Comment: Andrew Cook gets the last laugh

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The Independent Online
Andrew Cook always did run his company, the metal-bashing concern William Cook, like a private fiefdom; now it's actually going to become one. With news of yesterday's buyout bid, the Cadbury and Greenbury codes on corporate governance and pay, which never seemed to mean a great deal to him, can now safely be buried altogether.

For a time there, it looked as if Mr Cook would be toppled, not so much because the City didn't believe his claims that the company was worth much more than Triplex Lloyd was bidding, but because investors were heartily fed up with what was widely seen as a cavalier approach to capital markets. They were as a consequence preparing to sell him out.

Mr Cook made so little effort to keep analysts and investors informed about progress down the years that forecasts made during the Triplex bid of better-than-expected profits were met with widespread incredulity. Promises to mend his ways by appointing more non-executives and splitting the role of chairman and chief executive always sounded a bit hollow, coming from someone who once described his pounds 1.5m golden parachute as "a pittance".

It was also quite difficult to reconcile his claim that William Cook was worth at least double Triplex Lloyd's original 309p offer when a month before the bid was launched both his pension fund and William Cook bought back shares in the company at prices between 239p-248p a share. But Mr Cook gets the last laugh.

Now up pop some venture capitalists who not only believe his valuation arguments, but don't appear to give a fig about all those corporate governance concerns either. It seems unlikely that Triplex Lloyd can come back, given the hammering its share price has taken during the course of this bid. Nor can it really feign surprise at the turn of events. On 20 December it said in a circular: "If William Cook really believes it is worth very substantially in excess of Triplex Lloyd's offer, is should set about finding someone prepared to pay that price because it does not appear able to deliver this value on its own." Oh dear.