Stephen Bellamy, a BIL director, said: 'At the end of the day Gibbs Mew has the potential of being a good business, but clearly under the chairmanship of Peter Gibbs it has gone sideways to downhill.'
But if BIL is to succeed in its 200p-a-share offer it will have to convince management and Mr Gibbs's own family, who between them own 59 per cent of the shares, of that failure.
Mr Gibbs's response was abrupt. 'BIL's offer significantly undervalues Gibbs Mew's assets and prospects. It represents an unwelcome attempt to obtain the underlying value of the company's assets on the cheap at the expense of Gibbs Mew shareholders.'
Gibbs Mew shares had fallen by 95p - more than 40 per cent - between joining the USM in 1984 and BIL announcing its intention to bid at the end of July. Profits in 1991 and 1992 were less than in 1979, BIL said.
Gibbs Mew was 87 per cent geared at the end of the last financial year and BIL believes a strong financial backer would help it through these difficult times.
In particular, BIL highlighted the management's diversification into 'low quality' commercial property as a mistake. The offer values Gibbs Mew at more than pounds 11m, or 16.8 times last year's earnings.
Mr Bellamy said BIL would appoint a new chief executive if its bid succeeded. But it did not intend to change the corporate culture or make mass redundancies.
Gibbs shares remained at 188p.