(Editor's Note: This contributor was recently a member of Li3 Federation but left, thus having an insider's view of the alliance - yet also a degree of bias. Read with caution!)
Jadecougar's announcement on Monday of the Li3 Federation leaving the HBC to join the CFC has caused considerable unrest in the Li3 Federation. Earlier this month, the alliance peaked at over 1200 members across over 30 corporations. As of the 22th, Li3 is down to 15 corporations and ~650 members. Reportedly, Jadecougar made the decision on behalf of his alliance without first consulting any Li3 CEOs or other members.
Why? Li3 Federation is not the first alliance to move from one coalition to another. They were not beaten into submission by another entity or hellcamped into a staging system for days. Their leading corporations were not poached by a larger alliance until all that remained was a shell. They were not subject to a massive theft, departing leadership, or any of the other calamities that can and do befall alliances on a regular basis. So why does Li3 appear to be in the clutches of a failure cascade?
Jadecougar, Man of Mystery
Just to clear the air: I like Jadecougar. Generally, he's a nice guy to talk to. He's patient, he takes criticism well, and he isn't above admitting he's wrong. During my stint in Li3, I gathered that his physical role (rather than moral role) in the alliance was as a logistics guy, setting up POSes and sov structures, which is a thankless task normally delegated away. But beyond that, he's the leader, the ultimate decision-maker, responsible for the direction of his entire alliance.
It's in this latter role, in my opinion, that he falters. Jadecougar announced last month that Li3 would be deploying with THORN to Providence. He arranged all the necessary odds and ends: what ships to take, who to contract them to, where to stage capitals, a timeline for full deployment, and standard fittings for black ops gangs. The deployment had goals and well-defined methods for achieving them. With Lucian James, Li3 could also get some decent field experience and strengthen ties with their neighbors.
The deployment was abruptly cancelled within days when Black Legion deployed south and reinforced two Li3 POSes. Instead of delaying the deployment, or even better, letting the POSes burn and writing it off as a cost of deploying, Jadecougar ordered everybody back home and made one of his notable speeches proclaiming that Li3 was a PvP alliance and would prove themselves this time. He scheduled an all-hands-on-dick CTA for the reinforcement timer and assigned an FC. Black Legion didn't show up to the timer. The deployment was still cancelled.
He is frequently heard saying "Li3 Federation is a PvP alliance" (Jan 12 meeting / February forum post). Interestingly, Jadecougar does not PvP. I don't mean that he doesn't FC, or doesn't solo, or doesn't regularly fly with fleets. He doesn't PvP, full stop. According to Eve-Kill, Jadecougar has several losses spanning the years, but only one kill - and that's on a structure. My question is this: if Jadecougar's strengths lie in diplomacy, planning and logistics, why does he so badly want to be the leader of a PvP alliance? Put another way, would Li3 be losing its ability to PvP if Jadecougar quit EVE tomorrow?
A Pack of Bears?
Perhaps as a result of Jadecougar fostering a culture that appreciates the non-PvP aspects of EVE, Li3 does not have a large number of active PvP-focused players and even fewer FCs. This led to several poor attempts to drive up participation numbers, including an "FC Program" to pay people who FCed regular fleets. But the program was micromanaged too intensely, and FCs were given arbitrary tasks to complete in order to receive SRP (such as collecting 'pins' and 'certs'). Prospective and active FCs protested. Although the leadership relented somewhat, it was at this point I realized the powers-that-be had no idea how to enable Li3 to evolve into a formidable PvP entity, and they were unwilling to listen to those who did.
The recent departure of four corporations, among them the competent small-gang PvP corp Hurt Locker, was not voluntary. Jadecougar removed them without warning or time to move assets. Members of these corps had expressed dissent when news of Li3 leaving came to light. Rather than respecting their perspectives, Jadecougar decided to give them the hard way out. Corporations that have coexisted quietly and asked for little, like Serene Vendetta, whose recruitment ad on EVE-O proclaims "Looking for Null sec miners!", are staying, but most of the FCs in Li3—Crozo Yotosala, Nightjester and Smog890 especially—are already gone.
Think of the Children
The impact of Li3's departure from the HBC has been seen and felt by many. Before this week, Li3 went relatively unnoticed outside of the HBC. They lacked a public presence or an area of operation outside of Querious/Delve (with the exception of Multiplex Gaming's cloaky harassment of SMA) with which to establish themselves in the greater community. Unlike Raiden, THORN or InitDOT, who have deployed to hotspots beyond their sovereignty, Li3 has stayed in Querious, maintaining a low profile.
Now, with the departure of half of the membership, Li3 is in the crucible. How will they mesh with the CFC given their history with SMA, controversial leadership, and shrinking membership? Only time will tell.