster for the
president of Mexico, setting up my own company that year. After two
years on my own, we made a partnership with Mori," he says.
In 1990 Basanez’ Mexican office was Mori’s first foreign affiliation.
"Then I started attracting friends in Latin America and around
the world," Basanez says. Now Mori is represented by 13 offices
in nine countries and is affiliated with another two dozen offices
around the globe. Among Mori’s clients in England and internationally
are Reader’s Digest, Marks & Spencer, British Telephone, the Times,
and the Mail on Sunday.
In 1995 Basanez had a Fulbright to the University of Michigan. "When
I moved to the United States in 1995 we were working with the University
of Michigan on a world values survey, studying the deep values of
people — life, friendship, children, family, and work — in
60 countries. That gave me the opportunity to interact with many more
colleagues than the 35 in the Mori network. Because of my position
in WAPOR I have been developing very close contacts around the world,"
says Basanez. "This year we are in more than 70 countries.
He says that when he came to Princeton in 1996 to work at Response
Analysis, he hoped that he and Worcester could buy that firm: "I
was ready to put in half of the money that we needed but Bob could
never make a decision. When I saw Roper was pursuing this, I rushed
to raise the money, twice the original opportunity price. Then Roper
increased the money, and it was too late. It was our fault. After
a year and a half we had not come to a decision."
Worcester tells the same story in reverse. "He made many promises
about funding, including a purchase of Mori, and whenever I asked
him to put it in writing it was never forthcoming," says Worcester.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Worcester went to Kansas
University, Class of 1955, and worked for Associated Press and Opinion
Research Corporation before moving to London in 1969 to open the MORI
Group in London. He is now a prominent political commentator there
and also has a handful of professorships, referring to himself by
that title in the British way. Many of his American colleagues call
him colorful, flamboyant, and outspoken, but Worcester disavows this,
saying that he dresses very conservatively and is merely, as a former
journalist, being media friendly.
"He is a very big celebrity in the U.K. because of his political
polling and almost instant availability for interviewing for the BBC,"
says John Honomichl, publisher of the trade magazine Inside Research,
noting that Worcester reportedly keeps a chauffeur-driven car instantly
available. "The BBC loves him because they always get good copy."
"I do respect Bob as a researcher, and Miguel has been a good
researcher, too," says Jim Fauss, vice chairman of Roper Starch.
"I have never publicly made any comment that has been untrue or
misleading about Dr. Basanez and to the best of my belief have never
treated him unfairly," says Worcester. "His pronouncements,
both publicly about my retirement and in writing other letters to
people outside the Mori Group, have made the continuation of our relationship
untenable. It was no misunderstanding, and he has refused to respond
and has told me he will only communicate to me through lawyers."
"My two-line announcement about my new company is not the real
reason for our disagreement," maintains Baganez, "The real
reasons involve matters of money and company affairs that do not deserve
to be aired in public."
Basanez says he wants to improve the standards of research around
the world and believes that national and international market research
can help the growth of democracy by making life difficult for dictators
and totalitarian regimes. "I was the first to poll for a presidential
election in Mexico, and that was simply not done before. That is an
experience I have been trying to support and help our colleagues in
many other countries, an exciting and positive experience," he
says. "Our new company, Global Quality Research, will build on
those positive experiences."
Work in the southern hemisphere is different from surveys in the north
because telephone surveys are less common than the door-to-door variety.
This can get expensive because Latin Americans sometimes take hospitality
very seriously. "People are not as oversampled as they are here,"
says Basanez, "and they will invite you in to have a coffee."
He ardently believes that sampling and market research is good for
developing countries. "It is a way of giving voice to simple people,"
he says, "and that’s nice."
— Barbara Fox
Boulevard, Suite 200, Princeton 08540. Miguel Basanez, president.
609-734-4331; fax, 609-818-1529. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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