Socialist Worker

Bosses take us for dummies

Issue No. 1909

A CLUTCH of business people in Britain meet over drinks at various social occasions. One is planning a takeover bid of Marks & Spencer—a company that Tony Blair has described as one of the best examples of British capitalism.

A month later the share price in the company shoots up 30 percent as the takeover bid goes public. One of the businessmen makes a profit of £1.7 million as his shares’ value rose.

This isn’t the plot of a bad Jeffrey Archer novel. It is a real life story that uncovers the small network of people who run the capitalist system.

Of course these people say they haven’t done anything illegal. The Financial Services Authority is now investigating to see if there was “suspicious” trading at the company.

The real scandal is what the “normal” lifestyle of these people is. They spend millions gambling on the stockmarket and enjoy a lavish lifestyle while ordinary people struggle on low pay doing backbreaking jobs.

Philip Green is the businessman who made the takeover bid for Marks & Spencer. He already owns a huge chunk of the shops on your local high street—Top Shop, Miss Selfridge, BHS and Burton.

Green can boast that he is Britain’s fourth richest man, grabbing another £1.7 billion last year to take his wealth to £3.6 billion.

He flies home by private jet every weekend to his family’s luxury home in Monaco, the playground of the rich.

He celebrated his 50th birthday two years ago by hiring a Boeing 747 to fly 200 friends to a three-day party at a luxury resort in Cyprus.

He paid Rod Stewart £750,000 to perform a 45-minute set. He also paid Tom Jones, Demis Roussos and Earth, Wind and Fire to perform for his guests.

TV presenter Michael Aspel arrived to stage a version of This Is Your Life for Green. The event ended with a toga party in a mock Roman amphitheatre. The price tag was a cool £5 million.

Whatever you think of his taste in music and entertainment, his party cost more money than most working people in Britain will see in a lifetime.

Green’s friends include key New Labour supporters like Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone. Green is also close buddies with one of Blair’s favourite bosses—Allan Leighton, the hatchet man at Royal Mail.

Bosses in the private and public sector inhabit the same world.

While they sip on champagne and puff cigars in their private clubs they are all planning how to make even more money and force workers to work harder.

The description of Green from one of his former executives at BHS will be familiar to many workers with a bullying boss: “He’s a monster, totally politically incorrect. It’s like doing business with Conan the Barbarian.”

Green has had a longstanding plan to snatch the ailing Marks & Spencer chain.

In May Green phoned a friend—Stuart Rose. Rose was at Green’s 50th birthday party and two years ago sold him the high street group that includes Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and Burton.

It’s well known that Rose, who had been at Marks & Spencer for 17 years, was keen on getting the top job at the company.

Yet six weeks after that phone call Green dragged Rose out of his car and screamed, “I’m going to play fucking dirty. I’m going to get you.”

Their falling out is a classic example of what happens under capitalism.

The top businesspeople are constantly searching for new opportunities to further increase their wealth. Marks & Spencer, whose value has dropped along with its sales in recent years, looked like a prime chance to make a fast buck.

But the free market is also about ruthless competition between such businesspeople. Karl Marx described them as “a band of hostile brothers”.

So Green watched Marks & Spencer’s share price rise in the run-up to his bid, which meant easy money for shareholders. But in the end Green’s takeover bid was rejected while his “friend” Rose got his dream job of Marks & Spencer’s chief executive.

Now Green and Rose are at war, amid allegations of phone bugging and mail being interfered with.

These are the “captains of industry” that make decisions that affect people’s lives in Britain and who Blair praises for being “entrepreneurs”.

Helping themselves to a share

THERE ARE a number of other associates of Philip Green who have benefited from the price rise in Marks & Spencer’s shares.

A property consultant who has worked closely with Green’s high street stores, Malcolm Dalgleish, bought 100,000 shares late last year.

Green’s property director, John Readman, bought 20,000 shares in January.

An entrepreneur who backed Philip Green’s BHS bid, Thomas Hunter, bought 375,000 shares on 16 April.

A close friend of Green and supplier to his high street stores, Richard Caring, owns one million shares, the latest bought in October of last year.

Close friends of Green and Rose the Reubens brothers bought 1.3 million shares in March and April. They sold them for a £437,000 profit in June.

Green phones Rose. Rose buys 100,000 shares in Marks & Spencer at 276p.

10 MAY
Rose has drinks with City executive Michael Spencer at the exclusive George Club in Mayfair.

11 MAY
Spencer buys £5.5 million worth of shares in M&S.

12 MAY
Green meets Rose and asks him to sign a confidentiality agreement. Having done so, Green tells Rose he is planning to bid for M&S.

24 MAY
Rose meets the finance director of Bradford & Bingley, Rosemary Thorne, at the Chelsea Flower Show. Both deny allegation by Goldman Sachs, the investment bankers backing Green’s bid, that they spoke about the M&S takeover.

25 MAY
M&S issues poor full-year financial results.

26 MAY
An unusually large number of shares in the company exchange hands.

27 MAY
Green finally announces his £8 billion takeover bid. Shares suddenly rise to over 360p.

31 MAY
Rose is appointed chief executive of M&S, getting a £1.25 million “golden hello”.

Green makes his first bid for M&S. The board rejects it.

Green drags Rose out of his car outside M&S’s offices in Baker Street hurling abuse.

Rose is grilled by the Financial Services Authority for two hours about his share dealings.

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Article information

Sat 10 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1909
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