LONDON — Retail tycoon Philip Green has won the backing of key Marks & Spencer plc shareholders on the eve of his rival Stuart Rose’s key strategy presentation for the store, set to take place today.
This story first appeared in the July 12, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Green said in a statement Thursday that shareholders owning at least 20 percent of M&S shares have told his company, Revival Acquisitions Ltd., that they believe the board of M&S should allow Revival access to perform due diligence in anticipation of a formal bid.
Brandes Investment Partners LLC, M&S’ largest single shareholder, last week threw its weight behind Green. Schroder Investment Management, which has a 1.2 percent stake in M&S, has also given a nonbinding intention to back a formal bid.
Most British institutional shareholders are waiting to hear what M&S chief executive Rose has to say today before deciding whom they will support. Green has until Aug. 6 to make a formal offer for M&S, or give up altogether.
The fast-talking, fast-acting Green, who has been stalking M&S since late May and has had three bids thrown out by the M&S board, is confident he can bring pressure on the retailer to open its books.
“We’re all focused on Monday now,” said a spokesman for Green. “If shareholders think Rose has done a good job on Monday and they don’t want Philip’s money, then we’ll walk away.”
On Thursday, M&S slammed the door on Green’s latest offer of 4 pounds, or $7.44, per share, or alternatively 3.35 pounds, or $6.23, per share and a 30 percent equity stake in a new M&S business.
The M&S camp is promising a knockout presentation, and shareholders are hoping Rose’s plan will eventually bump the M&S share value up as high as 4.50 pounds, or $8.37, per share.
On Friday, M&S shares closed up 1.17 percent at 3.68 pounds, or $6.84.
Rose is expected to tell shareholders he’s planning $186 million in cost cuts and is said to be considering the possibility of returning cash to shareholders. According to British press reports on Sunday, he is looking to give back approximately $3.72 billion in exchange for their loyalty.
Rose won’t be the only one speaking. The entire board is expected to share the stage with him today at Cabot Hall in London’s Canary Wharf district.
He’ll take the spotlight again on Wednesday during M&S’s annual general shareholders meeting, a traditionally lively event where small, private shareholders voice their views on everything from company strategies to bra sizing.
Separately, Green blasted David Norgrove, chairman of the M&S Pension Trust Ltd., in a letter late Thursday. Norgrove would not open the books of the pension fund to Green.
“The decision to decline to meet me is astonishing and could frustrate our ability to acquire M&S. The reason why M&S is now the subject of bid activity is arguably that it has failed dismally to perform over the last several years for its shareholders and the pension fund,” Green said. “The company is in need of an immediate injection of real commercial and retail talent, which would be to the benefit of M&S as a whole, including its employees and the pension fund.”