25 November 2019
Today my dear friend, colleague, co-author, mentor and former Ph.D. supervisor Professor Mike Wright passed away after a short battle with lung cancer. I am terribly saddened by this news. He is irreplaceable not only for me but for many others that he inspired over his wonderful life. But I am also so grateful to have had worked with Mike over the last nine years.
Mike was not only a brilliant scholar and a kind person, but also a person I could trust, always giving this bit of advice that only someone who knew the world of academia inside out could give. He knew how to work with people and was often the ‘glue’ of teams of co-authors that he put together. I remember I asked him how he managed to edit 10 books and 20 special issues at a time with so many people. He just knew the whole world.
A lot of Mike’s work at the beginning of his career was done around privatization in Russia, CIS, and CEE, corporate governance, and strategy in emerging economies. Some of his most cited works – e.g., AMJ (2000) and JMS (2005) are from that period. His research reached into so many different areas – entrepreneurship (he is the most cited scholar in the field of entrepreneurship only according to Google Scholar), private equity and buyouts, university spin-outs, and many others (according to his Imperial web site, he has written over 40 books and more than 300 papers in academic and professional journals, but even that is probably an understatement!).
He agreed to become one of my supervisors shortly after he joined Imperial College in 2011. I was doing work on corporate governance in Russia and he was still interested in this field. I remember our first supervision meetings. Mike would sit in front of his computer, halfway turned towards me, and while I was bubbling away about my progress, he would listen, comment, occasionally refer to a JMS or SMJ article from a few years ago (he literally knew by heart the content of each issue) and AT THE SAME TIME write editorial decision letters, edit manuscripts, respond to emails, and many other things like arranging his train rides between Nottingham and London. I learned to share Mike’s time with many other people. This is how Mike worked, and this is why he was so prolific. After I graduated, I continued to work with Mike and published my first paper with him and Ilya Okhmatovskiy on state control in transition economies, and then published another paper with him and Ruth Aguilera originating from my Ph.D. work on Russia’s corporate governance. We went on to organize an SMS extension on state capitalism in 2018 and secured a contract with Oxford University Press for the Handbook on State Capitalism (co-edited with Geoff Wood, Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra, Pei Sun and Ilya Okhmatovskiy) and also launched a call for the special issue on State Capitalism in Journal of World Business.
As many know, Mike was a huge fan of Bob Dylan. His skype profile was Bob Dylan’s picture. He was also a BlackBerry fan. Hence he was either responding a second later or never.
I am sure there would be many aspects of Mike’s work or his wonderful personality that people would remember. This is Mike how I will always remember him. I have been lucky enough to work with him, and I will continue to work on the projects we started, for him, for his legacy.