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Terry Rhodes (A)

By Aleya Karim, John Mullins, Tiffany Putimahtama


This is part of a case series. ‘Everyone says entrepreneurship is about risk-taking. But it’s not: it’s about minimising risks and taking careful risks.’ Terry Rhodes’ own words resonated with him as he reflected on the most critical decision of his career at Celtel International. Since its inception in March 1998, Celtel, a wireless service provider, set out to change the way business was done in Africa and to prove the transformative effects business could have on the continent and its people. Rhodes, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Celtel, had successfully mitigated the risks and overcome the challenges that deterred other businesses from investing in and contributing to the region. ‘We were lucky that our business – mobile telecommunications – was seen as raising money in the West to bring to Africa and build infrastructure,’ he explained. As Celtel expanded and moved into more and more markets across Sub-Saharan Africa, its corporate values were continually tested. Up until now, Rhodes had managed to avert corrupt situations using simple but creative tactics. However, the market entry into Guinea in late 1999 had posed a different story. Despite his multiple efforts, negotiations with the Guinean government were now at a standstill and it had become clear to Rhodes that the government expected substantial bribery payments for the deal to move forward. It was now late September 2001 and to add to the dire situation, Celtel’s CFO had informed him that losing the Guinea deal might lead the company towards bankruptcy. Rhodes now sat outside the door of the boardroom, waiting to be called in and present his recommendation to the Board concerning the Guinea deal. As he reflected on his available options, Rhodes knew he would have to defend his decision to the Board and would need their full support.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand some of the challenges that can arise in doing business in environments where corruption of various kinds is rampant.
  2. Understand how to find ways to manage ethically in a corrupt environment.
  3. Acquire insights into how to deal with a situation where a trusted person has done something unethical or illegal that may warrant termination or disclosure to management and/or shareholders.


Publication Date: June 2011
LBS Case Code: CS-08-014-01
Subjects: ,
Pages: 26
Format: pdf